I'm going to Japan and planning to bring a drone with me. However, I'm worried that my drone is going to be confiscated at the airport.
Is it OK to bring a drone to Japan?
There are currently no laws against possessing or purchasing drones (UAVs) in Japan. There is also currently no policy to have to declare them at the border (unless asked as to what it is). A summarised list of goods with prohibitions, controls and restrictions can be found here
There are however, laws pertaining to height and locations flown as per an amendment to the Aviation Act in December 10, 2015. This amendment specifies the following.
The Act prohibits flying drones over residential areas or areas surrounding an airport without permission from the Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation.
Flying drones during night time and during an event is also prohibited.
In addition, UAVs in unrestricted areas across the country are required to stay below 150 meters (492 feet), and also be kept at least 30 meters (98 feet) from people, buildings, and vehicles.
Prohibited Airspace for Flight
Any person who intends to operate a UAV in the following airspace is required to obtain permission from the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.
(i) Airspace around airports and above certain heights above ground level. (ii) Above densely populated areas (4,000 people per square kilometer or more).
Any person who intends to operate a UAV is required to follow the operational conditions listed below, unless approved by the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.
(i) Operation of UAVs in the daytime.
(ii) Operation of UAVs within Visual Line of Sight (VLOS).
(iii) Maintenance of a certain operating distance between UAVs and persons or properties on the ground/ water surface.
(iv) Do not operate UAVs over event sites where many people gather.
(v) Do not transport hazardous materials such as explosives by UAV.
(vi) Do not drop any objects from UAVs.
Requirements stated in “Airspace in which Flights are Prohibited” and “Operational Limitations” are not applied to flights for search and rescue operations by public organizations in case of accidents and disasters.
If the above rules are violated, the UAV operator is liable for a fine of up to 500,000 yen.
Above notice taken from here
As an aside,
Do you have a basis for worrying that your drone will be confiscated? (ie. you have heard they are taken away, you heard there was laws against it, there was a news report that said so.
Drone hater here.
I have not seen a single drone during my recent visit in Japan. However, I did see signs at the entrance of temples (especially in Kyoto) prohibiting the use of both drones and selfie sticks. I don't think that your drone will be confiscated but you might just end up carrying extra weight and not really being able to use it. This will help: http://dronelawjapan.com/
Keep in mind that in Japan manners and customs assume a very special role. Even if you could fly a drone legally, you should probably stop if you notice that some people are uncomfortable with it. Don't be 'that tourist'! ;)