Travel tips and safety in Japan

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You are subject to all local laws and penalties, including those which may appear harsh by Australian standards. Find out about local laws before you travel.

If you are arrested or imprisoned, the Australian Government will make every effort to assist you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can’t get you out of trouble or jail.

To see the Website of the Australian Embassy in Tokyo for more information on arrests in Japan.

Be aware that you will not be allowed to make a phone call if you are arrested in Japan.

Medications

Authorities can charge you if they find traces of illegal drugs in your blood or urine.

More information:

Family law

Japanese family law, including divorce and child custody, is very different from Australian law. For example, joint custody of a child after divorce is not a legal option, and there are limits to access for a non-custodial parent. Family courts in Japan generally consider it in the child’s best interests to remain in their “habitual place of residence”. Courts therefore generally award sole custody to the parent who cared for the child most recently.

If you are involved in custody or other family disputes, consult a lawyer before leaving Australia or if you are already in Japan. We have produced some general informations on issues related to custody, child abduction and parental rights.

Australia and Japan are both parties to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

If you are concerned that your child has been illegally removed or detained in Japan, contact the Attorney General’s Department in Australia.

More information:

Labor law

Some employment agents mislead and encourage foreigners to work in Japan without:

  • the right visa
  • financial arrangements in place

This could leave you open to exploitation.

Authorities have arrested Australians for working in the entertainment industry while in Japan on tourist visas.

If you want to go to Japan for work:

  • verify the true nature of the proposed work
  • obtain the correct visa before arriving in Japan
  • get legal advice before signing a contract

More information:

Police powers

The police can stop you in the street, demand identification and search you and your property.

If you are in a public place, the police can seize:

  • knives longer than 5.5 cm, including blades and penknives
  • fire arms
  • any other weapon or object you could use as a weapon
  • medications
  • any item they reasonably suspect you have stolen or illegally

If they find any of these items on you, the police are likely to arrest you.

If you are arrested, the police can detain you for up to 23 days without charge. This includes offenses that you may think are minor. The police can detain you for weeks or months while they investigate and prosecute.

The initial police interrogation can last several hours. The police could record it in writing rather than electronically.

Under Japanese law, you can:

  • keep quiet
  • access legal representation
  • have an interpreter

However, the police can question you without your lawyer present.

English interpreters can be substandard. Obtain a list of English-speaking lawyers across Japan on the Australian Embassy website.

Other laws

If you stay up to 90 days, you must always have your passport with you.

If you live in Japan, you must always have your residence card with you.

It is illegal to:

  • buy or drink alcohol if you are under 20
  • driving with alcohol in the blood
  • allow someone under the influence of alcohol to drive a vehicle in which you are a passenger

These activities are also illegal:

  • import or possess firearms or other weapons without a permit.
  • smoking in the streets of certain areas of Tokyo and other cities.
  • using UHF-CB radios (walkie-talkies) that do not meet Japanese standards, such as those purchased outside of Japan.
  • resist arrest or other actions that interfere with the duties of an official.
  • fly a drone without a license in many parts of Japan. Strict regulations apply under the new aviation laws: http://www.mlit.go.jp/en/koku/uas.html
  • have illegal drugs in your body (detected by urine tests).
  • drinking on the street on certain days, such as around Shibuya on Halloween and New Years.

Penalties

Penalties for serious crimes, such as murder, include the death penalty.

Other phrases may include:

  • heavy fines
  • long prison terms with hard labor
  • deportation
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