The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan


A. Name and Nationality (art.7)

The Right to be Registered

72. The Family Registration Law of Japan requires submission of the notification of birth within 14 days after birth and stipulates that a child who assumes the surname of his/her father and mother shall be entered in the family register of the father and mother, a child who assumes his/her father's surname shall be registered in the father's family register, and a child who assumes his/her mother's surname shall be registered in the mother's family register. Provisions of Article 8 of the Residents Registration Act, furthermore, requires a child to be registered in the resident's card.

73. A foreign child born in Japan is also required to be reported under the Family Registration Law. Any person who finds a deserted child or any police officer who is informed of the finding of a deserted child shall, within 24 hours, give information thereof to the mayor of the city, town, or village. The mayor who has received the information shall give a full name to the deserted child, select the locality of register, and state in a record these facts as well as sex, presumptive date of birth, etc., to make a new family registration for the deserted child on the basis of the recorded matters.

The Right to a Name

74. Article 790 of the Civil Code of Japan provides that a legitimate child assumes the surname of his/her father and mother and an illegitimate child assumes the surname of his/her mother. The Family Registration Law establishes that the name of a newborn child shall be stated in the notification of birth, which shall be submitted after birth.

The Right to Acquire Nationality

75. The Nationality Law of Japan adopts, in principle, the bilineal jus sanguinis principle. It stipulates that a child shall be a Japanese national when, at the time of birth of the child, the father or the mother is a Japanese national (item numbered (1) of Article 2). However, as there is a possibility that a child born in Japan may become stateless if this principle is applied rigidly, the jus soli principle is also adopted to prevent statelessness. In other words, a child shall be a Japanese national when both parents are unknown or have no nationality in a case where the child is born in Japan (item numbered (3) of Article 2 of the Nationality Law). Though this may still be insufficient to prevent a child from becoming stateless under limited circumstances, such a child may acquire Japanese nationality by naturalization when he/she was born in Japan, had no nationality since the time of birth, and had his/her domicile in Japan for three or more years consecutively since that time (item numbered (4) of Article 8 of the Nationality Law). As, in case of naturalization of a stateless child, the conditions on capacity and capability to make a living are exempted from and the domiciliary condition is alleviated, the child can acquire Japanese nationality very easily.

The Right to Know One's Parents

76. Pursuant to the Family Registration Law, the full names of the father and mother of a person born in Japan must be stated in the notification of birth, and in case of a Japanese national, the full names of his/her natural parents must be stated in the family register. Any child may, therefore, identify his/her parents from a copy or an abstract of his/her family register and other relevant materials. If paternity has been admitted, an illegitimate child may also identify his/her father, as the father's name and the fact of admitting paternity must be stated in the child's family register under the provisions of Article 35 of the Enforcement Regulations of the Family Registration Law.

77. As for special adoptions (refer to para.145), when a judgment of judicial adoption has become conclusive and the adoptive parents report the fact, an independent family register is made up for an adoptive child first in the locality register of his/her natural parents. The adoptive child's name is then entered in the family register of his/her adoptive parents and removed from his/her independent family register. Any adoptive child wishing to identify his/her natural parents may inquire into the family register of his/her natural parents from which his/her name had been removed. Hence, the child's right to identify his/her natural parents at will is assured even under the special adoption system.

78. The notification of birth must also be submitted in cases where a foreign child is born in Japan. Since the notification of birth is to be preserved for 10 years after the date of reporting, any child may identify his/her natural parents for at least 10 years by examining his/her notification of birth or birth certificate.

The Right to be Cared for by Parents

79. The Civil Code stipulates that a child who has not yet attained its majority shall be under the custody of the person in parental authority who assumes responsibility for taking care and custody of the child. Children with parents must be fostered in principle by those parents as long as they are bonded by marriage.

B. Preservation of Identity (art. 8)

80. To guarantee the child's right to preserve his/her identity such as nationality, name and family relationship, the requirements for loss and choice of nationality are prescribed in Japan. That is, a notification is required upon the loss of nationality for the purpose of preventing Japanese nationality from being unlawfully divested.

81. Upon a change of name, a notification must be submitted to that effect after acquiring permission from a Family Court. With regard to family relations, the range of relatives, name and relations with natural parents, legal residence and the date of birth must be stated in the family register.

82. If elements of identity are illegally deprived from the child, that is, if it is found that the description in the family register is unlawful or includes errors, mistakes or omissions for some reason, interested persons may apply for the correction of the family register after obtaining permission from a Family Court.

C. Freedom of Expression (art. 13)

83. In Japan, freedom of expression is guaranteed to the people, including children, under the provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution, and is paid the greatest respect as an essential right for maintaining democracy. On the other hand, the right to freedom of expression has a public nature, unlike freedom of one's inward thoughts. Hence, certain restrictions are imposed on the right to freedom of expression, on the grounds of "public welfare." Restricted expression includes public indecency and distribution of obscene literature, etc. (Articles 174 and 175 of the Penal Code); defamation, insult, and damage to credit (Articles 230, 231 and 233 of the Penal Code); and riots (Article 106 of the Penal Code). These restrictions are, however, the minimum necessary in compliance with the provision of paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Convention.

84. As children are in the process of physical and mental development and schools are the places of living in a group, schools need to establish their own rules for students. The Government has instructed educational institutions to continue to review school rules which relate to day-to-day education and training activities with consideration for the conditions of children, the views of guardians, the current circumstances in the local community, changes of society, and movement with the times.

D. Access to Appropriate Information (art. 17)

85. In Japan, under the Child Welfare Law, the Broadcast Law, the School Library Law and the Library Law, the following measures have been taken to encourage children to use information and materials from various national and international sources.

(a) Establishment of Libraries

86. As of 1993, the number of public libraries where publications, documents and other materials were available for public use amounted to 2,138 throughout the nation. The Government subsidizes local authorities to cover part of the costs involved in building and maintaining libraries and facilities. Every school is also equipped with a library.

(b) Recommendation of cultural assets for children

87. The Central Child Welfare Council and Regional Child Welfare Councils may recommend cultural assets for children to promote the welfare of children and mentally retarded children. In 1951, the Central Child Welfare Council established a subcommittee on cultural assets composed of experts and members of the academic and scientific community, recommending superior cultural assets with which children can enjoy interacting, cultivate aesthetic aptitude and develop various abilities. In 1995, 89 publications, 49 audiovisual materials and 29 theatrical arts were recommended by the Council. Among cultural assets recommended for children hitherto, superior articles have been selected for infants and elementary school pupils and presented at children's halls throughout the nation.

(c) Movies

88. To promote the production of superior movies for children and popularize them among the general public, the Ministry of Education labels works of high educational value "Selected by the Ministry of Education" and "Specially Selected by the Ministry of Education" (considered the highest rank among the Selections); works are examined by the screening subcommittee on educational movies of the Lifelong Learning Council, based on applications from film producers. If selected, the Ministry publicizes the outline of the film and launches public relations activities. In 1995, 264 movies were "Selected by the Ministry of Education," and 3 movies "Specially Selected by the Ministry of Education." Among educational films useful for social and school education, the Ministry purchases works recognized as "Special Selections" and distributes them to the boards of education in prefectures and designated cities.

(d) Broadcast Programs

89. The Broadcast Law stipulates that the broadcaster shall, in compiling and broadcasting educational programs for domestic broadcasting, clearly indicate the persons whom the broadcasting is aimed at, and make the contents of the broadcasting systematic and continuative as well as appropriate and instructive to such persons; at the same time, means shall be so provided as to allow the general public to learn the plan and the contents of the broadcasting in advance. In this case, if the program concerned is intended for schools, the contents thereof shall conform to the standard of the curricula provided for by the laws and regulations related to school education.

90. The Government entrusts the planning, producing, broadcasting and conducting research studies on educational TV programs to the Association of Private Broadcast Education. This aims to upgrade the quality of educational programs of private broadcasting companies, enrich home education through TV programs, and contribute to sound growth of the youth.

International Cooperation

91. The Broadcast Law of Japan stipulates that NHK (Nippon Hoso Kyokai) shall endeavor to have Japan correctly understood and promote the status of Japan by introducing Japanese culture in editing and producing programs for international broadcasting purposes and programs to be supplied to foreign broadcasting companies. Since April, 1991, the Japanese government has been providing subsidies amounting to roughly ¥200 million per annum for the translation of Japanese educational programs directed to developing countries through the Japan Media Communication Center (which is under the joint jurisdiction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications). 478 programs have been translated from Japanese to English and other foreign languages, and 368 programs had been provided to 19 countries as of the end of March, 1996.

92. The Government provides financial assistance to the Asia/Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO, which is conducting a program of co-publication of children's books and other activities in cooperation with foreign experts in this field, with the aim to provide good and inexpensive reading materials to children in Asia-Pacific region.

93. The Government has been providing educational and cultural broadcast programs under Cultural Grant Aid as part of its international cultural cooperation. In 1995, 2 projects (61.1 million Japanese yen based on grants) have been implemented under the cooperation in the educational/cultural broadcast sector (educational/cultural programs).

Protection from Injurious Information

94. The social environment surrounding children has a strong influence upon the character building of youths who are still developing. In particular, information and books found to be harmful to the welfare of children are liable to excite their sexual impulses and aggravate rudeness and cruelty. These often cause delinquency, posing serious problems to the sound growth of children. The Government, therefore, takes the following measures to protect children from such harmful information.

95. The Child Welfare Law establishes that the Central Child Welfare Council and Regional Child Welfare Councils may warn people selling such publications (paragraph 7 of Article 8 of the Child Welfare Law). Moreover, the Broadcast Law provides that broadcasters shall, in compiling programs for broadcasting, not disturb public security and good morals and manners; shall set out standards for editing broadcast programs; and shall establish a broadcast program council to ensure the adequacy of broadcast programs.

96. Prefectural authorities establish youth protection ordinances for regulating harmful books, videos, movies and advertisements in consideration of the existing circumstances of local communities. In 1994, the number of materials designated as harmful under ordinances reached 71,828 (see Table 5 below). The government is promoting thorough regulatory measures by the proper application and coordination of the ordinances.

(Table 5 : Trends in the Number of Cases Designated as Harmful Under Youth Protection Ordinances)
Year 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994
Magazines, etc.
(Source: Survey by the Management and Coordination Agency)

97. The Government reinforces the protection of children from harmful information in response to changes in the social environment by requesting these industries to impose self-restraint and self-control in providing information. For example, the Motion Picture Code of Ethics Committee, an independent organization of the movie industry, classifies adult movies and under the said code of ethics substantially prohibits persons below 18 years of age from entering theaters .

98. The drastic diversification of media in recent years has a great influence on society, causing grave concerns over the mental and physical impact on children. Under such circumstances, various measures are taken: (i) Computer software: The Organization for Computer Software Ethics explicitly differentiates adult PC software from ordinary PC software by attaching seals to products which should not be sold to anyone under 18 years of age. In July, 1994, the Organization introduced a new "R-rated" category which prohibits sales to anyone below 15 years of age. (ii) Internet: In February, 1996, the Association of Electronic Networks, organized by providers of personal computer communication services, formulated "the Code of Ethics" and "the Rule & Manner for the user of personal computer communications" as ethic guidelines for use of electronic networks. Moreover, the police are reinforcing control over such criminal acts as public obscenity, for the first time ever arresting suspects in January, 1996 for providing obscene pictures on the Internet. (iii) In May, 1996, the Government recognized sales of CD-ROMs mainly consisting of nude images as a category of entertainment-related businesses which are subject to the Law on Control and Improvement of Amusement and Entertainment Businesses.

99. Aggressive local activities are also essential for enhancing the protection of children from harmful information. The Government, therefore, encourages such activities of local organizations and residents.

E. Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion (art. 14)

100. All people, including children, are guaranteed the right to freedom of thought and conscience under the provisions of Article 19 of the Constitution of Japan. With regard to the right to freedom of religion, paragraph 1 of Article 20 of the Constitution provides for the guarantee of freedom of religion to all. In addition, paragraph 3 of the said Article prohibits the state and its organs from engaging in religious education or any other religious activity. Paragraph 1 of Article 9 of the Fundamental Law of Education also states that the attitude of religious tolerance and the social status of religion shall be valued in education.

F. Freedom of Assembly and of Peaceful Assembly (art. 15)

101. Article 21 of the Constitution of Japan guarantees freedom of assembly and association to all the people, including children. These freedoms are restricted to a certain extent on the grounds of public welfare, as is freedom of expression. Restrictions are, however, minimal and conform to the provisions of paragraph 2 of Article 15 of the Convention.

G. Protection of Privacy (art. 16)

102. In Japan, "non-disclosure of the private life" of all the persons, including children, not only by public authorities but also by individuals and private institutions, has been acknowledged as the object of legal protection by the Constitution and judicial precedents of the Supreme Court.

103. Paragraph 1 of Article 35 of the Constitution of Japan states that "the right of all persons to be secure in their homes, papers and effects against entries, searches and seizures shall not be impaired except upon warrant issued for adequate cause and particularly describing the place to be searched and things to be seized...." In other words, it is provided that the home and belongings of all persons, including children, are protected from intrusion by public authorities. In accordance with such provisions, the Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates that the body, effects or dwelling or any other place shall not, in principle, be seized and searched without the consideration of a judge in that matter. Article 130 of the Penal Code punishes intrusion upon a human habitation, etc., without good reason, and paragraph 23 of Article 1 of the Minor Offense Law provides that any person who, without good reason, stealthily peeps into a house, etc. shall be punished. As to doctors, lawyers and the like, who may learn other's secrets in the performance of their profession, the Penal Code and other laws require them not to disclose such secrets. The Penal Code, moreover, stipulates that a person who, without good reason, opens a sealed correspondence shall be punished (Article 133 of the Penal Code). Tranquility of the private life of individuals is ensured thereby.

104. To prohibit interference with communications, the secrecy of communication is protected under the provisions of paragraph 2 of Article 21 of the Constitution. The secrecy of letters and telegrams is protected under the Mail Law, and persons who are engaged in postal services must maintain the secrets of other persons which may come to their knowledge in the course of handling postal matters (Article 9 of the Mail Law). The Telecommunications Business Law also provides for the protection of confidentiality of communications, stipulating that persons engaged in telecommunications businesses shall maintain the secrecy of other persons affairs which may come to their knowledge while handling communications (Article 4 of the Telecommunications Business Law).

105. With regard to the protection of honor and reputation, the Penal Code provides for crimes related to defamation, insult, and damage to credit. The Civil Code prescribes for the compensation of persons suffering from defamation or damage of reputation. Guidelines for Police Activities on Juvenile Crimes require the police to pay consideration to time and procedures in summoning a child in the course of an investigation/inquiry. The police, for instance, avoid directly summoning a child at his/her school or workplace so as to ensure that the child's reputation and honor are not lost.

106. Furthermore, the Ministry of Education has been instructing educational institutions to pay full consideration to children's rights in cases where school authorities are involved in the private lives of the students in the course of education.

H. The Right not to be Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (art. 37(a))

107. To ensure that children are not treated in a manner that disregards or impairs their dignity or character as a human being, Article 13 of the Constitution of Japan states as follows: "All of the people shall be respected as individuals. Their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness shall, to the extent that it does not interfere with the public welfare, be the supreme consideration in legislation and in other governmental affairs." It is further prescribed in Article 36 that "The infliction of torture by any public officer and cruel punishments are absolutely forbidden," and in paragraph 1 of Article 38 that "No person shall be compelled to testify against himself."

108. Under the Constitution, public officers will be accused of abuse of authority if they abuse their authority to cause a person to perform an act which he/she has no obligation to perform, or to obstruct a person from exercising a right which he/she is entitled to exercise. Public Officers performing or assisting in judicial, prosecutorial or police functions who abuse their authority and arrest or detain another will be accused of abuse of authority by a special public officer. And when public officers in the performance of their duties commit acts of violence or cruelty upon defendants in criminal actions or other persons, they will be accused of violence and cruelty by special public officials. If public officers who are guarding or escorting other persons detained in accordance with law or ordinance commit acts of violence or cruelty upon them, they will also be accused of violence and cruelty by special public officials.

109. As for criminal procedures, paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the Constitution states that "Confession made under compulsion, torture or threat, or after prolonged arrest or detention shall not be admitted in evidence." Paragraph 1 of Article 319 of the Code of Criminal Procedure also stipulates that, including evidence referred to hereinbefore, confession which is suspected not to have been made voluntarily shall not be admitted in evidence, for the purpose of preventing acts of torture, etc. It is also considered that judges and investigators of a Family Court in juvenile court procedures may be subject to crimes of abuse of authority or violence and cruelty by special public officials. In juvenile hearings, it is established in practice that juveniles have the right to remain silent and any confession admitting the fact of misconduct, which is suspected not to have been made voluntarily, is to be excluded from evidence.

110. Article 36 of the Constitution prohibits public officers from committing torture and cruel punishment on inmates of correctional institutions. Based on the Prison Law, the Juvenile Training School Law and the Constitution, inmates are to be treated humanely in that: their living quarters, clothes and bedding are kept clean; inmates are given sufficient food in consideration of their constitution, health, age, and other conditions; and inmates are given proper medical care. To ensure that inmates in correctional institutions are not subject to inhumane, degrading treatment, staff of the institutions undergo training programs, conducted at Training Institute for Correctional Officials and branches located in each region, to learn how to treat inmates humanely. Moreover, there is a monitor system which enables inspectors to check the practices of correctional institutions. Inmates are afforded opportunities to demand better treatment at correctional institutions through interviews with directors of the institutions and petitions to the Minister of Justice. Furthermore, they can request the court to repeal measures taken against them by the directors of correctional institutions.

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