The US Embassy in Tokyo and Consulate in Osaka have been unavailable for depositions for over two years.
Sometime back, the US Embassy hinted that very limited video depositions from the Embassy deposition room might be possible, but only with special Japanese government approval. It appears that this led some people to be unjustifiably optimistic about the resumption of depositions in Japan.
We have had a small number of approaches recently for deposition interpreting in Japan, but we have not seen any evidence that depositions are actually being scheduled for and taken in the deposition room of the US Embassy in Tokyo or US Consulate in Osaka, either by video with the usual participants present, or with the deponent alone.
Even as tourists are returning to Japan, US depositions still have not resumed here, and there is no sign as to when the new deposition normal will start.
A check of the website of the US Embassy in Tokyo reveals that it is still saying:
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions, in-person depositions have been suspended until further notice. Video depositions of witnesses located in Japan may be available on an extremely limited basis and subject to prior approval of the Japanese authorities. Japanese government approval is not guaranteed.(From the US Embassy website)
Several years ago, when interpreting in a deposition in Osaka, the lead interpreter was having problems entering the US Consulate. It seemed that his name was not put on the list of people to participate in the deposition. While cooling my heels in the waiting area, the deposition-taking attorney brought the problem up to a Consulate person at one of the service windows. The exchange was an interesting look of the view of interpreters held by some people.
Attorney: “We have someone who has been told they cannot enter the Consulate and has been waiting for more than 20 minutes to get in.”
Consulate: “Which side is he representing?”
Attorney: “It’s not an attorney, just an interpreter.”
Right. Well, there you have it. Naturally, the attorney in question could not conduct his deposition without the interpreter, who was just an interpreter waiting to enter the Consulate.
A recent check of the website for citizen services at the US Embassy in Tokyo and consulate in Osaka shows that reservations of deposition rooms are still suspended, with rooms unavailable until further notice. This has been the situation since the pandemic struck here and shows no sign of changing any time soon.
Options for parties wanting to take depositions of personnel normally resident in Japan include having the witness(es) leave Japan to be deposed, in which case attorneys and support personnel such as interpreters and reporters can either be at the location with the witness or participate online.
We provided interpreting services in just such a manner last year after the pandemic struck. Prepping was done online before the witnesses left Japan, after which the witnesses travelled to the US and the attorneys and support personnel were spread over several locations in Japan and the US. It worked quite well and eliminated concerns about having to be tested before leaving Japan (a non-trivial issue) and concerns about the return to Japan being troublesome because of possible quarantining.