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Crime - Juvenile

Japan With Kids - Forums: General Discussions: Crime - Juvenile
By Admin on Friday, January 18, 2008 - 10:33 am:

Help for parents whose children run into trouble for use of banned subtances in JAPAN:

I've been unable to find a clear definition of the age limit of a "juvenile". For purposes of smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol and driving a car, signing contracts, etc., it varies between 18 or 20 years old. In 2000 the Juvenile Law was revised to change the age for prosecution (by public prosecutor) from 16 to 14. Then in 2007 (25 May) it was changed again down to "approximately" age 12. But it is not clear to me which types of crimes come under this revision. There is a fair bit of "gray area" where the police and the public prosecutor can decide which way to handle each individual case. So it comes down to attitude about how heinous the crime is. Unfortunately illegal drug abuse is seen as particularly bad. It is not unusual to see drug use sentences that are longer than man-slaughter sentences.

English link that I was able to find on this topic:
Human Rights organization Osaka:

Translation/Report (to United Nations?) written by MOFA: (does not include the new ammendment of May 2007 in this report)

some excerpts (use link above to read the rest):

(Detention during the process of investigation)

71. In Japan, it is ruled that those who shall be subject to criminal procedure are 14 years of age or older. The minimum age at which a person shall be subject to detention during the process of investigation is also fourteen. However, it is also ruled that detained juveniles over 14 years of age shall be treated differently from adult counterparts, taking into consideration juvenile-specific mentality.
(Transfer to correctional institutions)

72. In Japan, we have Juvenile Classification Homes as a national institution for the classification of juvenile delinquents, and also Juvenile Training Schools and Juvenile Prisons as national institutions for juvenile correction. We also have Detention Houses at which accused and suspected law offenders are kept in custody. Juvenile Classification Homes accommodate those who have been committed thereto by a Family Court. The primary duty of the Homes is (as provided under Articles 3 and 17 of the Juvenile Law and Article 16 of the Juvenile Training School Law) to classify the personality and disposition of the juvenile on the basis of medical science, psychology, pedagogy, sociology, and other expert knowledge. This classification is to contribute to the Family Courts' investigation, hearings and decisions of proper protective measures for the juvenile, and also to decisions of proper treatment for children who are 14 or 15 years old who have been sentenced to imprisonment with or without labor.
Juvenile Training Schools are institutions which accommodate juvenile delinquents who have been committed thereto by a Family Court as a protective measure and have been committed thereto in order to serve one's sentence of imprisonment as ruled by the Juvenile Law. The Schools provide correctional education to the juvenile delinquents. It is ruled (under Article 2 of the Juvenile Training School Law) that the Schools accommodate only those who are fourteen years old or older.
Detention Houses accommodate suspected or accused juvenile law offenders and Juvenile Prisons accommodate the juveniles who have been sentenced to imprisonment through a criminal trial. Under the Penal Code of Japan (Article 41), it is ruled that an act of a person under 14 years of age is not punishable. Therefore, the penal institutions such as Detention Houses and Juvenile Prisons accommodate only those who are 14 years of age or older.

Word of mouth:
The Japanese police will treat obviously alien (blond/blue eyed or African/frizzy haired, or no Japanese capability, etc.) minors more harshly (i.e. sever beating, confinement for the full number of days allowed by the "law"during interrogation period, no visitation at all from family, etc.) than Japanese minors or children that appear Japanese (i.e. of mixed parentage). They see drug abuse as an imported evil, and abuse their power accordingly, whether in anger, frustration, to make an example, or sadism is hard to say, but certainly with no risk of retribution, fines or accountability.

A translation of the Cannabis Control Law Japan:

Possible lawyer (
Lawyer Hidehiro MARUI, who has spent the past 22 years defending in court people caught for possession of cannabis, said the 1948 ban on marijuana imposed by the U.S. authorities was alien to Japanese culture.
"Until the U.S. forces ban, cannabis had been freely used in Japan for over 10,000 years. There is archaeological evidence which shows cannabis was used for clothing material and the seeds were eaten in Japan right back to the Jomon Era (10,000 to 300 BC)," he said.
"The demonisation of cannabis is not part of Japanese heritage... The Chinese character for 'hemp' is even used in the name of the Ise shrine, one of Japan's most sacred religious centres," he added.
Born September 13, 1944. Graduated International Christian University in Tokyo.

Possible Lawyer: (found by internet search, does not come recommended in any special way other than that his name was associated with "juvenile law")

University of Maryland University College 2000 Annual Information Report (This summary refers to adults. Please read translation of Cannabis Control Law provided in link above for more detailed and accurate interpretation)

In Japan, under the Cannabis Control Law, possession of marijuana can result in up to 5 years imprisonment with forced labor. Importation, distribution, or sale can result in a sentence of up to 7 years imprisonment with forced labor. Use of marijuana is not specifically prohibited by Japanese law. Under the Stimulant Control Law, possession or distribution of amphetamines or other illegal stimulants can result in a jail sentence with forced labor for up to 10 years. Sale can result in a sentence of a three year minimum sentence (Japanese law does not provide for a maximum) with forced labor along with a Y10 Million fine. Importation, exportation, or production of illegal stimulants can result in a 1 year minimum prison sentence (Japanese law does not provide for a maximum) with forced labor.

In addition, foreigners convicted of drug crimes will be deported from Japan with a possible lifetime ban on return to the country.

Any further information is welcomed and needed:
There are many families over the years that have contacted me asking for any information that they can get. If your information is sensitive or you would like to keep your name anonymous, you may send links, information, personal experience, suggestions for lawyers directly to (at) and the information will make it's way onto this page or to the correct person depending on content. Alternatively, phone calls also be accepted at 03 3576 6244.

By Yuko_k on Tuesday, January 22, 2008 - 1:43 pm:

In relation to this topic, we can also keep in mind that a lot of cities, including Yokohama where I live, provides free counseling and legal advise in foreign languages, and for example in Yokohama, free interpreting service can be provided upon request for conversation situated in public facilities such as schools or the police. I'm sure you can find similar services by checking your local authority's website or by inquiring them over the phone/email. Here are details for Yokohama.

About drug abuse including marijuana, public junior high schools in Japan distributes letters, designed both for students and parents, about what you should watch out for and who to contact when you face trouble. Keep an eye on them. Cell phone and internet abuse is another serious issue that kids are facing today.

Another minor thing that we parents should keep in mind (and I was shocked to kearn that a Japanese mom friend didn't know this) is that in most prefectures including Kanagawa-ken and Tokyo-to, there is a bylaw that states those 17 and under are not to be out of their homes after 11:00pm even if accompanied by an adult. Of course, breaking this bylaw is quite tolerated but it certainly helps us to make the kids keep their curfews. Also most nightclubs don't allow entrance of those 17 years old and under, and at most game arcades those 15 and under aren't allowed to be there after 6:00pm. It doesn't always work that way, but it helps to know that that's the rule.

By the way, my understanding (as a total amateur in law) is that age for prosecution was lowered ever since the time when we had to face crimes like the one in Kobe where a 14 year old murdered several children viscously. Around that time, there were a lot of opinions, including those from teenagers, that juveniles would hesitate more to cause crime if the punishment was harsher. Also my understanding is that juveniles would only be "locked up" when the court decides it's necessary, which is probably unavoidable upon murder but avoidable upon things like theft.

By Drdo1 on Tuesday, January 22, 2008 - 3:09 pm:

In addition to what Yuko_k wrote:
We are in the Chiba area. When we tried to go to a late show with our then 2.5 year old (who usually falls asleep after the previews), the attendants at the theater said that if the movie was to "get out" after 11pm, then we would NOT be able to bring our child into the movie with us. They said it was part of the curfew law. They would not budge.

So possibly some places are taking the law more seriously, since they are possibly being held accountable. This happened to us at both LaLaPort Movie Theaters and the ones at Makuhari Messe area. However, over the past 2 years, never at the theater that is next to Disneyland (forgot the name.)

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