A Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department officer with their van outside Ueno Station

Law enforcement in Japan is provided mainly by prefectural police under the oversight of the National Police Agency.[1] The National Police Agency is administered by the National Public Safety Commission, ensuring that Japan's police are an apolitical body and free of direct central government executive control. They are checked by an independent judiciary and monitored by a free and active press.

There are two types of law enforcement officials in Japan, depending on the underlying provision: Police officers of Prefectural Police Departments (prescribed as Judicial police officials (司法警察職員) under Article 189 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法, Keiji-soshōhō)), and Special judicial police officials (特別司法警察職員); prescribed in Article 190 of the same law, dealing with specialized fields with high expertise.[2]


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See also: Edo period police and Police services of the Empire of Japan

A police officer directing traffic after the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake

The Japanese government established a European-style civil police system in 1874, spearheaded by the efforts of statesman Kawaji Toshiyoshi, under the centralized control of the Police Bureau within the Home Ministry to put down internal disturbances and maintain order during the Meiji Restoration. By the 1880s, the police had developed into a nationwide instrument of government control, providing support for local leaders and enforcing public morality. They acted as general civil administrators, implementing official policies and thereby facilitating unification and modernization. In rural areas especially, the police had great authority and were accorded the same mixture of fear and respect as the village head. Their increasing involvement in political affairs was one of the foundations of the authoritarian state in Japan in the first half of the 20th century.

A police officer on air raid duty outside the TMPD's headquarters in 1945

The centralized police system steadily acquired responsibilities, until it controlled almost all aspects of daily life, including fire prevention and mediation of labor disputes. The system regulated public health, business, factories, and construction, and it issued permits and licenses. The Peace Talk Law of 1925 gave police the authority to arrest people for "wrong thoughts". Special Higher Police (Tokko) were created to regulate the content of motion pictures, political meetings, and election campaigns. The Imperial Japanese Army's military police (Kempeitai) and the Imperial Japanese Navy's Tokkeitai, operating under their respective services and the justice and home ministries aided the civilian police in limiting proscribed political activity. After the Manchurian Incident of 1931, military police assumed greater authority, leading to friction with their civilian counterparts. After 1937, police directed business activities for the war effort, mobilized labor, and controlled transportation, continuing throughout the rest of World War II.

After Japan's surrender in 1945, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers retained the prewar police structure, but viewed their organization as undemocratic. A new system was implemented after the Diet passed the 1947 Police Law. Contrary to Japanese proposals for a strong, centralized force to deal with postwar unrest, the police system was decentralized. About 1,600 independent municipal forces were established in cities, towns, and villages with 5,000 inhabitants or more, and a National Rural Police was organized by prefecture. Civilian control was to be ensured by placing the police under the jurisdiction of public safety commissions controlled by the National Public Safety Commission in the Office of the Prime Minister. The Home Ministry was abolished and replaced by the less powerful Ministry of Home Affairs, and the police were stripped of their responsibility for fire protection, public health, and other administrative duties.

A pair of TMPD officers wearing newly-issued uniforms in 1946

When most of the occupation forces were transferred to Korea in 1950–51 with the Korean War, the 75,000 strong National Police Reserve (predecessor of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force) was formed outside the Regular police organizations to back up the ordinary police during civil disturbances. And pressure mounted for a centralized system more compatible with Japanese political preferences. The 1947 Police Law was amended in 1951 to allow the municipal police of smaller communities to merge with the National Rural Police. Most chose this arrangement, and by 1954 only about 400 cities, towns, and villages still had their own police forces. Under the 1954 amended Police Law, a final restructuring created an even more centralized system in which local forces were organized by prefectures under a National Police Agency.

The revised Police Law of 1954, still in effect in the 1990s, preserves some strong points of the postwar system, particularly measures ensuring civilian control and political neutrality, while allowing for increased centralization. The National Public Safety Commission system has been retained. State responsibility for maintaining public order has been clarified to include coordination of national and local efforts; centralization of police information, communications, and record keeping facilities; and national standards for training, uniforms, pay, rank, and promotion. Rural and municipal forces were abolished and integrated into prefectural forces, which handled basic police matters. Officials and inspectors in various ministries and agencies continue to exercise special police functions assigned to them in the 1947 Police Law.


TMPD officers outside a kōban near Shibuya Station

According to statistics of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, among the 192 member states of the UN, and among the countries reporting statistics of criminal and criminal justice, the incidence rate of violent crimes such as murder, abduction, rape, and robbery is very low in Japan.[3][4][5][6][7]

The incarceration rate is very low and Japan ranks 209 out of 223 countries. It has an incarceration rate of 41 per 100,000 people. In 2018 the prison population was 51,805 and 10.8% of prisoners were unsentenced.[8]

Japan has a very low rate of intentional homicide victims. According to the UNODC it ranks 219 out of 230 countries. It has a rate of just 0.20 per 100,000 inhabitants. There were 306 in 2017.[9][10]

The number of firearm related deaths is low. The firearm-related death rate was 0.00 homicide (in 2008), 0.04 suicide (in 1999), 0.01 unintentional (in 1999) and 0.01 undetermined (in 1999) per 100,000 people. There's a gun ownership of 0.6 per 100 inhabitants.[11]

The intentional death rate is low for homicides with 0.4 per 100,000 people in 2013. However, the suicide rate is relatively high with 21.7 per 100,000 in 2013.[12]

Regular police organizations

Prefectural police are established for each prefecture and have full responsibility for regular police duties for their area of responsibility. These prefectural police are primarily municipal police with their own authority, but their activities are coordinated by the National Police Agency and the National Public Safety Commission.[13] As of 2017, the total strength of police reached approximately 296,700 personnel, including 262,500 police officers, 900 Imperial Guards, and 33,200 civilian staff.[14] Nationwide, there are approximately 23,400 female police officers and 13,000 female civilian staff.[14]

National Police Agency

Main article: National Police Agency (Japan)

The National Police Academy in Fuchū, Tokyo

As the central coordinating body for the entire police system, the National Police Agency determines general standards and policies; detailed direction of operations is left to the lower echelons.[15] In a national emergency or large-scale disaster, the agency is authorized to take command of prefectural police forces. In 1989, the agency was composed of about 1,100 national civil servants, empowered to collect information and to formulate and execute national policies. The agency is headed by a Commissioner General who is appointed by the National Public Safety Commission with the approval of the Prime Minister.[15]

The Central Office includes the Secretariat, with divisions for general operations, planning, information, finance, management, and procurement and distribution of police equipment. The NPA operates five bureaus. Citizen oversight is provided by the National Public Safety Commission.

As of 2017, the NPA has a strength of 2,100 police officers, 900 Imperial Guards, and 4,800 civilian staff, for a total of 7,800 personnel.[14]

Prefectural police

Main article: Prefectural police

Niigata Prefectural Police cars on display in 2018

All operational police units are organized into prefectural police for each prefecture. Prefectural police are organized and commanded by their respective Prefectural Police Headquarters, and each one has a Prefectural Public Safety Commission and numerous operational units.[13]

Most prefectural police are simply named the Prefectural Police (県警察, Ken-keisatsu) of their respective prefecture (e.g. Shizuoka Prefectural Police). However, certain prefectural police, especially those serving prefectures with larger populations, have different names: Tokyo's police is the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department (警視庁, Keishi-chō); Hokkaido's is known as Dō-keisatsu (道警察); and Ōsaka's and Kyōto's are known as Fu-keisatsu (府警察).

The total strength of the prefectural police is 260,400 police officers and 28,400 civilian staff as of 2018, for a total of approximately 288,000 personnel.[14]


Police officers are divided into eleven ranks:[16]

Status Police ranks[16] Rank insignia Comparable military ranks[17] Representative job titles
shoulder knot chest badge
Commissioner General (警察庁長官, Keisatsu-chō Chōkan)
No counterpart (outside normal ranking) The Chief of the National Police Agency
Superintendent General (警視総監, Keishi-sōkan)
General The Chief of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department
Senior Commissioner (警視監, Keishi-kan)
Lieutenant general Deputy Commissioner General, Deputy Superintendent General, The Chief of Regional Police Bureau, The Chief of Prefectural Police Headquarters
Commissioner (警視長, Keishi-chō)
Major general The Chief of Prefectural Police Headquarters
Assistant Commissioner (警視正, Keishi-sei)
Colonel The Chief of Police Station
Local police personnel Superintendent (警視, Keishi)
Lieutenant colonel The Chief of Police Station (small or middle), The Vice Commanding Officer of Police Station, Commander of Riot Police Unit
Chief Inspector (警部, Keibu)
Major or Captain Squad Commander of Police Station, Leader of Riot Company
Inspector (警部補, Keibu-ho)
Captain or Lieutenant Squad Sub-Commander of Police Station, Leader of Riot Platoon
Police Sergeant (巡査部長, Junsa-buchō)
Warrant officer or Sergeant Field supervisor, Leader of Police box
Senior Police Officer (巡査長, Junsa-chō)
Second Lieutenant
Second Lieutenant
Corporal (Honorary rank of Police Officers)
Police officer (巡査, Junsa)
Officer Cadet
Officer Cadet
Private Prefectural Police Officers' careers start from this rank.

The NPA Commissioner General holds the highest position of the Japanese police.[18] His title is not a rank, but rather denotes his position as head of the NPA. On the other hand, the MPD Superintendent General represents not only the highest rank in the system but also assignment as head of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.[18]

Police officers whose rank are higher than Assistant Commissioner (警視正, Keishi-sei) are salaried by the National budget even if they belong to local police departments. Designation and dismissal of these high-rank officers are delegated to National Public Safety Commission.[19]

The superintendent general which is highest police rank is only in Tokyo outside of it senior commissioner is the highest rank and chief outside of Tokyo, Prefecture police headquarters are commanded by Chief or Director General (hunbocho).

Other public security officers

There are several thousands of public security officials attached to various agencies. They are responsible for such matters as forest preservation, narcotics control, fishery inspection, and enforcement of regulations on maritime, labor, and mine safety. In the Act on Remuneration of Officials in the Regular Service (一般職の職員の給与に関する法律), a salary table for public security officials (公安職, Kōan-shoku) including judicial police officials is stipulated.

Special judicial police officials

National Police Agency

Ministry of Justice

Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism

Ministry of Defense

Officials working for public safety, except for Special judicial police officials

There are other officers having limited public safety functions.

The National Diet

Ministry of Justice

Ministry of Finance

Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries


Officers working for public safety
Officer are Special judicial police officials (特別司法警察職員) can arrest suspects with arrest warrant can carry firearms Salary schedule which is applied
Imperial guard (皇宮護衛官) Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Public Security Service
Prison guard (刑務官) Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Public Security Service
Narcotics agent (麻薬取締官) Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Administrative Service
Labor Standards Inspector (労働基準監督官) Green tickY Green tickY Red XN Administrative Service
Authorized Fisheries Supervisor (漁業監督官) Green tickY Green tickY Red XN Administrative Service
Coast Guard Officer (海上保安官) Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Public Security Service
Military police officer (警務官) Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Officials of Ministry of Defense
Diet guard (衛視) Red XN Red XN Red XN (議院警察職)
Immigration control officer (入国警備官) Red XN Red XN Green tickY Public Security Service
Immigration inspector (入国審査官) Red XN Red XN Green tickY Administrative Service
Public security intelligence officer (公安調査官) Red XN Red XN Red XN Public Security Service
Public prosecutor (検察官) Red XN Green tickY Red XN Public Prosecutor
Public prosecutor's assistant officer (検察事務官) Red XN Green tickY Red XN Public Security Service
Customs official (税関職員) Red XN Red XN Green tickY Administrative Service
cf. Police officer (judicial police official) Green tickY Green tickY Public Security Service

Laws and regulations for restricted materials

Firearm and weapon policy

The Firearm and Sword Possession Control Law of 1958 strictly regulates the civilian ownership of guns, swords and other weaponry. The law states that "No person shall possess a firearm or firearms or a sword or swords" and there are few exceptions.[20][21]

Medical and recreational drugs policy

Japan has strict regulations on medical and recreational drugs. Importing or using any type of narcotics is illegal and there is generally no leniency; for example, the possession of cannabis has a jail sentence of up to five years for the first offense. There are no exceptions for celebrities either, both in law enforcement and in Japanese society; if a celebrity is arrested, it could potentially end their career.

Authorities can detain a suspect for up to three weeks without charges. Solitary confinement is common and imprisoned suspects only get access to a lawyer.[22] It is illegal to mail prescription drugs, and only designated parties in Japan are allowed to import them.[23]

If someone intends to bring more than one month of prescription medication, cosmetics, or medical devices into Japan, they are required to obtain import certification called yakkan shoumei (薬監証明).[24]

Historical secret police organizations

See also


  1. ^ Supreme Court of Japan (2005). "Who will conduct the investigation?". Retrieved 2018-11-01.
  2. ^ Japanese Law Translation (2011-12-01). "日本法令外国語訳データベースシステム-刑事訴訟法" [Code of Criminal Procedure]. Ministry of Justice. p. 1. Retrieved 2017-06-14.
  3. ^ UNODC. "Data and Analysis>Crime surveys>The periodic United Nations Surveys of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems>Fifth Survey (1990 - 1994)". Archived from the original on 2009-07-29. Retrieved 2008-08-26.
  4. ^ UNODC. "Data and Analysis>Crime surveys>The periodic United Nations Surveys of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems>Sixth Survey (1995 - 1997)>Sorted by variable". Retrieved 2008-08-26.
  5. ^ UNODC. "Data and Analysis>Crime surveys>The periodic United Nations Surveys of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems>Seventh Survey (1998 - 2000)>Sorted by variable". Retrieved 2008-08-26.
  6. ^ UNODC. "Data and Analysis>Crime surveys>The periodic United Nations Surveys of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems>Eighth Survey (2001 - 2002)>Sorted by variable". Retrieved 2008-08-26.
  7. ^ UNODC. "Data and Analysis>Crime surveys>The periodic United Nations Surveys of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems>Ninth Survey (2003 - 2004)>Values and Rates per 100,000 Total Population Listed by Country". Retrieved 2008-08-26.
  8. ^ Highest to Lowest. World Prison Brief (WPB). Use dropdown menu to choose lists of countries by region, or the whole world. Use menu to select highest-to-lowest lists of prison population totals, prison population rates, percentage of pre-trial detainees / remand prisoners, percentage of female prisoners, percentage of foreign prisoners, and occupancy rate. Column headings in WPB tables can be clicked to reorder columns lowest to highest, or alphabetically. For detailed information for each country click on any country name in lists. See also the WPB main data page and click on the map links and/or the sidebar links to get to the region and country desired. Data for the whole Wikipedia list was last retrieved on 18 October 2018. Some numbers may be adjusted here later according to later info. Please update the table here only from this WPB source. For a quick method to fully update the table see the relevant section ("conversion examples") of Commons:Convert tables and charts to wiki code or image files.
  9. ^ "UNODC Statistics Online". United Nations Office On Drugs and Crime. Retrieved 12 May 2018.".
  10. ^ "Global Study on Homicide - Statistics and Data". dataunodc.un.org. Retrieved 2019-07-15.
  11. ^ "Guns in Japan: Facts, Figures and Firearm Law". Gunpolicy.org. University of Sydney School of Public Health. Retrieved 2013-05-19.
  12. ^ "Nikkei; LEAD: No. Of Suicides Falls Below 30,000 For 1st Time In 15 Years". Nikkei. 2013-01-17. Retrieved 2013-01-17.
  13. ^ a b National Police Agency Police History Compilation Committee 1977, pp. 442–448.
  14. ^ a b c d National Police Agency (2018). POLICE OF JAPAN 2018 (Overview of Japanese Police) (PDF) (Report).
  15. ^ a b "Interpol Japan Page". Interpol. Archived from the original on 2015-03-18. Retrieved 2012-02-15.
  16. ^ a b "4. Human Resources" (PDF). (警察庁) National Police Agency. National Police Agency. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-10-25. Retrieved 2018-08-13.
  17. ^ "Insignia of the JSDF personnel". JSDF Kumamoto Provincial Cooperation office. Japan Self Defense Force. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  18. ^ a b "Description of the Japanese Police Organization". Archived from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2012-02-15.
  19. ^ "Outline of the police system" (PDF). Union of Kansan Gavernments. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 July 2015. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  20. ^ "Diet tightens laws on knives, guns". Japan Times. November 29, 2008. Retrieved March 21, 2016.
  21. ^ Fisher, Max (July 23, 2012). "A Land Without Guns: How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths". The Atlantic. Retrieved March 21, 2016.
  22. ^ "Drug Laws in Japan: You'd Better have a Prescription". Tofugu. 2011-12-02. Archived from the original on 2019-05-13. Retrieved 2019-07-16.
  23. ^ "Why Japan Is So Strict About Drugs". Kotaku. 2019-03-14. Archived from the original on 2019-07-13. Retrieved 2019-07-16.
  24. ^ "Bringing Your Meds To Japan? Study The Laws A Little". DeepJapan. 2015-06-24. Archived from the original on 2019-01-27. Retrieved 2019-07-16.


Regional Bureaus

Police communications Bureaus