Japan Knife Laws

Japan Knife Laws: Can You Carry a Knife in Public?

Japan is among the countries that manufacture some of the best knives and swords in the world. Their steel, both carbon and stainless, and their edged tools are unmatched as they’re top quality. Therefore, it comes as a surprise to a person when they learn of their strict knife rules.

So, what are the knife laws in Japan? According to the Swords and Firearms Control Law, it’s illegal to carry any blade type longer than 6 cm (2.36) without a justifiable ground. Any person possessing a blade longer than this length can face imprisonment of 2 years or 300,000 yen.

Also, carrying the blade without a proper reason, even though less than 6 cm, can attract a fine of 9,999 yen or 29 days imprisonment. More curious to know? Read on to fully understand the Knife laws in japan and how they affect the possession of knives.

Highlights

  • Statewide Preemption: None
  • Concealed Carry: No
  • Carrying Knife in Schools: Prohibited
  • Critical Dimensions: Pocket knives shorter than 6 cm (2.36 inches) is legal to carry around

List of Illegal Knives in Japan

Following is the list of knives illegal to possess in Japan.

  1. Pocket knives (longer than 6 cm)
  2. Locking blades (longer than 5.5 cm)
  3. Swords
  4. Butterfly knife

In Japan, knives are controlled under the Swords and Firearms Possession control law 1958. The law was amended in the years 1993, 1995, 2008, and 2018. The amendments are to accommodate new regulations over the years.

You are required to have a permit to own a knife with a blade longer than 15 cm (5.91 inches). The prefecture’s public safety commission permits a person to possess knives of this length with conditions. The knife must be kept inside a home and mustn’t be brought out for any reason.

Any knife carried must be concealed, especially in a public place or transport. In trains, nobody should possess a knife unless packed. Due to the butterfly inclusion in many crimes, many shops don’t stock them anymore.

You can carry a knife in public buildings if it’s hidden and for a reason, but not in a school. One student who carried theirs to a school was suspended for three days and his knife confiscated. Also, you’re not allowed to carry a knife or other weapons into a court of justice.

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The revised laws also saw the restriction of military personnel carting double-edged knives with blades longer than 5.5 centimeters banned. Any person violating the law may be apprehended or detained.

Owning a knife longer than the required length as a tourist can warrant jail time. A case in 2009 saw a man jailed for nine days for carrying a knife longer than one centimeter.

The 2016 statistics showed that Japan’s rate of intentional homicide per 100,000 population was 0.3. This rate was the lowest in the world and most thanks to the strict gun and knife law.

Within a decade between 2000 and 2010, Japan saw a significant decrease in gun-related crimes. In 2001, 39 gun-related crimes were reported; by 2009 there were only four.

Can You Import a Knife to Japan?

You can import a knife to Japan only after clearing with the authorities. You will also be required to pay 5% import duty plus 10% VAT. Also, after the total amount is determined, you may have to pay import taxes.

However, an authorized import can attract penalties and 3 year or more imprisonment. Also a person may be fined up to 30 million yen.

What Size of Knife Is Legal To Carry In Japan

The legal knife length for a fixed blade is any length that’s less than 6 centimeters or 2.36 inches.

Foldable blades are legal if they’re less than 8 centimeters (3.15 inches.) Remember, only for a reason, like fishing, you are allowed to carry a knife.

Can You Buy a Knife as a Tourist in Japan?

Most tourists who visit Tokyo, among other major Japanese cities, are tempted to buy knives. These knives are beautiful, strong, and can last a lifetime if maintained well.

However, with their strict knife laws, one can’t help but wonder if they can legally buy one. Despite the strict law, you can buy a knife of up to 15 cm, which is the length of a kitchen knife.

The knife seller must wrap it carefully, seal it in a box, and then carry it in a bag. While the seal is still on, the authorities will know it’s not for use inside Japan.

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However, the tourist mustn’t break the seal or use the knife if not permitted. The knife or sword can also be exported to your country directly from the knife shop.

Once, an Us Marine missed his flight for having a 35 cm blade in his luggage in Japan. The same can be your fate if you break the seal while still in the country. Also, the knife should be in checked luggage or carry-on bags.

Penalties And Punishment For Carrying Illegal Knives

The consequences of possessing a prohibited knife in Japan sometimes differ between foreigners and locals. For foreigners, possessing a knife longer than 6 cm or unsealed can result in an immediate detention, like it happened to a 74 years old tourist.

During the detention, the authorities may investigate the seller of the blade and the intention. If you’re considered safe, you will be fined and probably leave without the knife.

Once, an Us Marine missed his flight for having a 35 cm blade in his luggage in Japan. The same can be your fate if you break the seal while still in the country. Also, the knife should be in checked luggage or carry-on bags.

List of Legal Knives in Japan

Following are various knives legal to carry in Japan.

  1. Swiss Army knife
  2. Pocket blade (less than 6 cm)
  3. Deba Knife
  4. Yanagiba knife
  5. Swiss knife

The knives in the list must, however, be below the legal blade length of 6 cm. Also, the blades must be covered when transported and only used in the right places.

When carrying a knife in a car in japan, you also must keep it out of sight and have a reason for carrying it.

Different Laws For Different Kinds Of Knives

Knives in the Japanese knife laws are all the same in turns of length requirements and prohibitions. However, owning a sword requires a permit from the authorities.

Swords have been illegal since 1876 and are currently used for sports and art. They’re among the weapons requiring approval from the prefectural public safety commission before owning.

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Being in possession of a knife longer than 6 cm or anything looking like a sword to a public place is illegal and punishable by the law.

Fun facts

The following are fun facts about knife laws in Japan;

  • It’s illegal to sell a knife to a person under 18 years of age
  • Owning a knife longer than the required length is illegal, even if you’re not carrying it
  • You can’t own a sword as a weapon but rather as an artwork

Exceptions In The Knife Law Of Japan

There are several exemptions in Japanese knife laws as below;

  1. You can carry a knife, but only for a reason
  2. Though rare, an internationally recognized masters-of sword may receive special dispensation to carry a sword, like a katana
  3. You can get a permit to possess assorted blades, but only if you keep them in your home
  4. Fishing and diving are lawful reasons to carry a knife out of the base for service members
  5. The Swiss army knife style is exceptional if used for fishing and camping.

Lawsuits

Mayu Tomita, a Japanese pop star, was stabbed 61 times by a fan named Tomohiro Iwazaki in 2019. She then filed a lawsuit against the government for failing to act.

 List Of Relevant Laws

You can further look through these sources to get more information regarding knife laws in Japan.

Conclusion

Like other countries with strict weapon laws, Japan’s knife law aims to minimize knife homicide and crime. While it may seem too harsh on the citizens, the benefit is on their side.

Also, the few exceptions allow a person to use a knife as usual, but only after confirming with the authorities.

The law controls the use of knives based on the blade length rather than the knife type. This is advantageous since most people can still possess their favorite knife types if they’re of legal length.

Remember, as a tourist, the law also affects you and you may end up with a heavy fine.

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