Law & Safety
Although Japan is known as a safe place, crimes do occur, and it is important to exercise caution as you would in your home country. In addition, it is important to be aware of the general laws and regulations in Japanese society and to know who to contact when a problem arises. Following is a brief rundown of some general laws everyone should be aware of, information about immigration and residency for foreigners, some basics to know for getting help in the case of an accident or crime, and some contact numbers and information for emergencies or legal questions.
General Laws & Regulations
There is no tolerance for drinking and driving in Japan. Even the smallest amount of alcohol found in a person while driving can result in fines, imprisonment, and suspension or revocation of driver’s license. Civil servants such as government employees and teachers face the harshest of penalties, as they are expected to set an example for the community. There are also strict laws against riding a bicycle while intoxicated.
Drug laws are also very strict, and there is little distinction between type (from marijuana to heroin), duration (past or present), or amount. In addition, laws regarding guilt by association are extensive and can involve harsh penalties for people both immediately and not immediately involved.
For extensive information on Japanese laws, including English translations, see:
Immigration & Residency
To reside legally in Japan, one must obtain legal residency and have appropriate documentation. This includes acquiring a visa, completing alien registration procedures at your town office, and securing landing permission.
There are many types of visas, each regulating the type of activities allowed and the status of residence (在留資格 zairyuu shikaku) of the holder for their stay in Japan. One must be sure to fully understand the details of their visa, such as allowed activities, duration, and status of residence, and be especially careful to note the duration—staying in Japan even one day beyond the specified period of stay constitutes as an overstay which is punishable by law. For those planning to stay longer, applications for extension of stay must be submitted any time between 2 months before and the day before visa expiration. When getting a new passport, the visa will need to be transferred into the new passport. If one wishes to engage in activities other than those specified by your status of residence, one must apply for permission for a change in status of residence at the Immigration Bureau.
Once in Japan, those staying longer than 3 months (or as otherwise specified) should promptly apply for an alien registration card (外国人登録証明書 gaikokujin touroku shoumeisho) at a local town office. One should note the duration of the alien registration card, and always carry the card for identification. When moving or switching occupation within Japan, one must update the card within two weeks of the change. If planning to extend the period of stay in Japan, the alien registration card must be renewed as well.
If you plan on leaving Japan briefly during your stay you will need to obtain a stamp of landing permission, or re-entry permit (再入国許可 sainyuukoku kyoka). You must purchase a single-entry (3000 yen) or multiple entry (6000 yen) stamp (収入印紙 shuunyuu inshi) at the post office, which you must then bring to a local immigration office (see below) and exchange for a landing permission stamp, which will be put in your passport. Once you have obtained landing permission, this, rather than your visa, becomes the legal basis of your stay in Japan, so it is extremely important to check the validity and duration of your re-entry permit. As with a visa, re-entry permits should be transferred when changing passports, and renewed before expiration.
For more detailed information on immigration regulations and procedures, see the following websites or contact the following information centers:
Daily Life in Yamaguchi, guide to immigration and alien registration procedures:
Hiroshima Regional Immigration Bureau, Yamaguchi Branches (9:00-16:00 M-F):
Shimonoseki: 8-2-1 Kamitanaka-cho, Shimonoseki TEL: 0832-23-1431
Ube: 1-12-8 Manito-machi, Ube TEL: 0836-21-3341
Tokuyama Port: 6-35 Minato-machi, Tokuyama TEL: 0834-21-1329
Iwakuni Port: 3-9-57 Shin Minato-machi, Iwakuni TEL: 0827-21-0926
Hiroshima Immigration Information Center (Japanese, English, Spanish):
2-11 Hiroshima Godo-chosha, 6-30 Kami Hacchobori, Naka-ku, Hiroshima
9:00 – 16:00 M-F
MOFA, Japanese visas:
Police & Court System
Every neighborhood is equipped with a police box, or koban, which is operated by several police on rotating shifts 24 hours a day. If there is an issue you would like to discuss with the police, or you have been victim of a crime, the police box is always open and you can go there to file the matter as well as receive further directions and support.
Japan’s court system consists of Summary Courts, District Courts, High Courts and the Supreme Court, as well as Family Courts which function as part of the District Courts. Summary Courts operate on a local level, handling small civil cases and minor criminal offenses. There is one District Court in each prefecture, handling felonies, large claim civil cases and bankruptcy matters. Family Courts handle divorce, domestic dispute, juvenile delinquency, and mediation. The High Courts have jurisdiction over criminal cases, and the Supreme Court, in addition to dealing with high crimes, also has judicial responsibilities such as choosing judges for lower courts and determining the constitutionality of laws.
Important numbers and websites:
Fire, Injury, Sudden Illness: #119 (explain the nature of emergency when calling)
Traffic, Accidents, Crimes: #110 (also call #119 if an injury accompanies the accident)
Police related matters besides emergencies: #9110 (Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean)
Legal Advice Clinic (Free):
AMDA International Medical Information Center (Osaka):
TEL: 06-4395-0555 HOURS: M-F (English, Spanish) 9:00 – 17:00；
Tues (Chinese) 11:00 – 14:00； Sun (Portuguese) 10:30 – 14:30
International Counseling Center (Kobe):
TEL: 078-431-8272 (counseling by appointment)
Foreign Embassies and Consulates in Japan:
Tokyo English Life Line (TELL):
TEL: 03-5774-0992 Daily 9:00 – 23:00
International Mental Health Professionals Japan (IMHPJ):
Alcoholics Anonymous (English):
Japan Helpline (toll free):
TEL: 0120-46-1997 24 hours a day, 7 days a week