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I have travelled to Japan a couple times and enjoyed it. I know Japan law allows knifes of a certain size (under 6cm the last time I checked, but I'll look it up again).

My concern is immigration. Being non-asian, I always get searched and rooted through by customs (From my current homebase, almost everyone on my flights are Asian and they always pull me out of the line). I'll happily let them know I am bringing in a knife as it isn't a weapon, but I am concerned about it being confiscated at customs. Has anyone ever brought a camping knife into the country? If I must, I'll buy one there, but I don't want to lose my favorite tool. I rather like my camping knife and it has been with me a while.

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What's wrong with putting it in you suitcase? –  Phira Jun 28 '11 at 22:30
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I think some countries do not allow it even if it's in your suitcase. For example when coming in to Australia you cannot bring a blow pipe in as it is deemed a weapon. –  Abarax Jun 29 '11 at 0:10
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@Abarax indeed. Although they are legal, what you can get through customs and what is legal in a country are two different things. –  Ginamin Jun 29 '11 at 1:21
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How big is your knife? Off-topic: When I came to Japan, I brought a large heavy frying pan in my cabin baggage, it did not seem to bother the officials from Paris and Moscow! –  nic Jun 29 '11 at 2:21
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In this article is a story about an elderly American man who was detained for 10 days for carrying a knife over 5.5cm long. search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20090826a4.html –  Stuart Woodward Jul 9 '11 at 1:43

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I did a quick peek on the Japan customs site, and I came up with two [copies of the same] documents:

It appears that knives are regulated under the Firearms and Swords Possessive Control Law, which is overseen by the Consumer and Environmental Protection Division / Community Safety Bureau, both of which appear to be part of the National Police Agency.

Contact information is available at http://open-site.org/Regional/Asia/Japan/Business_and_Economy/Consumer_Protection (look 2/3 of the way down the page under "National Police Agency"):

Website:www.npa.go.jp (in Japanese, partly in English)

Consumer and Environmental Protection Division
Consumer Protection Office
Tel:+81-3-3581-0141
Fax:+81-3-3581-9335
Email:netfraud@npa.go.jp

Unfortunately, that doesn't say much as to whether you will be able to take the knife through customs without hassle, but hopefully it gives you a few leads.

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While this doesn't really answer the question, this has been open to long and I will go ahead and accept it. I was asking for more personal experience in the topic. –  Ginamin Jul 4 '11 at 3:24
    
Yeah, sorry I couldn't offer more personalized information. Hopefully it generated enough extra attention for the question to land some useful answers/comments. –  user82 Nov 13 '11 at 1:00

While this question is specific to Japan, there really is one answer that fits all.

If you are even slightly in doubt, don't.

Even if you are following the law, to the letter and have measured your knife to make sure it complies, you run the risk of:

  • A custom's agent having a bad day. If he says "This isn't allowed" and you argue with him, things could go badly for you. You might not be arrested or detained, but you might also not get let into the country.

  • The person who answers your question might be incorrect or have outdated information. This applies even when asking someone who works there. People do make mistakes. Don't make someone else's mistake, especially when a weapon is involved.

  • Subjecting yourself to additional scrutiny over an object that you could easily purchase once there.

When it comes to immigration, customs, laws about what you can and can't bring in or out of the country, etc - always err on the side of caution. I visit several new countries in Asia every year, when I pack - I pack to make sure that nothing on or about me attracts the attention of anyone who has the authority to make my day go rather badly. I don't even bring my Swiss Army knife key chain, for instance, because you really never know the mood or disposition of the person who has the job of letting you into the destination country.

If you really want to bring it with you, ship it to someone there who can keep it for you, then ship it home before you leave. Either way sounds like a bit of a gamble to take with something that obviously means a lot to you.

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That is indeed good advice. Personally I bring my knife whenever I travel in Asia (as I live here, that is a lot). However, Japan is the only place I have experienced excessive discrimination by immigration. I suppose I'll just leave it. –  Ginamin Jul 12 '11 at 4:00

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