Japan offers its aid recipients an approach to legal reform that in some ways mirrors, and in others diverges, from the Western approaches to rule of law aid. As a consequence, Japan challenges Western legal assistance generally, and rule of law aid in particular. More particularly, after close scrutiny of the history of Japanese ODA and its mode of legal sector support developed over the last twenty years, we argue that Japanese legal assistance exhibits a range of traits including: incrementalism; comparativism; different aid personnel; focus on self-help; budget restraint; and humility. This approach has attracted robust critics. Nevertheless, this paper asks the question whether the East Asian model of rule of law assistance challenges the West's apparent addiction to rule of law aid.