Every country or district has their share of obscure crimes tucked deep in dusty long-forgotten law books. Archaic prohibitions on tying your horse to a dog or refusing to salute your teachers can be found everywhere. The following 15 laws however, are not outdated and many of us have probably done them at some point in our lives without realizing that in some cases it could land us in a Japanese prison.

The following crimes are ranked so that number one is the least known to be an actual crime under Japanese law. We can probably agree that many of these qualify as obnoxious behavior but you’d be surprised at what you can legitimately call the cops for.



Although a favorite pastime of some weird little church in the USA, causing a scene at a funeral can land you a fine up to 100,000 yen (US$964) or in the slammer for up to a year.




This law uses the word kettō (duel) which harkens back to a day of sword fighters charging at each other on a beach under a full moon. However, it could apply today to any challenge set up in advance where the competitors’ lives are in danger – like that tractor battle in Footloose. I don’t know why that particular example was the first thing that popped into my head.

So, if someone refuses to drive a tractor straight at yours at a blazing 10 km/h (6mph), you are prohibited by defamation laws from going “Bwok bwok bwok!” at them. In Japan, serious cases of defamation can be considered a crime punishable by prison time, so if you’re going to make chicken noises, don’t make them too harshly.



This is probably true in most countries, as pretty much touching anyone without consent can be considered assault. You can have a little fun with this by going to your local hair-cutting establishment and when they ask how you want it tell them explicitly that they do not have permission to cut one certain strand, but otherwise they can do what they want. Then every once in a while during the haircut say, “I’m waaaaatching yoooouuuuuuu.”



It’s actually kind of surprising that a lot of people don’t know this, considering the multiple signs put up around many stations in the country. I’m led to believe another hazardous effect of smoking is blindness to articles of the Railway Operation Act which prohibit smoking outside of designated areas inside of station premises.

However, in recent years train stations’ designated smoking areas have been gradually shrinking. This loss of habitat has been forcing smokers to come in contact with other humans leading to unpleasant encounters much like clear-cutting woodlands does to black bears or leopards.



The surprising part of this one is that “buying” is actually just as much a crime as selling tickets at ridiculously inflated prices. As if it doesn’t hurt enough to get gouged for a sold out show, you may even land in jail for it.

This also might seem odd since there are ticket shops all over the place in Japan. Article 9 Section 2 of the Price Control Ordinance specifies that we are “forbidden to buy and sell something at an agreed price significantly higher than the original selling price.” So it’s really all in how much is being charged.



I’m currently part of a class-action suit against the Dos Equis guy for being so cool it’s impossible for me to not want to drink at social gatherings. He doesn’t always make me drink, but when he does it’s deemed coercion by Japanese law.



This is an odd one, because it would seem the laws of physics and nature should do this man-made law’s job for it. Sure, you could do some significant damage to a pedestrian while riding a bike, but while intoxicated it seems more likely that you’d tip over into a bush or hit a fence before getting up to any dangerous speeds. Nevertheless, penalties are quite severe. We’re talking a maximum fine of 1 million yen ($9,600) or up to five years locked up.



In Japan, you’re required to have a national electrician’s license in order to climb up a telephone pole. However, if you happen to be that unfortunate barber who cut the hair which I SPECIFICALLY TOLD YOU NOT TO CUT and you’re running from the cops, you could always take refuge up a telephone pole. Chances are the 5-0 don’t have a national qualification to do so and can’t legally follow you. They’ll probably growl and swat at the pole with their paws for a while, but soon will get called away when I’m reported, yet again, for drinking a Dos Equis while on my bike.



Many of us know that feeling. The cashier plops a pile of change in your hand only something seems off. In a split second you realize you got some extra money and at the same time engage in a battle with your conscience while also trying to swallow your surprise and inner anguish so as not to tip yourself off.

In the midst of this mental juggling act you finally rationalize that the guy in line behind you was probably in a hurry and you didn’t want to slow him down with some minor technicality. So, you slip the coins in your pocket and casually stride out the store.

You just committed fraud under Japanese law. Granted the 100 yen ($0.96) you probably got wouldn’t constitute much of a fraud, but it is nonetheless. In fact even if your cashier recently suffered a head injury and ended up giving you 10,000 yen ($96) in mistaken change it still probably wouldn’t amount to a huge penalty in a court of law.



Okay, sure this one is probably to prevent the garbage from getting ravaged by stray cats, crows, and drunken cyclists overnight. But it’s hard not to feel like the man is just screwing with us by making this law which I like to call the “Make Sure You Get Up Extra Early So You Carry a Huge Smelly Bag Before Going to Work Act.”



Going to Antarctica without telling someone could lead to a maximum fine of 500,000 yen ($4,800). This is part of a law protecting the Antarctic environment… from what I have no idea.



According to Article 1.2 of the Minor Offense Act, spitting in a park is a violation. People have been subjected to up to 30 days in jail or fines between 1,000 and 10,000 yen ($10-$96) and it sometimes ends up on a person’s criminal record.

So when you really have to spit, just do like I see most old guys in Japan do and spit on the street just as I’m about to walk by you. That appears to be perfectly legal.



Again, “duel” here refers to kettō and it’s surprising that there are more people who are unaware that actually participating in a life-threatening challenge is illegal than there are people who are unaware of the illegality of Number 14.

However, looking at this in light of Number 10, if someone is committing a crime by aggressively challenging you to drink (a potentially lethal activity) and you ultimately drink, aren’t you technically violating this law? If so you could be subjected to between six months and two years in prison, and my class-action suit is right out the window… You win again Dos Equis guy.



Technically this isn’t a crime, but interestingly it is considered “breach of contract” if you puke inside a taxi. I never recalled agreeing to not vomit whenever I stepped inside a cab, but I guess it’s considered an understood condition of service because the driver would be entitled to compensation.



This one is truly surprising. We all know line-cutting for the everyday irritating act it is, but who would have thought that it was an actual crime? Indeed in Article 1 Section 13 of the Minor Offenses Act a criminal line-cutter is explained as:

“people who disturb lines causing trouble with significantly rude or violent behavior against a large number of people waiting for the distribution of goods, public vehicles, or events, or while buying tickets for these vehicles or events, or interrupting the line for vouchers for the allocation of goods.”

Since they violate the same article in the act as spitting in the park, people who cut in line are subject to the same fines and jail time. Think about how great that would be. Not the fines or jail time, but if someone cuts in front of you while waiting for the train or to buy a ticket to Antarctica you could conceivably have it put on that person’s criminal record. Then every time they apply for a job or visa they legally have to say how they are a filthy line-cutter.

Sometimes justice does work!

So there you have 15 laws that a lot of people don’t know are laws in Japan. If you can take anything away from this list, it’s that accepting the ice bucket challenge can be seen as a crime in Japan (Number 3). If there’s anyone you’ve ever wanted to drop a dime on in your life, this may be your best chance.

Source: Goo Ranking via Hachima Kiko , Freett (Japanese)
Video: YouTube – MrDavidZelezara
Images: Amazon 1, 2, Wikipedia – Ori~