Age Restriction Laws In Japan (Drinking & Vice Laws)


Japan has social and vice laws you should understand before visiting it. These laws guide the social conduct in the country for citizens and foreigners alike, determining the specific age to smoke, party, or drive. What are the social, legal laws of the country you’re visiting?

Some countries consider 18, 19, or 20 years the legal age for multiple activities like smoking, buying alcohol, and driving. However, Japanese laws regarding the drinking age consider 20 years as the legal age, and the other restrictions vary.

These ages usually vary from state to state in the USA. For example, your age might allow you to drive (16) or consume alcohol (21), while Japanese laws may differ in the permissible ages. No one wants to fall into the wrong side of the law while traveling in Japan.

Japan is a very friendly country to tourists but its legal system is very strict and intentionally or unintentionally breaking a law may have dire consequences.

Therefore, to avoid these legal mishaps, it’s essential to understand all the social and vice laws in Japan before visiting the country. Read through the article to identify the laws you should understand before planning for your trip to Japan.

Japan’s legal drinking age

Enjoying the local drinks is the best way to light up the vacation moments during your vacation or trips. Especially if you’re in a group, you’ll want to enjoy yourselves in one of the most entertaining local clubs around. At what age do the Japanese always prohibit drinking alcohol in clubs?

It’s essential to consider checking the alcohol restrictions in the country before deciding to go on a drinking spree at the local Izakaya.

The Japanese drinking age laws prohibit alcohol vendors from selling alcohol to minors below 20 years. However, if you’re above 20 years, you can drink freely; you’ll only have to produce your passport or identification card. Apart from the local izakaya or bars, you can also find alcohol in the leading supermarkets or liquor stores.

The Japan laws drinking age drinking laws will strictly apply despite the source of your alcohol. However, some Japanese residents feel vending machines offer some more lenient regulations and minors may in fact secretly buy from beer vending machines at their own peril.

Vending machines that sell beer in major cities is very common

Apart from the legal drinking age, Japan has some additional drinking laws that differ from most countries. In Japan, the laws allow you to drink in public as long as you are above the legal age. You can enjoy your drink at the public parks, train or bus stations, and even on the train.

It’ll be essential to understand that the laws prohibit drinking and driving; thus, only the passengers in the car can drink. The laws provide harsh punishment and hefty fines for driving while drunk. Despite reaching the legal drinking age and being free to drink, it’ll be good to drink responsibly.

Is Public Intoxication Legal In Japan?

Surprisingly being intoxicated in public areas is perfectly legal. Unless someone becomes aggressive or acts in a dangerous manner towards others or themselves police will generally not interfere with a person.

Having Open Containers Of Alcohol In Public?

Having open containers of beer, wine, sake, or even liquors are perfectly legal in Japan. However, inside privately owned businesses such as department stores, they make their own rules, and hence drinking while inside is most likely not allowed.

Drinking on public transportation such as buses, trains, or cabs?

Drinking on public transport is perfectly legal. However, on crowded buses or trains, it’s less accepted by most, and generally longer and less crowded trains it’s very common to eat and drink alcohol as a passenger.

Drinking while riding inside of private vehicles?

It is legal to drink while riding in cars or trucks privately owned. However, Japan has very strict laws against operating a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol. It’s best to never chance your freedom as Japan’s conviction rate against most crimes including DUI is 99%.

Drinking and operating a motorized vehicle?

Strictly illegal. There is no cutoff point as in the USA per a device to measure your blood alcohol content. If police smell alcohol on your breath or you are acting erratically your most probably going directly to jail.

Exceptions to drinking in public?

Some parks (including the royal gardens) will not allow drinking on the premises. Any park that charges admission will most likely have signage as to whether or not alcohol consumption is allowed.

What type of ID can I use for Bars, Clubs or Alcohol Purchase?

For foreign tourists asked to produce ID for purposes of alcohol purchase in bars or stores the main ID you will need is your passport as a driver’s license from outside the country carries no weight.

Legal age to consume alcohol?

In Japan, you must be 20 years or older to consume any type of alcohol.

What is the penalty for underage drinking?

If you are an international student enrolled in some type of higher education, you might expect disciplinary action from the school. In the worst-case scenario, your visa may be revoked and you will be deported, or you may be dismissed from school and deported.

There are consequences to underage drinking although it usually falls on those who serve minors alcohol rather than the underage person. Generally speaking, the Japanese authorities are rather indifferent to underage consumption.

Legal age to smoke in Japan

Japanese laws to purchase and smoke tobacco are prohibited for minors under 20 years. Before you purchase any tobacco products at the shops or the local vendors, you’ll have to produce your documentation (passport or national identification card).

Japan also has multiple cigarette vending machines in its major cities. Nonetheless, if you’re a tourist, the law prohibits you from using these machines. The reason being you’ll need a Taspo, a special card the machines use to determine your age. You can only have this card if you’re a citizen of the country.

This prevents children and teens from getting access to cigarettes in these commonly placed vending machines.

After getting your cigarette, it’s also essential to understand you can’t smoke just anywhere. The laws provide designated places for smoking, smoking zones. The smoking laws prohibit smoking in offices, restaurants, and public places.

You’ll only see ashtrays in the smoking zones, which you need to use, as cigarette butt littering is a punishable offense. If you don’t like using the public ashtray, you can easily buy the cheaply available ashtrays from the local vendors.

Again there is common signage in areas where smoking is prohibited and Japan is one of the cleanest countries in the world a cigarette butt carelessly discarded might get you into more trouble than smoking in a non-designated area.

Laws on gambling

There are many gambling activities in Japan you can enjoy. Nonetheless, the laws have certain limitations on gambling age. Everyone visiting Japan will want to try out the famous Japanese gambling game, pachinko.

Both in the major cities and rural areas, there are multiple Pachinko parlors you can play. However, before entering the parlor, if you aren’t 18 years old you are prohibited from entering them.

You can only participate in gambling if you’re 18 years and above. Apart from being of age, school regulations also determine if you can enter the parlor or not. Despite your age, you can’t participate in gambling activity if you’re still in high school.

Before getting into the pachinko parlor or casino, residents produce an identification card while tourists must show their passports.

In addition, apart from the pachinko, you can also participate in pachi-slots, a popular gambling game in Japan. Most people win prizes while playing these games, some have made gambling games their primary source of income. In recent years, the government has put some strict measures in place around pachi-slots and pachinko.

The laws view them as public amusements. Therefore, if you decide to play the games, ensure you aren’t carried away by the games; only consider them a cultural experience. Winnings from some pachinko games (special steel balls) have to be cashed in outside of the establishments at a next-door or nearby place for cash or prizes.

Laws on karaoke

Karaoke centers have different restrictions depending on the age. For example, most Japanese karaoke centers restrict minors of 16 years and below in the centers past 6:00 pm. Those who are up to 18 years will have up to 10:00 pm to leave the centers.

While visiting Japan, it’ll be essential to note the karaoke rules and timeline. Even if you are in the company of someone older, when it’s past their time in the karaoke centers, the laws expect you to leave. Alternatively, the management or authority will also prevent them from getting in beyond those times.

Many of them are always open all day and night. You can also find your favorite alcohol and cigarette brand at these centers. Thus, if you’re accompanying your minor, you’ve must understand, the Japanese laws regarding the drinking age still apply.

Karaoke bars in Japan can’t sell any alcohol products to minors below 20 years. However, even if you purchase your drink legally, you shouldn’t share it with the minor. Giving an alcoholic drink to a minor below 20 years is an offense that attracts punishment and fines for adults who provided the drink.

Restriction laws on entry to arcades and game centers

Similar to karaoke bars and clubs, the gaming centers or amusement arcades in Japan also have some restrictions. The main difference between the game centers and karaoke is that most game centers are usually arent open 24 hours daily.

Restrictions vary by prefecture or sometimes by city. After 6:00 pm, most area laws prohibit all minors below the age of 16 years from being in the game centers. Mostly, they open at 10:00 am and close at 11:00 pm in rural areas and even large cities and towns.

If parents accompany the minors then they may remain inside until 10 pm or possibly later if local laws allow.

Restaurant or live music venues laws

The law allows all live music venues to operate legally as restaurants or eating and drinking establishments in Japan. It means that despite the age, anyone can gain access to these centers. Nevertheless, some venues will have specific rules like prohibiting small children from attending the concert during certain events. However, most venues usually have no restrictions on entering.

The laws allow the authorities to sell alcohol to individuals only 20 years and above during the events. The minors who enter the venue will only have access to only soft drinks. Before the management allows you to access the event, most usually give a ticket in advance. You can use the ticket to get a drink while enjoying the live music.

The laws allow live music events and concerts to serve drinks and food late into the night. However, most organizers schedule the concerts to end at around 10:00 pm or 11:00 pm due to certain noise restrictions. Generally, everyone clears the concert venues by midnight. Finishing the performance by 10:00 pm will play a significant role in preventing conflicts with the residential areas.

Movie Theatre Restrictions

Most developed countries like Japan usually have a rating system that restricts the ages for watching theatre movies. While visiting Japan, it’s important to check with the Film classification and rating organization for your best movie ratings. This system helps you to determine if age is appropriate for a particular movie for kids and teens. The following are the rating system and the age restrictions:

● G (General Audience) – Everyone can watch

● PG12 (Parental Guidance) – Minors under 12 years can watch only with a guardian or parent.

● R15+ (Restricted) – All minors under 15 years can’t watch this movie.

● R18+ (Restricted) – All minors 17 years and below can’t watch the movie.

legal driving age

If you visit Japan and want to enjoy a drive down the streets, it’ll be essential to determine if the laws permit you to do so. In Japan, you can only get a valid driving license after attaining 18 years. Therefore, you can lawfully drive in any part of the country.

Tourists must have an international driver’s license issued by their home country. Driving or renting a car without one will not be possible.

In some countries like Australia, Canada, and the United States, you can get a driving license at 16 years. It won’t help you in Japan though, even if you’ve got an international driving license, but you haven’t reached 18 years. Therefore, before you rent a car during your travels, ensure that you’ve obtained an international permit for Japan and you’re above 18 years old.

Recreational Drugs

Japan has extremely strict laws regarding marijuana. Even those who can legally use it for medical reasons in their home country may find it near impossible to use in Japan. In recent years some allowances have been made but unlike the USA where medical use is very permissive, Japan is not.

Any form of narcotic found on your person will automatically put you into Japan’s legal system. Most likely you will serve time in prison and may be banned from ever entering the country again.

Japan has some very strict social laws that govern those living in the country and the visitors or tourists on vacation. Before planning for your vacation in Japan, It’s good to understand the Japanese laws regarding the drinking age, and all other social laws. Understanding these laws is very important to help you avoid getting on the wrong side with Japanese law.

If you plan on traveling to Japan with a minor or attending school in Japan as a minor, it’s good to ensure they adhere to all the laws and regulations. The above information provides many social and vice laws that’ll be helpful while having your getaway in the country.

MT Lee
My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.