Arrested in JapanEdit

What to do if you’re arrested in Japan? First of all, if at all possible, avoid getting arrested (or doing things that may get your arrested). With a near-100% conviction rate, chances are, that one phone call you make (if they let you make it) won’t do you much good.

Different ProcessEdit

"But, the process of arrests and convictions is much different from “back home” you say. In theory, the police do the research and detective work before actually making the arrest, to make sure that they’ve definitely got the “right man.”

72 HoursEdit

Also, police are able to detain suspects for up to 72 hours without judicial proceedings, and that can be extended up to 20 days by a judge.

The Duty Attorney SystemEdit

If you are arrested in Japan and want a lawyer you can organize this by calling the embassy but you can also ask the police to call the duty attorney (toban bengoshi). The police or court will then contact the nearest bar association and a lawyer from there will then come for a consultation with you. The first consultation of a duty attorney is free. During the consultation the the attorney will interview you without the presence of a police officer and inform you of your rights and the procedures that will follow. The attorney will also contact your family for you.

Important to knowEdit

If you do not speak Japanese you can ask for an interpreter and you should also be allowed to call your embassy. The police are not allowed to force confessions, although it does happen. If you feel that you have been falsely arrested make sure that you do not sign any confessions not even if pressured to do so as any signed confessions can be used in court even if changed afterwards.


The Police in Japan are constrained by a code of law that defines them in a way different to the Police back home; just what can you expect from the Japanese Police Force? In every neighborhood in Japan you will find a KOBAN (police boxes) with local police officers on duty. This is where you can file basic reports such as if you have been robbed. The police at the KOBAN can also be of assistance if you need help finding an address in the neighborhood.
As for being arrested, the police can only arrest you if they have a warrant issued by a judge or if they see you commit a crime. If the suspect of a serious crime is likely to try to escape the police can also arrest the suspect before asking for a warrant. A police officer can also arrest you under the “Obstruction of a Public Official in the course of his Duties” law if you act in a resistant way when approached by police.
The Police can ask foreigners in Japan to show their passport (for tourists) or Residency Card. Since you are by law required to carry your passport (for tourists) or Residency with you at all times you can be asked to wait at the Police station until someone can bring the documents if you do not have them with you.

Victim of a CrimeEdit

With some of the lowest crime rates in the world, Japan remains relatively safe, and you can still walk the streets at night without having to constantly watch your back. However, crimes do still happen in Japan and in the unfortunate event of being the victim of a crime this information could be invaluable.

If you are the victim of a crime, after making sure that you are safe and uninjured, contacting the police is the next step. Probably the easiest way to contact with the police to report a crime or accident is to go to the neighborhood KOBAN (police box). Some KOBANs in areas with a lot of people are open 24h a day making it a convenient way to contact the police. You can also reach the police on phone number 110.

After you have filed a report the police will conduct an investigation. During the investigation the criminal is identified, evidence is gathered and the facts are established. After that the matter is handed over to the public prosecutor who will decided whether to prosecute or not. If the case goes to court the victim can request the court to be allowed to make a statement about the case. After sentencing, appeals can be made to the High Court by both the prosecutor and the accused. If the accused is under 20 years old he or she will be tried as an minor. If the victim of a crime wishes, he or she is allowed to be accompanied by a family member, psychological counselor or other person when testifying at court.

English Speaking LawyersEdit

Some of the common reasons for seeking legal advice in Japan:

  • Divorce
  • Payment disputes involving employers/ex-employers
  • Payment disputes involving ex-landlords
  • Criminal cases.

This is the only person listed on the American Embassy website for Wakayama-ken. For a list of other English Speaking Lawyers in neighboring prefectures please click on the following link. Attorneys in Japan

Yoshihiko Office: Tanabe Law Office
26-2 Yonban-cho, Wakayama 640-8144
Tel: 073-431-2801, Fax: 073-433-2299
(a)Jan. 22, 1944, Wakayama, Japan; (b) Civil, Labor, Property cases; (c) Tokyo U., 1966; (d) Wakayama Bar Association, 1973; (e) English

Getting MarriedEdit

Congratulations おめでっと!As a foreign national living in Japan you can choose to be married either under Japanese law or under the laws of your country. Regardless of your choice make sure that you meet the requirements of both countries if you wish the marriage to be valid under both laws.

If you wish to get married under your country’s laws you could do this either abroad or, in Japan, normally through your country’s embassy or consulate. To learn more please advice with your embassy/consulate. If you are marrying a Japanese national abroad he or she may need to submit a certificate of marriage qualification (kon-in-yoken-gubi-shomeisho 婚姻要件具備証明書) which is available from the regional branch office of the Legal Affairs Bureau.

If you wish to get married under Japanese law, either to a Japanese national or a foreign national, you will need to register your marriage at a municipal office in Japan. At the municipal office you need to fill out a marriage registration (kon-in-todoke 婚姻届). The marriage registration must be signed with signatures and hanko by two adult witnesses. The registration form is available at your municipal office. Along with the registration a foreign national will need to submit “A certificate of legal capacity to contract marriage”, a document issued by your home country to certify that you meet the requirements to get married under the laws of your home country and available from your Embassy.
The general requirements for marriage under Japanese law are:

  • Male must be 18 years of age or older and the female partner has to be 16 years of age or older.
  • A person under 20 year of age must have parents approval to get married.
  • A person who already has a spouse cannot get married.
  • A woman cannot get married within 6 months of the dissolution of her previous marriage.
  • Persons in a lineal blood relation or a collateral blood relation within the third degree cannot get married.
  • Persons in a lineal in-law relation cannot get married.
  • Parent and child by adoption cannot get married.

Good Luck!


It’s terrible but true, a lot of marriages end up in divorce and if your relationship has come to the end of the line you’ll not want to walk into that minefield in Japan without knowing just what might be waiting for you. Below you will find information about procedures when divorcing in Japan. However sometimes you can also choose to file for a divorce in another country, your home country, which may or may not make the procedure more simple. This is regulated by International Private Law and Processes and to learn more you will need to look into your home country’s laws. Also make sure that you understand what the effect will be in Japan, for example custody of children granted in a foreign court is not always accepted by Japanese law and you could therefore face yet another custody hearing in Japan.

Filing for a divorceEdit

There are basically three kinds of divorce in Japan: divorce by Mutual consent, Family Court mediation divorce and Court divorce.

Mutual consent (Kyogi Rikon) which means that both agree to be divorced and the process is finished very quickly as it only is a matter of letting the city office have a couple of days to register the papers. To get a mutual consent divorce you will need to go down to the Ward office and fill out a divorce form (rikon todoke), both of the partners hanko seals need to be on the form.

If one of partner wishes to get a divorce and the other partner refuses the next step would be to go to a Family Court (Chotei Rikon) to settle the matter. This is not an actual court able to dispense legally binding judgments, instead it could be best described as a process of negotiation through mediation and advice. These proceedings can take a very long time and you will need to show that the marriage is absolutely not working out. There a few, legally, valid reasons for a marriage to be irreversibly over. These reasons include adultery and breaking a serious criminal law. Many couples (Japanese) remain married although living separate lives because of the difficulties of giving a legally valid reason for an divorce.

The last kind of divorce is Court (Saiban) in which the divorce will be settled in court by a judge. Except for the reasons given above this option gives the judge the possibility to agree to divorce on the grounds of “grave reasons” that makes continuing the marriage impossible.

Alimony and settlementEdit

Alimony can be granted upon the dissolution of marriage. If one of the partners have been unfaithful, violent or in other ways can be held responsible for the divorce alimony can be claimed. Normally the alimony is a lump sum payment paid for the pain and suffering that has been caused.

If alimony cannot be agreed upon the matter will go to mediation in the Family Court. If the mediations fail a law-suit can be filed with the family court.

Custody of childrenEdit

Custody is given to the parent that is able to provide for the child with the “least problems” – that meaning a stable home. Courts in Japan also put special emphasis on small children’s need to be with their mother. Foreigners with a Japanese ex-spouse will normally face difficulties in being granted custody of mutual children in Japan. Also it is important to take into account that Japan is not a member (although they have signed some parts) of the Hague Convention on Private International Law which could lead to difficulties even if custody of children is granted in another country.

There is no legal way to have joint custody of children in Japan but visitation rights can be granted. However, visitation rights will not be granted before a divorce is finalized and even then there are no legal ways to enforce visitation rights.

Lost PassportEdit

Do NOT leave the country
If you lose your passport, you will need to do the following immediately:

  1. Contact your embassy (view the list of Embassies)
  2. Call the Lost & Found Helpline: 0120-46-1997, and report it to your local police station. There is a good chance that your passport will be turned in when it's found.
  3. Replace your work visa.
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