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Archive for the 'The law - Civil' Category


What is the law regarding self-defense in Japan?

Question: What is the law regarding self-defense in Japan? What if someone hits you, what can you do in Japan, legally?

Answer: Nothing.
Japanese law does not have self defense as a “right” — it’s only an mitigating option.
If you attempt to defend yourself, you might be charged with assault. You are supposed to run away from an assault or lay on the ground and pee in your pants crying.
In Japan, self-defense is not a right—it’s a rare possible privilage.
Whether you get get charged with assault is up to determination of the lazy Japanese police and case-by-case-phase-of-the-moon basis. Japanese police only want to preserve the wa” / 和 , so never expect justice. Basically, make sure you look very hurt and assaulted before the police get involved. Since you are an “evil” gaijin, you need a lot of mitigating circumstances to plea self-defence: you better be bleeding and your opponent better look like insane maniac.


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My favorite gaijin gadfly, Dave Aldwinckle aka Arudou Debito, has this great WHAT TO DO IF site covering many of the pains of living in Japan. Enjoy.

(Click on a link to go directly to that heading)

you are asked for your “Gaijin Card”.
you are stopped by the Japanese police.
you are arrested by the Japanese police.

you overstay your visa.
you see a “Japanese Only” sign.
you are refused service at a business catering to the general public.
you are turned away at a hotel.

you want to protest something you see as discriminatory.
you want to take somebody to court.
you want to get a job (or a better job) in Japanese academia.
you are having a labor dispute in the workplace.

you are swindled in a business deal.
you need a lawyer.
you want to get Permanent Residency (eijuuken).
you want to become a Japanese citizen.

you want to run for office.
you want to build a house.
you want to get a divorce.
you want to do some awareness raising.

And more. Updated and added to frequently. Don’t see exactly what you’re looking for? Start at the very top of the “What to do if” site and see what headings are on offer.


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If I divorce my Japanese spouse in Japan can I expect to get custody or access to the children?

Q. If I divorce my Japanese spouse in Japan can I expect to get custody or access to the children.

A. Regrettably Japan has a very poor record when it comes to child custody. In almost every case full custody will be awarded to the Japanese spouse.

This will happen irregardless of the capability of such a spouse to support themselves or the children. The feeling is that the child living with the Japanese spouse will then be brought up in Japan and have the wider support of the Japanese spouse’s extended family.

Depending on how well or acrimonious the divorce was the non-Japanese spouse may have almost no access to the children despite any court ordered visitation rights. Simply put it all comes down to the willingness of the Japanese spouse to allow access.

Further even should the divorce be overseas and custody granted to the non-Japanese there is a good chance the child or children could be illegally brought back to Japan by the Japanese spouse and access restricted to the non-Japanese spouse

Once the child is with the Japanese spouse and in Japan it’s very much a closed issue as far as the courts are concerned.


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Can I drive in Japan with my own country’s license?

Q. Can I drive in Japan with my own countries license?

A. No. If you are stopped by the police for even the smallest thing they will always ask to see your driving license (please don’t pretend you can’t speak Japanese, that will only get you either detained or arrested until an interpreter can be found and also these days a lot of police can speak basic ‘traffic English’)

If you can’t produce a Japanese license the police will hold you and probably prosecute you. Not having a driving license can be a serious matter if you have been involved in an accident, even if it wasn’t your fault!

You can drive in Japan on an international driver’s license (for up to one year only) but it is better to get a Japanese license. This can be done quite easily by taking your current license and your passport to the local motor vehicle office. If you have a clean license and your visa is not a tourist type visa then you should be able to simply convert to a Japanese license

Important – If you have lived in Japan for more than one year then have no choice you must convert your current driver’s license into a Japanese license.

In Japan, cars drive on the left side of the road and have their steering wheels on the right side. The legal minimum age for driving is 18 years.


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Free Legal advice

Q. I really think I need some legal advice but I don’t want to go to see an expensive lawyer straight away. Is there an alternative?

A. Yes. Most town or ward office offer something called a ‘horitsu sodan’ – legal consultation on a weekly or bi weekly basis.

You should have a competent Japanese speaker with you and be able to explain your problem in clear simple terms. You will need to call ahead and make an appointment. Don’t expect much more than general guidance and possibly a reference to a lawyer specializing in the field that you are inquiring about. If possible bring a written explanation of what you are talking about

Here’s a good link for Tokyo that has more information such as places and times. If you are from another part of Japan they will tell you where to call.

Tokyo Metropolitan Foreign Residents’ Advisory Center


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Question about Divorce

Q. How do I get divorced if my wife is in Japan and I am in the United States?

A. If you got married outside Japan and then registered it in Japan you will need to have shown the Shiyakusho the original marriage certificate. In the same way if you are getting a divorce outside Japan and want to get it registered in Japan you will need to provide proof of the divorce.

Mutual consent divorce in Japan – Kyougi Rikon 協議離婚 is very easy and fast.

If your wife is agreeable to Kyougi Rikon then the absolute fastest way is to get on a plane, meet her at the Shiyakusho where her family register is kept. Show your passport; fill in two forms, pay a small fee, wait 10-15 minutes and the marriage is over.

If not, she can do it without you being there but you will have to get the forms sent to you, fill them in and get them notarized, sent back together with two valid forms of ID. Still fast and easy.

If she is not agreeable then you will have to come to Japan and start divorce proceedings here. You can’t do this from outside Japan. It can be slow, tedious and expensive. If children are involved you will not get custody.


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Trouble at home

One of the most frustrating tasks of living in Japan is finding and keeping a place to live. Japanese land agents are reluctant to find apartments or houses for non Japanese. You may be the most upstanding, law abiding citizen that ever walked this fair earth but unfortunately others before you have muddied the water.

Non Japanese going home abruptly and leaving unpaid utility bills. Keeping apartments in damaged and dirty condition. Sub letting to total strangers. Hosting loud and long parties disturbing the all important ‘wa’ are all sins attributed to those damn long noses. Japanese do it too but in their case land agents have some recourse to the renter’s family members or employers. Not so with non Japanese who can up and leave for foreign fields seemingly at a moments notice.

Let’s say you do manage to find yourself an apartment and all of a sudden the landlord starts acting up. Maybe he wants to increase the rent unfairly, maybe he won’t fix the leaking toilet, maybe he wants his favorite brother in law to have your little piece of turf. He can make life difficult for you in many ways. What to do?

In all cities or towns you will find your local town hall or ward office. If you’ve lived in Japan for any length of time you’ve been there to get registered. Just about all Shiyakusho or Kuyakusho have a department setup specifically to arbitrate between renter and rentee. Go there and tell them your tale of woe. They will contact the land agent or land lord and find out what’s going on and try to help. You can even withhold paying your rent to the land lord and pay the Shiyakusho instead during the ‘negotiations’

Try it the next time you feel like taking an axe to your noisy neighbor.

Axe >


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How long does it take to get a ‘permanent residency’ visa after applying?

Unknown. Could be a year, could be a month.

Despite what you may have read or heard there is no fixed time so don’t worry if you don’t hear anything after a few months.

However if your applying for permanent residency what does a few months matter, you’re not going anywhere right?

One tip though. Don’t leave the country for a holiday or business trip while you are waiting.

For further reading A Guide to Japanese Visas

(As always remember. YMMV – Your mileage may vary)


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