unaware foreigners

7 Laws in Japan that take unaware foreigners by a surprise

The Japanese culture is built around respect and a strict code of etiquette. It expects the followers to abide by certain customs that come out of the blue for an average foreigner. In addition to the customs, Japan has a set of laws that are not found in many other countries. These laws are often surprising and unusual to an outsider. We explore the laws in Japan that take unaware foreigners awestruck:

1. Not carrying your passport wherever you go

As odd as it may seem but if you do not have your passport on you. You would be breaking the law if you left your place of stay for a short walk and did not carry your passport. The police can arrest you if you are found without your passport.

2. Can’t fly your drone wherever you like

It may surprise many people, but all the major tourist attractions across Japan are a “No Drone Zone”. What’s the fun in getting a drone if you can’t fly it over cherry blossom trees?

3. Cannot just bring any OTC drug

Some foreign medicines are completely forbidden entry into Japan. A medication like Adderall used to treat ADHD symptoms is illegal, even with an overseas prescription. As a visitor to Japan, you will need to consult a local doctor, and they may prescribe local alternatives to foreign medicines.

4. Can’t force someone to drink alcohol

Peer pressure to drink alcohol at parties is not new. We commonly observe officegoers being obligated to drink by their work superiors and managers. But it is illegal to push people to drink as they have the legal right to refuse!

5. Citizens between the age of 40 and 74 need to get their waistline checked annually

Japan is very serious about having ‘carved’ body citizens. Except for the big rig sumo wrestlers, the general public is expected to avoid obesity strictly. Japanese pop culture seems to support sugar-free healthy drinks. It is not uncommon not to come across western sugary brands at vending machines. Moreover, the average Japanese diet is a well-balanced one. Per the Metabo Law, every Japanese citizen is subject to monitoring their waistline as soon as they turn 40. Employers help their workers stay under the maximum limits by organizing weight loss classes.

6. Married couples cannot live separately

It is illegal for any married couple to live separately unless they can provide a justified explanation. Maybe your spouse gets a better job in a different city, only then can you live separately. The objective of such a law is to help reduce divorce rates and reduce the individual cost of living.

7. Legal age of consent in Japan is only 13

Believe it or not, the age of consent is 13 in Japan. This age is lower than those of other industrialized nations around the world. Why is it so low? Well, it was more than a century ago that this age was set by the Japan’s Penal Code and it has not changed since then. Women used to marry at very young age in Japan although it is very different nowadays. 13 is only the de jure age of consent and the de facto age of consent is actually 18 years old because of other laws and local ordinances that set the age of consent. Read this article to learn more.

8. Drivers cannot splash rainwater onto side walkers

We all know that traffic’s pace goes slow during rain. But in Japan, it tends to go much slower as drivers try to avoid splashing rainwater on those who walk on roadsides. Drivers can land up getting ticketed for such actions. You should install mud flaps for each wheel to ensure your vehicle splashes the least water as you drive.

Laws are typically made based on the experiences and demands of citizens. While the majority is true for Japan, it also has a long monarchy history. Kings and their families defined some laws and customs to keep the population under control. As a foreigner, one should be well aware of the local laws and respect them whenever they visit the land of the rising Sun.

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Christophe Rude

Christophe Rude

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