The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan



38. In Japan, the Civil Code prescribes that any person attaining 20 years of age may take legal action autonomously. In terms of public law, for instance, persons are invested with the right to vote for members of the Diet upon attaining 20 years of age as well. In Japan, accordingly, an adult is any person of 20 years of age or more.


39. Under the provisions of the Civil Code, a man may not marry until reaching 18 years of age, nor a woman until reaching 16 years of age. A person under 20 years of age must obtain the consent both of his/her father and mother in order to marry.
After marriage, any person may independently become a party to legal action even if he/she is under 20 years of age.

Compulsory Education

40. Compulsory education starts from the beginning of the school year that is the first to begin on or after the day following of the child's attaining 6 years of age and finishes at the end of the school year during which he/she attains 15 years of age. In Japan, a school year starts on April 1 and ends on the following March 31.

Voluntary Statement in Courts

41. In Japan, statements by minors (under 20 years of age) in civil suits and civil mediation are made through legal representatives as minors do not have any litigation capacity. In actions relating to personal status, family hearings and family conciliation, however, minors may make a statements if they are mentally fit.

Criminal Liability, etc.

42. The Penal Code of Japan provides that an act of a person under 14 years of age is not punishable. Under the Juvenile Law of Japan, however, "juvenile" (shonen) refers to anyone under 20 years of age. With the aim of ensuring the sound upbringing of juveniles and correcting the character and adjusting the environment of delinquent juveniles, the Juvenile Law stipulates that anyone under 20 years of age is to be judged in a Family Court, where proceedings for protection are taken to determine whether it is appropriate to take protective measures. Only if protective measures have been found to be inappropriate is he/her to be transferred to undergo criminal proceedings (provided that the person in question is 16 years of age or more and commits an offence punishable with death penalty, or penal servitude or imprisonment) (for details, refer to para. 256 (iii)).

43. On similar grounds, anyone under 20 years of age is to undergo procedures different from those for persons of 20 years of age or more upon imprisonment and other measures depriving them of liberty (for details, refer to para. 277).


44. With respect to persons under 18 full years of age, provisions of the Labor Standards Law restrict working hours and work on rest days, prohibit late-night work in principle and regulate dangerous and hazardous work. The Labor Standards Law also prohibits the employment of children under 15 full years of age. As an exception, however, with permission of the administrative office, children attaining 12 full years of age may be employed in occupations in non-manufacturing enterprises involving light labor which is not injurious to the health and welfare of children, and children under 12 full years of age may be employed in enterprises for motion picture production and theatrical performance. Provisions of the Labor Standards Law are also applicable to the employment of part-time workers.

Sexual Crime

45. Under the Penal Code, anyone who performs a sexual act or commits an indecent act with a male or female person under 13 years of age is subject to punishment, whether or not the act is committed by thereof violence or threat. The Child Welfare Law additionally prohibits inducement of a person under 18 years of age to practice obscene acts. The law also prescribes punishment for keeping a child in custody for the purpose of making him/her engage in harmful activities.


46. There is no conscription system in Japan. As for volunteers for service in the Self-Defense Forces, persons 18 years of age and over may be recruited in principle. Nevertheless, as an exception, persons between 15 and 16 years old may be recruited as youth cadets enlisted in Self-Defense Forces (for details, refer to para. 255).

Alcohol, etc.

47. In Japan, the Law for Prohibiting Liquors to Minors prohibits anyone under 20 full years of age to drink and the Law for Prohibiting Smoking to Minors prohibits them to smoke. These laws prescribe the prevention of minors from drinking and smoking, etc. as the duty of persons in parental authority.
Additionally, the Law on Control and Improvement of Amusement and Entertainment Businesses prohibits providing alcohol or cigarettes for anyone under 20 years of age in the place of entertainment and amusement businesses and other entertainment-related businesses (see Note below) or restaurant businesses.

Note: entertainment-related businesses:

Sex-oriented Businesses such as bathhouses with private rooms, striptease theaters, or so-called "adult shops" where sexual materials are sold, etc.

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