Law enforcement in Japan


Law enforcement in Japan is provided mainly by the prefectural police departments under the oversight of the National Police Agency.[1] The National Police Agency is administered by the National Public Safety Commission, thus ensuring that Japan's police are an apolitical body and free of direct central government executive control. They are checked by an independent judiciary and monitored by a free and active press.

There are two types of law enforcement officials in Japan, depending on the underlying provision: Police officers of Prefectural Police Departments (prescribed as Judicial police officials (司法警察職員) under Article 189 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法, Keiji-soshōhō)), and Special judicial police officials (特別司法警察職員; prescribed in Article 190 of the same law), dealing with specialized fields with high expertise.[2]


The Japanese government established a European-style civil police system in 1874, under the centralized control of the Police Bureau within the Home Ministry, to put down internal disturbances and maintain order during the Meiji Restoration. By the 1880s, the police had developed into a nationwide instrument of government control, providing support for local leaders and enforcing public morality. They acted as general civil administrators, implementing official policies and thereby facilitating unification and modernization. In rural areas especially, the police had great authority and were accorded the same mixture of fear and respect as the village head. Their increasing involvement in political affairs was one of the foundations of the authoritarian state in Japan in the first half of the twentieth century.

The centralized police system steadily acquired responsibilities, until it controlled almost all aspects of daily life, including fire prevention and mediation of labor disputes. The system regulated public health, business, factories, and construction, and it issued permits and licenses. The Peace Talk Law of 1925 gave police the authority to arrest people for "wrong thoughts". Special Higher Police (Tokko) were created to regulate the content of motion pictures, political meetings, and election campaigns. The Imperial Japanese Army's military police (Kempeitai) and the Imperial Japanese Navy's Tokkeitai, operating under their respective services and the justice and home ministries aided the civilian police in limiting proscribed political activity. After the Manchurian Incident of 1931, military police assumed greater authority, leading to friction with their civilian counterparts. After 1937 police directed business activities for the war effort, mobilized labor, and controlled transportation.

After Japan's surrender in 1945, occupation authorities in World War II retained the prewar police structure until a new system was implemented and the Diet passed the 1947 Police Law. Contrary to Japanese proposals for a strong, centralized force to deal with postwar unrest, the police system was decentralized. About 1,600 independent municipal forces were established in cities, towns, and villages with 5,000 inhabitants or more, and a National Rural Police was organized by prefecture. Civilian control was to be ensured by placing the police under the jurisdiction of public safety commissions controlled by the National Public Safety Commission in the Office of the Prime Minister. The Home Ministry was abolished and replaced by the less powerful Ministry of Home Affairs, and the police were stripped of their responsibility for fire protection, public health, and other administrative duties.

When most of the occupation forces were transferred to Korea in 1950–51 with the Korean War, the 75,000 strong National Police Reserve (predecessor of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force) was formed outside the Regular police organizations to back up the ordinary police during civil disturbances. And pressure mounted for a centralized system more compatible with Japanese political preferences. The 1947 Police Law was amended in 1951 to allow the municipal police of smaller communities to merge with the National Rural Police. Most chose this arrangement, and by 1954 only about 400 cities, towns, and villages still had their own police forces. Under the 1954 amended Police Law, a final restructuring created an even more centralized system in which local forces were organized by prefectures under a National Police Agency.

The revised Police Law of 1954, still in effect in the 1990s, preserves some strong points of the postwar system, particularly measures ensuring civilian control and political neutrality, while allowing for increased centralization. The National Public Safety Commission system has been retained. State responsibility for maintaining public order has been clarified to include coordination of national and local efforts; centralization of police information, communications, and record keeping facilities; and national standards for training, uniforms, pay, rank, and promotion. Rural and municipal forces were abolished and integrated into prefectural forces, which handled basic police matters. Officials and inspectors in various ministries and agencies continue to exercise special police functions assigned to them in the 1947 Police Law.


According to statistics of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, among the 192 member states of the UN, and among the countries reporting statistics of criminal and criminal justice, the incidence rate of violent crimes such as murder, abduction, rape and robbery is very low in Japan.[3][4][5][6][7]

The incarceration rate is very low and Japan ranks 209 out of 223 countries. It has an incarceration rate of 41 per 100,000 people. In 2018 the prison population was 51,805 and 10.8% of prisoners were unsentenced.[8]

Japan has a very low rate of intentional homicide victims. According to the UNODC it ranks 219 out of 230 countries. It has a rate of just 0.20 per 100,000 inhabitants. There were 306 in 2017.[9][10]

The number of firearm related deaths is low. The firearm-related death rate was 0.00 homicide (in 2008), 0.04 suicide (in 1999), 0.01 unintentional (in 1999) and 0.01 undetermined (in 1999) per 100,000 people. There's a gun ownership of 0.6 per 100 inhabitants.[11]

The intentional death rate is low for homicides with 0.4 per 100,000 people in 2013. However, the suicide rate is relatively high with 21.7 per 100,000 in 2013.[12]

Regular police organizationsEdit

Prefectural Police Departments are established for each Prefectures and have full responsibility for regular police duties for their area of responsibility. These Prefectural Police Departments are primarily municipal police with their own police authority, but their activities are coordinated by National Police Agency and National Public Safety Commission.[13] As of 2017, the total strength of the police reached approximately 296,700 personnel, including 262,500 police officers, 900 Imperial guards and 33,200 civilian staff.[14] Nationwide, there are approximately 23,400 female police officers and 13,000 female civilian staff.[14]

National Police AgencyEdit

As the central coordinating body for the entire police system, the National Police Agency determines general standards and policies; detailed direction of operations is left to the lower echelons.[15] In a national emergency or large-scale disaster, the agency is authorized to take command of prefectural police forces. In 1989, the agency was composed of about 1,100 national civil servants, empowered to collect information and to formulate and execute national policies. The agency is headed by a Commissioner General who is appointed by the National Public Safety Commission with the approval of the Prime Minister.[15]

The Central Office includes the Secretariat, with divisions for general operations, planning, information, finance, management, and procurement and distribution of police equipment, and five bureaus. The citizen oversight is provided by the National Public Safety Commission.

As of 2017, the NPA has a strength of 7,800 personnel: 2,100 police officers, 900 Imperial guards and 4,800 civilian staff.[14]

Prefectural police departmentsEdit

Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department building in Kasumigaseki.

All operational police units are organized into Prefectural Police Headquarters for each Prefectures. Each Prefectural Police Departments are composed of Prefectural Public Safety Commission, police authority, and Police Headquarters, operational units.[13]

The Prefectural Police Department of Tokyo is specifically referred to as the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department (警視庁, Keishi-chō). The Hokkaido Prefectural Police Department is known as Dō-keisatsu (道警察). For Ōsaka and Kyōto, they're known as Fu-keisatsu (府警察) and are distinguished from other Prefectural Police Departments (県警察, Ken-keisatsu). The total strength of the prefectural police is approximately 288,000 personnel: 260,400 police officers and 28,400 civilian staff.[14]


Police officers are divided into eleven ranks:[16]

Status Police ranks[16] Comparable military ranks[17] Representative job titles
Commissioner General (警察庁長官, Keisatsu-chō Chōkan) No counterpart (outside normal ranking) The Chief of the National Police Agency
Superintendent General (警視総監, Keishi-sōkan) General The Chief of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department
Senior Commissioner (警視監, Keishi-kan) Lieutenant general Deputy Commissioner General, Deputy Superintendent General, The Chief of Regional Police Bureau, The Chief of Prefectural Police Headquarters
Commissioner (警視長, Keishi-chō) Major general The Chief of Prefectural Police Headquarters
Assistant Commissioner (警視正, Keishi-sei) Colonel The Chief of Police Station
Local police personnel Superintendent (警視, Keishi) Lieutenant colonel The Chief of Police Station (small or middle), The Vice Commanding Officer of Police Station, Commander of Riot Police Unit
Chief Inspector (警部, Keibu) Major or Captain Squad Commander of Police Station, Leader of Riot Company
Inspector (警部補, Keibu-ho) Captain or Lieutenant Squad Sub-Commander of Police Station, Leader of Riot Platoon
Police Sergeant (巡査部長, Junsa-buchō) Warrant officer or Sergeant Field supervisor, Leader of Police box
Senior Police Officer (巡査長, Junsa-chō) Corporal (Honorary rank of Police Officers)
Police officer (巡査, Junsa) Private Prefectural Police Officers' careers start from this rank.

The NPA Commissioner General holds the highest position of the Japanese police.[18] His title is not a rank, but rather denotes his position as head of the NPA. On the other hand, the MPD Superintendent General represents not only the highest rank in the system but also assignment as head of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.[18]

Police officers whose rank are higher than Assistant Commissioner (警視正, Keishi-sei) are salaried by the National budget even if they belong to local police departments. Designation and dismissal of these high-rank officers are delegated to National Public Safety Commission.[19]

The superintendent general which is highest police rank is only in Tokyo outside of it senior commissioner is the highest rank and chief outside of Tokyo, Prefecture police headquarters are commanded by Chief or director general(hunbocho).

Other public security officersEdit

There are several thousands of public security officials attached to various agencies. They are responsible for such matters as forest preservation, narcotics control, fishery inspection, and enforcement of regulations on maritime, labor, and mine safety. In the Act on Remuneration of Officials in the Regular Service (一般職の職員の給与に関する法律), a salary table for public security officials (公安職, Kōan-shoku) including judicial police officials is stipulated.

Special judicial police officialsEdit

National Police AgencyEdit

Ministry of JusticeEdit

  • Prison guard (刑務官)

Ministry of Health, Labour and WelfareEdit

  • Narcotics agent (麻薬取締官)
  • Labor Standards Inspector (労働基準監督官)

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and FisheriesEdit

  • Authorized Fisheries Inspector (漁業監督官)
  • Officers of Regional Forest Office (森林官)

Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and TourismEdit

  • Coast Guard Officer (海上保安官)
  • (Seafarer's Labour Officer)

Ministry of DefenseEdit

  • Military police officer (警務官)

Officials working for public safety, except for Special judicial police officialsEdit

There are other officers having limited public safety functions.

The National DietEdit

  • Diet guard (衛視)

Ministry of JusticeEdit

  • Immigration control officer (入国警備官)
  • Immigration inspector (入国審査官)
  • Public security intelligence officer (公安調査官)
  • Public prosecutor (検察官)
  • Public prosecutor's assistant officer (検察事務官)

Ministry of FinanceEdit

Ministry of Health, Labour and WelfareEdit

  • Quarantine Officer (検疫官)

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and FisheriesEdit

  • Animal Quarantine Officers (家畜防疫官)
  • Plant Protection Officer (植物防疫官)


Officers working for public safety
Officer are Special judicial police officials (特別司法警察職員) can arrest suspects with arrest warrant can carry firearms Salary schedule which is applied
Imperial guard (皇宮護衛官)  Y  Y  Y Public Security Service
Prison guard (刑務官)  Y  Y  Y Public Security Service
Narcotics agent (麻薬取締官)  Y  Y  Y Administrative Service
Labor Standards Inspector (労働基準監督官)  Y  Y  N Administrative Service
Authorized Fisheries Supervisor (漁業監督官)  Y  Y  N Administrative Service
Coast Guard Officer (海上保安官)  Y  Y  Y Public Security Service
Military police officer (警務官)  Y  Y  Y Officials of Ministry of Defense
Diet guard (衛視)  N  N  N (議院警察職)
Immigration control officer (入国警備官)  N  N  Y Public Security Service
Immigration inspector (入国審査官)  N  N  Y Administrative Service
Public security intelligence officer (公安調査官)  N  N  N Public Security Service
Public prosecutor (検察官)  N  Y  N Public Prosecutor
Public prosecutor's assistant officer (検察事務官)  N  Y  N Public Security Service
Customs official (税関職員)  N  N  Y Administrative Service
cf. Police officer (judicial police official)  Y  Y Public Security Service

Laws and regulations for restricted materialsEdit

Firearm and weapon policyEdit

The Firearm and Sword Possession Control Law of 1958 strictly regulates the civilian ownership of guns, swords and other weaponry. The law states that "No person shall possess a firearm or firearms or a sword or swords" and there are few exceptions.[20][21]

Medical and recreational drugs policyEdit

Japan has strict regulations on medical and recreational drugs. Importing or using any type of narcotics is illegal and there is generally no leniency. For example the possession of cannabis has a jail sentence of up to five years for the first offense. There are no exceptions for celebrities; if a celebrity is caught then their products are removed from stores and it could bring an end to their career. Authorities can detain a suspect for up to three weeks without charges. Solitary confinement is common and you only get access to a lawyer.[22] It is illegal to have prescription drugs mailed to you, and only designated parties in Japan are allowed to import them.[23] If someone intends to bring more than one month of prescription medication, cosmetics or medical devices into Japan, he or she is required to obtain import certification called "Yakkan Shoumei" (薬監証明).[24]

Historical secret police organizationsEdit

See alsoEdit


  •   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain. Country Studies. Federal Research Division.
  1. ^ Supreme Court of Japan (2005). "Who will conduct the investigation?". Retrieved 2018-11-01.
  2. ^ Japanese Law Translation (2011-12-01). "日本法令外国語訳データベースシステム-刑事訴訟法" [Code of Criminal Procedure]. Ministry of Justice. p. 1. Retrieved 2017-06-14.
  3. ^ UNODC. "Data and Analysis>Crime surveys>The periodic United Nations Surveys of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems>Fifth Survey (1990 - 1994)". Archived from the original on 2009-07-29. Retrieved 2008-08-26.
  4. ^ UNODC. "Data and Analysis>Crime surveys>The periodic United Nations Surveys of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems>Sixth Survey (1995 - 1997)>Sorted by variable". Retrieved 2008-08-26.
  5. ^ UNODC. "Data and Analysis>Crime surveys>The periodic United Nations Surveys of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems>Seventh Survey (1998 - 2000)>Sorted by variable". Retrieved 2008-08-26.
  6. ^ UNODC. "Data and Analysis>Crime surveys>The periodic United Nations Surveys of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems>Eighth Survey (2001 - 2002)>Sorted by variable". Retrieved 2008-08-26.
  7. ^ UNODC. "Data and Analysis>Crime surveys>The periodic United Nations Surveys of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems>Ninth Survey (2003 - 2004)>Values and Rates per 100,000 Total Population Listed by Country". Retrieved 2008-08-26.
  8. ^ Highest to Lowest. World Prison Brief (WPB). Use dropdown menu to choose lists of countries by region, or the whole world. Use menu to select highest-to-lowest lists of prison population totals, prison population rates, percentage of pre-trial detainees / remand prisoners, percentage of female prisoners, percentage of foreign prisoners, and occupancy rate. Column headings in WPB tables can be clicked to reorder columns lowest to highest, or alphabetically. For detailed information for each country click on any country name in lists. See also the WPB main data page and click on the map links and/or the sidebar links to get to the region and country desired. Data for the whole Wikipedia list was last retrieved on 18 October 2018. Some numbers may be adjusted here later according to later info. Please update the table here only from this WPB source. For a quick method to fully update the table see the relevant section ("conversion examples") of Commons:Convert tables and charts to wiki code or image files.
  9. ^ "UNODC Statistics Online". United Nations Office On Drugs and Crime. Retrieved 12 May 2018.".
  10. ^ "Global Study on Homicide - Statistics and Data". Retrieved 2019-07-15.
  11. ^ "Guns in Japan: Facts, Figures and Firearm Law". University of Sydney School of Public Health. Retrieved 2013-05-19.
  12. ^ "Nikkei; LEAD: No. Of Suicides Falls Below 30,000 For 1st Time In 15 Years". Nikkei. 2013-01-17. Retrieved 2013-01-17.
  13. ^ a b National Police Agency Police History Compilation Committee 1977, pp. 442–448.
  14. ^ a b c d National Police Agency (2018). POLICE OF JAPAN 2018 (Overview of Japanese Police) (PDF) (Report).
  15. ^ a b "Interpol Japan Page". Interpol. Archived from the original on 2015-03-18. Retrieved 2012-02-15.
  16. ^ a b "4. Human Resources" (PDF). (警察庁) National Police Agency. National Police Agency. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-10-25. Retrieved 2018-08-13.
  17. ^ "Insignia of the JSDF personnel". JSDF Kumamoto Provincial Cooperation office. Japan Self Defense Force. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  18. ^ a b "Description of the Japanese Police Organization". Archived from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2012-02-15.
  19. ^ "Outline of the police system" (PDF). Union of Kansan Gavernments. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 July 2015. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  20. ^ "Diet tightens laws on knives, guns". Japan Times. November 29, 2008. Retrieved March 21, 2016.
  21. ^ Fisher, Max (July 23, 2012). "A Land Without Guns: How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths". The Atlantic. Retrieved March 21, 2016.
  22. ^ "Drug Laws in Japan: You'd Better have a Prescription". Tofugu. 2011-12-02. Archived from the original on 2019-05-13. Retrieved 2019-07-16.
  23. ^ "Why Japan Is So Strict About Drugs". Kotaku. 2019-03-14. Archived from the original on 2019-07-13. Retrieved 2019-07-16.
  24. ^ "Bringing Your Meds To Japan? Study The Laws A Little". DeepJapan. 2015-06-24. Archived from the original on 2019-01-27. Retrieved 2019-07-16.


  • Yoshino, Jun. (2005). "Law Enforcement in the Edo Period". In: Japan Echo, vol. 31 n. 3, June 2005. p. 59-62.
  • National Police Agency Police History Compilation Committee, ed. (1977). Japan post-war police history (in Japanese). Japan Police Support Association.

External linksEdit

  • NPA Official Site (Japanese)
  • NPA Official Site (English)
  • Imperial Guard Headquarters

Regional Bureaus

  • Kanto Regional Police Bureau
  • Chubu Regional Police Bureau
  • Kinki Regional Police Bureau
  • Chugoku Regional Police Bureau
  • Shikoku Regional Police Bureau
  • Kyushu Regional Police Bureau

Police communications Bureaus

  • Hokkaido
  • Tokyo


  • Pictures