26

I am soon visiting Japan. I have a son who is not yet 16.

Is it okay if I go shopping with him, or for a walk with him on public streets, after 11pm, which is the period the Japan government imposes restrictions on young people being outside their home?

  • 3
    Interesting, any source regarding this curfew? – Nean Der Thal Apr 26 '15 at 10:39
  • 3
    @IKeelYou, Yes. Read this. It is in Chinese, but the line 除学习等特殊原因外,在晚23时至次日凌晨4时的深夜时间内,禁止16岁以下的青少年离家外出 means that 'Except reasons like studying, teens under 16 is prohibited to be not in their home during 11.00 pm to 4.00 am. – JCCM Apr 26 '15 at 10:55
  • 4
    Reading through several forums it appears that it is a prefecture by prefecture ordinance, or by-law. The prefecture that includes Tokyo has the law on the books. It's not regularly enforced, however. Most students change out of their school uniforms and are not troubled by the police. Theaters/arcades/karaoke bars will not let minors in past 11. Theaters will not let minors into movies that let out after 11pm. – CGCampbell Apr 26 '15 at 11:01
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    And there's no "Except when accompanied by a parent or guardian" exception? – David Richerby Apr 26 '15 at 11:38
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    @JCCM jpatokal's translation seems to imply the opposite: under clause 2, it seems that a youth may be taken outside with the permission of their guardian. In particular, that means that the guardian can take the youth out with their own (the guardian's) permission. – David Richerby Apr 26 '15 at 14:43
19

As stated in fkraiem's answer, the relevant legislation applies only in Tokyo (although quite a few other places have similar laws). Here's the section in question:

東京都青少年の健全な育成に関する条例

青少年 十八歳未満の者をいう。

十八歳未満の者をいう

(深夜外出の制限)

第十五条の四

保護者は、通勤又は通学その他正当な理由がある場合を除き、深夜(午後十一時から翌日午前四時までの時間をいう。以下同じ。)に青少年を外出させないように努めなければならない。

2 何人も、保護者の委託を受け、又は同意を得た場合その他正当な理由がある場合を除き、深夜に青少年を連れ出し、同伴し、又はとどめてはならない。

3 何人も、深夜に外出している青少年に対しては、その保護及び善導に努めなければならない。ただし、青少年が保護者から深夜外出の承諾を得ていることが明らかである場合は、この限りでない。

4 深夜に営業を営む事業者及びその代理人、使用人その他の従業者は、当該時間帯に、当該営業に係る施設内及び敷地内にいる青少年に対し、帰宅を促すように努めなければならない。

A quick, sloppy and incomplete translation:

Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youths

A youth (minor, 青少年) is a person who is under 18.

Article 15.4: Limits on going out late at night

  1. Excluding commuting to work, school or another good reason (その他正当な理由), a guardian must not allow a youth to go out (外出させる) late at night (深夜), defined as between the hours of 11pm and 4am.

  2. Without the permission of the guardian, or another good reason, no-one may take a youth out (連れ出し) late at night.

  3. Any person shall endeavor to guard (保護) and guide (善導) youth going out late at night, unless it is clear that they have permission from their guardian.

  4. Staff working in establishments open late at night must endeavor to return any youth to their homes.

Now the wording is a bit ambiguous here, but per consultation with Japanese.SE, the two clauses in section 1 are independent and a youth thus requires both the permission of the guardian and a good reason to be out at night — even if physically accompanied by the guardian. "Sightseeing" and "shopping" would likely not qualify as good reasons, although eg. "going to the airport" certainly would.

That's the legal theory. In practice, I really don't see Japanese police stopping a parent out with their children at night, unless they're in Kabukicho about to enter a pink salon or something — and the rest of the ordinance goes on to outline a whole bunch of places youth at night are never allowed, including movie theaters and virtually all forms of nightlife. Shops and city streets, though, are not on the list, and if you were stopped on the street, the statement "we're going home/to our hotel" would in all likelihood be more than sufficient.

Updated after clarification from Japanese.SE.

  • 1
    Wouldn't section 1 prohibit a parent (or guardian) from walking around with a <16-year-old after 11 PM? – David Z Apr 26 '15 at 13:59
  • 1
    Not in my reading: 青少年を外出させないように努めなければならない is "must endeavour to not let the youth go out" [by themselves]. – lambshaanxy Apr 26 '15 at 14:28
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    Huh, okay. I don't know Japanese so all I have to go on is your translation in the answer, but the way you translated it made it sound as though a guardian should keep their young child(ren) at home between 11 and 4 whether they are accompanied or not. – David Z Apr 26 '15 at 14:56
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    @DavidZ: section (2) seems to state pretty clearly that the “the permission of the guardian” is a “good reason” to allow any adult (presumably including the guardian themself) to take the youth out. – PLL Apr 26 '15 at 17:03
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    Why not ask on our sister site, japanese.SE for their help on going out/going out alone? – hippietrail Apr 27 '15 at 5:54
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The relevant legislation is here (in Japanese). This is only for Tokyo, the legislation in all other prefectures is similar but may differ in some details.

Basically, it's "illegal" for parents to allow a minor to go out between 11pm and 4am except for going to work/school or for some other "justifiable reason". What constitutes a "justifiable reason" is as usual unspecified and left to the judgement of police officers/judges/etc. I put "illegal" between quotes because the ordinance says you must not do it but it's not clear what the penalty is, if any. It's also not clear if hotels are considered "home", so it's possible that he will technically be out of his home anyway.

Edited to add : there is a difference in interpretation between jpatokal and I, so here is mine in more detail. jpatokal correctly translates clause 1 as saying that a parent must not allow a minor out between 11pm and 4am without a "good reason". However, in his commentary below his translation, he adds "by themselves". As far as I understand the Japanese text, there is no reason to add this, and clause 1 applies equally no matter by whom, if anybody, the minor is accompanied.

Clause 2 forbids anybody from accompanying a minor out without a "good reason" or parental consent. Presumably, the bar for a "good reason" is higher here, since it allows anyone to take a minor out without parental consent, maybe even despite parental oposition in extreme cases. In normal situations, however, parental consent is required, and by giving it without a good reason, parents violate clause 1.

Other edit : I will also add that the bar for a "good reason" in clause 1 is probably quite low. Yesterday at about 11:30 just after first posting this answer, I went to the convenience store to grab some late night snacks. There was a boy probably no older than 10 with his father also buying stuff, and the staff didn't say anything. So being hungry and needing to buy food probably qualifies. (I am not in TOkyo, but the law where I live is similar.)

  • Is there any difference if the parent accompanies the minor or not? – Paŭlo Ebermann Apr 26 '15 at 18:54
  • According to jpatokal's translation in the other answer, this is clearly incorrect. A parent or guardian is the source of good reasons and permission, not "the judgement of police officers/judges/etc". Escort of a guardian/parent or "clear [...] permission from their guardian" exempts from this rule. – Dronz Apr 26 '15 at 19:39
  • @Dronz, this depends on how you read section 1. There sems to be a dissent as to whether the parent may allow the youth to be out, or whether they may not. We shouldn't call one answer "incorrect" unless we can understand Japanese, do we? For a fact, vague legislation is so common in Germany, that I would think that the same holds for other countries. Furthermore, understanding both colloquial and written German does not necessarily mean you can read and understand German laws. And with fluent English, but without a law degree you can't understand US laws. So, why would Japan be any different? – Alexander Apr 26 '15 at 20:49
  • @Alexander This question asks "Is it okay if I bring [my own son] to shop / walk on the street after 11.00 pm". Seems pretty clear to me that section 2 specifically allows this. Section 3 also specifically says people don't need to guide youth who are alone at night if they clearly have parental/guardian permission, which they would in their company. Also this is a foreigner. It looks pretty clearly a wrong answer to this question, to me, in light of the translation.. – Dronz Apr 26 '15 at 20:59
  • @fkraiem You were right after all! I've updated my answer accordingly. – lambshaanxy Apr 28 '15 at 23:56
6

In reality, as long as the boy is accompanied by an adult, just walking on public streets in Japan late at night won't cause a substantial problem in most cases. If you are unlucky, a police officer might stop you and ask a few questions, but anything worse is unlikely to happen. Entering certain safe stores like convenience stores is OK, too.

But I don't recommend taking your child out to certain red-light districts like Roppongi or Shinjuku. It can be a risky thing, both physically and legally. I'm not really good at legal talks, but according to this Japanese lawyer, I think the interpretation by @fkraiem is correct:

保護者同伴だったとしても、例えば、深夜遅くまで歓楽街や風俗街を連れて回るなどの行為に及んでいる場合には、やはり規制対象となることでしょう。保護者同伴であれば、なんでも許されるというわけではありません。
(My translation: Even when accompanied by a guardian, for example, if you took a youth to a nightlife/red-light district, that would be a subject to confines. Accompaniment of the guardians does not mean everything is allowed.)

If you violate this legislation in question, theoretically, you might be fined up to 300,000 yen. (Because your son is under 16. Oddly, there is a written penalty regarding youths under 16 (not 18). See 第26条第5項.) But I guess the worst thing that can actually happen in your case is that the police officer tells you to return to your hotel with your son immediately.

And many kinds of shops and facilities deny admission of people under 18 after 11 PM, even when accompanied by an adult. That's a regulation imposed on the shop's side. Such shops/facilities include restaurants serving alcohols (aka izakaya), movie theaters, karaoke boxes, amusement arcades.

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