The age of adulthood is 18 years old in many countries, but it is 20 years old in Japan. At the age of 20, a person is said to have become an adult here. There’s a celebration called 成人の日 (Seijin no hi: Coming-of-Age day) for people who will turn 20 on the second Monday of January every year.
You need to be careful if you are younger than 20 years old and planning to stay in Japan. Japanese laws affect visitors from different countries as well, so it’s important that you know them. Here is the information about legal age and what you can and can’t do in Japan.
About Drinking (Must be over 20)
In Japan, you can get alcohol very easily at a convenience store, supermarket, or restaurant. But the legal drinking age in Japan is 20 years old. Just like in many other countries, people younger than that cannot purchase or drink alcohol under a law called the Minor Drinking Prohibition Act. If you look younger than 20, you will be asked to provide your ID.
But the great thing is that you can drink at any outdoor or public places in Japan. In a park, at a station, and even on a bullet train (But keep in mind that drinking inside of a train or bus is considered rude).
You are not allowed to drink while driving of course. A law called Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and Related Conduct states that if you get caught drunk driving, you can be subject to up to five years in jail or up to a million yen fine. If you give access to a vehicle to a drunk person, you can also be subject to the penalties.
About Smoking (Must be over 20)
According to the Act of Prohibiting Minors from Smoking, age restriction goes the same for smoking: You can’t smoke or buy cigarettes if you are under 20. Japan used to be a very smoking country. In 1960’s, 80% of men and about 20% of women smoked cigarettes. However, as more and more scientific evidence appeared about how harmful the smoking is, smoking is no longer considered as “Cool” like it once was. The consumption of cigarette is decreasing across the board. In 2017, only 28% of men and 9% of women smoked.
Cigarettes are available in most convenience stores and supermarkets, but smoking in restaurants, cafes, and streets are generally prohibited. If you are a smoker, you should be done at designated smoking areas. Having a secret smoke in toilets and other private spaces will cause the fire alarm to activate and you will be in trouble if you do!
Driving (Must be over 18)
You can get a driver’s licence at the age of 18 in Japan. Even if you have an international driver’s license, you can’t drive in Japan if you are younger than 18 so you have to follow the rule here. You can get the license to ride on motorbikes that are from 50cc to 400cc if you are over 16. Motorbikes over 400cc are for 18 and over.
Pachinko and Pachi-Slots (Must be over 20)
Gambling itself is illegal in Japan and currently we don’t have casinos but we have similar gambling games called Pachinko and Pachi-slot machines. You are allowed to enter the parlors if you are over 20 years old and enjoy playing them.
Pachinko is a pinball game with a LCD screen. Player turns a handle to launch a metal pachinko ball ,and when the ball enters a hole in the center of the board, three numbers on the LCD screen begin spinning. Just like a slot machine, if you hit the jackpot by getting the three numbers match, a part of the machine at the bottom will open. If you can get balls in there, you will get more pachinko balls.
You can exchange your pachinko balls for money. Pachi-slots are like slot machines. You use medals to play the game instead of metal balls.
Things that people under 20 can do
People under 16 can stay in Karaoke places and Game centers until 6:00pm (until 10:00pm for people aged from 16 to 18). If they are accompanied by parent or guardian, people aged 16 to 18 can stay at Karaoke places until 11:00pm and Game centers until 10:00pm (However the rules are slightly different depending on the area). There’s no age restriction in entering live music venues so you can enter concert halls regardless of your age. The minimum marriage age in Japan is 18 for men and 16 for women but the same-sex marriage is still illegal in Japan. Voting age in Japan has been changed to 18 years old from 20 years old in 2016 to increase young people’s awareness of politics.
Thank you for reading today’s post!
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