Being in jail in Japan

Japanese Popo (photo by me)

No, this isn’t based on first-hand experience. This is about a coworker who was in jail for 3 days. She got out just last Monday.

My coworker, who we shall refer to as Olga, got arrested last week for possessing a knife in public. In Japan, you cannot carry a knife with a blade of 6 cm or longer outside your residence unless you have a good reason to have it, and “self defense” isn’t considered a good reason. You can carry one if, for example, your work requires you to have one, like if you’re a chef, or if you’re going fishing or camping. And even with a reason it needs to be properly packed, and you should technically only be going straight to your destination.

Anyway, this post isn’t about the law per se, but about Olga’s experience.

So you might be wondering, why the hell was Olga carrying a knife in the first place? Well, she seems to be into urbex, and she went on a long journey on her own to visit some abandoned hotel. The area she was in, somewhere in Chiba, supposedly has a lot of “bosozoku” (motorcycle gangs), so she took a knife and a crowbar with her for self defense. She apparently doesn’t know that hurting another individual for self defense isn’t a “get out of jail free” card in Japan.

On the way home (by bicycle), Olga got stopped by the cops, and they saw a crowbar in her bike basket, which promptly gets her taken in to the nearby police station for questioning and is searched. In her bag they find her knife. They measure it, blade is over 6 cm, and BAM, she’s in the slammer.

Well, Olga wasn’t really in JAIL jail. It was more like a holding cell where inmates wait for one of two things… get released or go to court. In Japan, the police can hold you for questioning for up to 3 days (and can be extended to 10 days!) even without proper evidence against you. It’s total bullshit, but hey, that’s how they do things here. And so Olga stays in jail for 3 days.

I asked her what it was like being in jail. She said that it was very clean, the guards were actually quite friendly, the other folks in jail were super nice to her, they were well-fed, and had a steady supply of green tea. The cops, however, charged her 1,000 yen for toiletries. What  the hell? What if she was broke?

Before getting “incarcerated”, they did a full body inspection and took  notes of any marks/scars that she had. Perhaps it’s so that inmates couldn’t fake abuse by the police.

Their food was bento, the typical cheap stuff you can buy for about 250 yen ($2). It was usually some kind of deep fried food, a little thing of pickles, a tiny serving of pasta (literally a spoonful – many cheap bento lunches have this), and rice. Food was always served cold, unfortunately for Olga. She also said that the food was very bland.

How they got refills for green tea was interesting. They basically call out to the guard for more tea, and they come with a kettle to fill your cup up. Wow, that’s service.

“What an experience!” I said to Olga. To which she replied, “Yeah, I actually enjoyed it. You can’t experience that from a tour. You should try it!”

Uh, no thanks.


4 thoughts on “Being in jail in Japan

    1. nantokazed

      She was asked by the prosecutor what she planned to do with the knife/crowbar if she did encounter bosozoku who wished to do her harm. Her answer was something in the lines of “I don’t know, but just having them made me feel safer”.


      1. haha being a woman I understand though I think I’d have taken a pepper spray (which is also illegal in Japan I think) or a cutter coz I don’t even own a crowbar ^^.


        1. nantokazed

          Both her lawyer and the prosecutor supposedly laughed as well when she said that! Probably partly why she’s out of jail for the meantime.
          It’s not all over though. Apparently her case is still under investigation, and if she should leave the country, she needs to tell the police when she’ll be coming back, or something like that.
          Yeah, I think pepper spray is also illegal in Japan. I’m not sure if carrying is illegal, but using it on someone, even for self defense, is considered against the law, as far as I know.


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