Is This Really a Crime? Be Careful About Overly-Revealing Clothes, Artistic Expressions, and Displays of Affection!

 The topic of what can be considered too revealing or not is an indefatigable subject all around the world. Each country has its own set of laws regarding the exposure of both men and women’s bodies. These laws are debated and based on the influence of local culture and religion, historical background, current events, and other various aspects. The definition of what is ‘obscene’ can be vastly different from place to place, so foreigners living in Japan should be aware of any differences in the local law from that of their home country.

In Japan, exposure of one’s body and obscene acts mainly fall under the criminal punishment categories of “public indecency” and “misdemeanor.” The definition of ‘obscene’ in these laws is quite vague, so it is impossible to say with certainly what is “okay” and “not okay.” That being said, it is dangerous to simply think that “it’s fashion, so it’s okay,” “it’s not a problem because it’s a bathing suit,” “it’s fine because it’s art,” “nobody will complain because it’s cultural.” Public displays of affection such as kissing in public may also be considered to be problematic. Charges of public indecency or a misdemeanor may be handed down to people found in violation of these laws. This can also be applied even inside one’s home. For example, if someone leaves the curtains of their home open and are seen by an unspecified number of people outside the premises, they can also be charged with a crime. Please be careful not to let this happen.

For more details, please check the Japanese Government’s official information site, known as e-Gov. The site is available in Japanese (please note that a high level of language comprehension and special vocabulary is needed to navigate the Japanese portion of the website). Recently, an English version has been made available.

  • It is recommended for people who need assistance in interpreting the law to consult with a lawyer who has a high-level of Japanese and comprehension of specialty words.


The e-Gov website provides legal data authenticated by each government ministry regarding the Constitution, laws, government orders, imperial ordinances, government ordinances, ministerial orders, and other regulations. For data on laws and regulations that are not yet being enforced, the site provides articles which reflect the revised content by the date they are scheduled to come into effect.

The e-Gov Portal is a website developed and managed by the Digital Agency (Dejitaru Chō) with the purpose of contributing to information navigation, targeting information on policies and measures provided by administrative agencies, administrative services, various online services, etc.