This paper describes and analyzes the rapid increase in civil litigation in Japan during the 1990s in light of existing theories of Japanese litigiousness. Using a unique dataset of prefecture-level data, it demonstrates that the 1990s increase in litigation is best attributed to two main factors: the expansion in institutional capacity for litigation traced to procedural reforms and an expansion in the formerly miniscule bar; and structural changes in the Japanese economy related to the post-bubble slowdown in growth. The paper contributes to three literatures. First, it builds on earlier institutionally-oriented research on civil litigation in Japan by Haley and Ramseyer by providing new data and detail about the institutional barriers to litigation. Second, it contributes to the literature on the relationship between economic change and litigation more generally. Finally, it contributes to the empirical and comparative literature on litigation rates by providing evidence about the determinants of litigation in one country.