Book review: 『裁判官失格』 by Ryuichi Takahashi

裁判官失格 (さいばんかんしっかく)
Title: 裁判官失格 (さいばんかんしっかく)
First published: 2019
Published: 2019
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 187

In this book, the author talks about his experience as a judge.


I bought this book because the obi announced that it would be about 死刑にすべきを無期懲役, among other things. I recently read a book on death penalty that showed that the frontier between death penalty and life imprisonment can be dreadfully thin. Since then, I am interested in reading more on this topic. The title of this book with the word 失格, and the obi with its big 申し訳ありません and its mention of 告白 hint that the book might be about wrongful convictions.

This is the advertisement made by the publisher:

Unfortunately, the content is not even close to what the obi suggests. The death penalty topic is barely touched upon, and there is nothing to support the title. All that the author says is that judges struggle and doubt too, which seems obvious, but there are not enough concrete examples or cases that would show in which way a judge can make errors.

The chapters are also incredibly short (1 or 2 pages, sometimes a little more). Every time the author would talk about something interesting and promising or evoke a case, I would think that I had just read some kind of introduction, and that we would dive into this topic in the next pages. But then I turned the page and realised that this chapter was over and that we were moving on to another topic. I was disappointed many times.

Overall, it looks like the author wanted to talk about being a judge, rather than introduce the reader to the judiciary and the behind-the-scenes secrets. It also feels that, in spite of the catchy title, the author does not have much to reveal. Another thing that surprised me is the absence of structure. There are parts and chapters, but the book does not have any argumentative structure. It is more like a juxtaposition of thoughts and recollections. It also feels like the author is just talking about what he remembers, it does not feel like there is any work of research behind the book.

Overall, this book was not was I was looking for, I wanted to read a more researched and argumentative work on the judicial system in Japan. Moreover, this book definitely suffers from an overly catchy title and obi. The content, while being interesting, is quite pale compared to what was advertised, so it is easy to be disappointed.

5 thoughts on “Book review: 『裁判官失格』 by Ryuichi Takahashi

  1. After reading several book reviews from your blog, it seems to me that the publisher sometimes tend to publish something promising and magnificent about the content of the novels just for the sake of getting more sales rather than showing the real content. Isn’t this considered false advertising? In Japan, fruit juice packaging cannot show a cut up slices of fruits if the juice inside doesn’t contain the pulp of the fruits because it is illegal to advertise false content. What about book’s false advertising?

    1. For this book, it is clearly a case of “false advertising” to me. This actually harms the book, because if the readers have false expectations based on the advertisement, they are bound to be disappointed, even if the book is good.

      Most of the time, I think that they are just overly catchy, especially with mystery novels.

      On the other hand, I also like how publishers support some books (some have dedicated mini websites).

      Anyway, this is an interesting question. I will try to note whenever I find a obi or summary that promise things that are not actually in the book.

  2. I’ve been following your posts for quite a while and I would really like to know how you actually manage to read a book completely ? I’m trying to read a kids story book but i can’t get past 10-12 pages,

    I use a dictionary and keep checking the meanings and I guess it takes away from the ‘reading’ part.

    Could you pl give me some tips

    1. Hello!

      Stories for children are not necessarily the easiest to read. They contain vocabulary and expressions that language learners don’t necessarily know and the story is often not interesting enough for adult readers.

      Maybe you should try something that really interest you rather than something that looks easy? I got into reading because I focused on detective novels, which is a genre I love.

      I visited your blog, and your writing level makes me think that you should be able to read a novel without much problem. Maybe you just didn’t pick something interesting enough?

      I also think that it is best to try reading without the dictionary. Try to guess the meaning of unknown words rather than look them up, or try to guess what is happening based on the words you know rather than focusing on the words you don’t know.

      I hope it helped 🙂

      1. Thank you for your comment . You’re right , I picked up a children’s story book because I thought there would be only simple phrases.

        I will try to read something on a topic I find interesting. Thanks 🙂

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