The Japanese Law Controlling Firearms and Swords

Firearms and Japan Do Not Get Along Well

The good news: Japan has some of the most severe restrictions on possession of knives and firearms in the world. The bad news: Japan has some of the most severe restrictions on possession of knives and firearms in the world.

Taboo in Tokyo?
Taboo in Tokyo?

Let’s Discuss the Good News First

Those responsible for the safety and security of participants and attendees of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will be interested to learn that Japanese laws have created a practically gun-free country. Even possession of one round of ammunition is a serious criminal violation. Many crimes and most terrorist attacks are committed by people using firearms. The almost complete ban on legal access to firearms in Japan certainly makes it more difficult to plan and stage a successful terrorist attack on the Tokyo Olympics.

Based upon the writer’s own experience of working in Japan for nine years with Japanese police officials he can state that almost no one in Japan has a firearm. Also, Japan border security is strong and it is extremely difficult for someone to smuggle a firearm into Japan. Indeed, Japanese police are normally not allowed to take their firearms with them after they have finished their work for the day. Instead, at the end of a shift a Japanese police officer will secure his firearm at a police facility. He will not have access to it again until he reports again for work.

And Now the Bad News

First, firearm restrictions mean very few Japanese police officers have access to a weapon other than a side arm. There are very few shoulder weapons available for use by police officers anywhere in the country. For example, several years ago some bears escaped from a small zoo in northern Japan. A side arm is not useful for killing a bear and the local police department did not have ready access to any type of shoulder weapon. So the police enlisted the assistance of members of a local hunting club. Of course the weapons of the hunting club members were stored and secured per Japanese law and it took a while for them to access their shoulder weapons, answer the call for assistance from the police, and shoot the bears.

Let’s consider more bad news. What if criminals or terrorists patiently smuggle firearms into Japan and use them in an attack on the Olympics? It is conceivable such an attack would lead to a situation in which the police are out-gunned by those who mounted the attack. Those responsible for the safety of participants and attendees at the Tokyo Olympics may want to explore exactly what resources the police in Japan will have to protect Olympic participants and attendees.

Those who will participate in shooting events at the Tokyo Olympics might wonder if they can use firearms in Japan. Happily, the first linked article shows the law does take into consideration “athletes who compete in national or international competitions.” Presumably those participating in Olympic shooting events will be allowed to bring firearms into Japan for Olympic events. However, the writer is certain that the bureaucratic requirements one must meet to import and use a firearm during the Olympics will be tremendous. From the shipping of the weapon to Japan, to the storage of the weapon and ammunition at the Olympic venues, to access to the firearm for practice, etc., contestants using firearms at the Olympics will face bureaucratic hurdles like no others. So, those participating in shooting events should plan early and leave nothing to chance when dealing with Japanese government officials who will handle the firearms used in Olympic competitions.

But What About Swords?

Finally, another aspect of the law that could snag Olympic participants and attendees is a portion of the law that restricts possession of various types of knives or bladed weapons. That law is discussed in this article published in a newspaper distributed on U.S. military bases in Japan. The writer is aware of at least one U.S. government employee who visited the U.S. embassy in Tokyo for business and during a stroll on nearby streets was charged by the police with possession of a knife blade that violated Japanese law. Also, the writer talked one time with a Japanese police officer regarding someone (an American) who was arrested for possession of an illegal knife. The subject was a chef and he was charged for carrying his professional cooking knives. The writer asked a Japanese police officer if Japanese sushi chefs, etc. carry their professional knives with them. The officer answered in the affirmative and admitted to the writer that the Japanese police had great discretion to decide when to enforce the knife possession law. Recommendation: those who travel to Japan should leave any knives or tools with blades at home.

If any reader has a question the writer is happy to try to answer it. Please contact him via the email address at the top of this blog page.

Personal Safety and Security
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