Everybody loves travel, and a trip to Japan is on many jet-setters bucket list. From the never dimming lights of Tokyo in all of its Tech glory, to the scenic views of towns like Nikko, there is something for everybody in the land of the rising sun. However when visiting any new country, it’s important to learn some of the local laws and customs. Partially to show respect to the local populace, but also to keep yourself out of the gaze of the long arm of the law. Below are some specific examples we think would be important for you to keep in the back of your mind.
Be home by the time the street lights come on!
While you are on your travels to Japan, you will find that there is a curfew for minors. The curfew time is different from prefecture to prefecture but the most common times are between the hours of 10 to 11p.m. There is no exception for minors traveling with Guardians and/or parents, so please make sure to plan your sightseeing appropriately.
Business or Pleasure?
When you are traveling throughout the country, it is mandatory that you keep your passport and visas with you at all times! Even to the grocery store or the local 7/11 late at night. If you get stopped by the police and you don’t have your documentation, the police are likely to take you down to the station for questioning. I don’t know about you but that doesn’t sound like a fun way to spend a vacation.
Drug policy -Just say no.
Drug policy in Japan is very reminiscent of the Reagan administration. Which is to say they take a very hard line stance against all drugs. This includes not just the “jazz cabbage” but, also certain prescriptions and over the counter medicines. Certain over-the-counter medicines available in the US can be illegal in Japan. Just leave all the medications at home; otherwise, you could find yourself singing the Japanese prison blues.
Smoking or non-smoking?
You might be surprised to learn that smoking is still allowed in most restaurants in a designated smoking section. However, you will want to know that smoking outside on the street has recently become illegal.
License and registration please
While it should be no big shock that you have to obey the rules of the road in Japan, something to keep in mind is that there is no such thing as, “right on red” (well left on red, because Japan drives on the left side of the road). Traffic fines in Japan can range from ¥7,000-¥35,000. That’s approximately $70-350 USD at today’s exchange rate.
Prostitution is supposed to be illegal but…
When traveling to Japan, you will see some shops offering sexual services. Legality of prostitution in Japan may not be very simple. Japan has its own unique definition of prostitution so while it is principally illegal you see some shops and businesses offering similar services legally. Interestingly there is no penalty for prostitutes even if they violated the related law. Learn more on this page.
Don’t get too scared cowboy!
While some of these might sound like a silly way to sour your stay in Japan, they are all avoidable. There are other customs you will want to take time to look up before you head out, but if you keep your papers with you and the cold medicine at home, you will probably no run into any issues during your trip.