Carrying A Pocket Knife In Japan (The Laws And Consequences)

Many people have personal preferences for souvenirs which may sometimes revolve around collection items. One such item that is customary for collections is pocket knives. 

On top of holding a pocket knife for personal safety, the laws regarding weapons, regardless of their use and their purpose for being held, are quite strict in Japan.

If you’re planning on purchasing souvenirs in Japan that may include knives or pocket knives, it’s best to understand the laws and consequences of breaking those laws before spending money on any pocket knives. 

Sword And Knife Shop In Kyoto

What Is The Law In Japan Regarding Carrying Knives?

Regardless of the reason you might want to carry a pocket knife, it’s not allowed according to Japanese law. This includes knives with a blade that locks or a knife that folds into a holder or case. 

Japan is very strict about its laws around weapons, and these laws are enforced. This is part of the reason that Japan has a solid reputation for being such a safe country. 

Why The Laws Are So Strict About Pocket Knives

The recent change in laws surrounding pocket knives was a direct response to a tragic incident that occurred on a local transit train in Tokyo.

That being said, this violent attack that killed one and injured two was not the start of laws and restrictions regarding knives. Japan has always taken safety very seriously. 

Japanese Knife Attack News Story Via Reuters

This incident caused Japan to take a more definitive stance on the carrying of knives. It did help to establish the law that no knives of any kind could be held on a person when riding on a train. The only exception is sealed knives packed away. 

The Specific Laws

No knife of any kind, including pocket knives, can be carried around Japan if the blade is 8 centimeters or 3.15 inches in length or more.

This is according to the Swords and Firearms Possession Control law, which was first enacted in 1958 but has been amended several times over the years. 

Thus, if one were to carry a Swiss army knife-style contraption on them when they were going camping or fishing, or for a specific purpose of that nature, they can do so, as long as the blade is 6 centimeters (2.36 inches) or under. As a tourist, there aren’t really any likely reasons you would need to do this. 

For a person to own a knife with a blade more than 15 centimeters or 5.91 inches in length, they must get permission to do so, and this permission is only granted to knives kept inside the home.

The knife cannot be carried outside of the home at all. This permission must be given from their prefecture’s public safety commission. 

What About Household Knives?

Being that Japan is well-known for creating some of the best kitchen implements in the world, especially knives, it’s easy to understand why you would want to purchase knives when in Japan.

If you want to purchase knives that are made for household use, like a set of kitchen knives, you still want to be careful. 

People who live in Japan cannot even purchase knives with blades larger than 15 centimeters (5.91 inches) for home use; they have to have a permit and prove why they need these. This includes kitchen blades. 

Special exceptions have been made for tourists, but this is because these knife sets will be specially wrapped and sealed, and it is expected that you will not open the sealed package until you arrive home.

If you do, you could be in violation of Japanese knife laws. You should also not try to bring them home in a carry-on. 

What About Swords?

Swords are one of those items that many would love the opportunity to shop for in Japan. Different types of swords have cultural significance in Japan, but even those who live in Japan are only allowed to have them in their homes as display pieces.

It’s very, very important to know that it’s not allowed to just carry a sword in Japan. 

Thus, if you’re hoping to purchase one as a souvenir, it’s very crucial that you do your research about where you can buy one and how you can bring it back with you to your home country. 

There is a lot of paperwork involved and a lot of planning that has to be done before purchasing a sword in Japan as a souvenir to bring home.

Trying to bring one of these swords from the shop to your hotel can get you in a lot of trouble, especially if you don’t have the appropriate paperwork. 

Know How Laws Apply To You In Japan

It’s very important to understand that when you are in Japan, you have to be cognizant of and follow the laws in place. This includes following the laws regarding carrying pocket knives. 

If you’re caught breaking a Japanese law, there are several consequences depending on the particular law that you break. You can be subject to the same fines and potential for arrest as you would if you were a Japanese citizen

There is also the possibility that you can be sent to a Japanese jail or prison, and it can be very difficult to go through the course of justice in another country. 

How Strict Are These Laws?

These laws are unyielding and will be upheld regardless of the reasoning you give for having the knife. There was even an instance of a person being arrested for having a knife on them that was used to peel fruit.

This person was a government official who held a very high position within a municipal government office. 

What Other Laws You Should Know When Traveling Through Japan 

A couple of other laws and requirements you should also know when you are visiting Japan include: 

  • Keep your passport on your person at all times; you should also have a copy in your suitcase on the off-chance you lose your passport
  • Have documentation about any prescription medication you take, as some medication that is legal in other countries may not be legal in Japan

Knife Laws In Japan

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.