What is the Age of Consent In Japan?

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The age of consent across the globe is different depending on the country that you’re in.

In Japan, the age of consent is 13 years old.

What is the Age of Consent in Japan?
Age of consent in Japan

However, there are some important exceptions and caveats to this law.

What Is Age of Consent?

The age of consent refers to the minimum age at which an individual is considered legally capable of consenting to sexual activity.

In many countries, including Japan and the United States, the age of consent is set by law.

The law the age of consent
The laws regarding the age of consent

It can also vary depending on factors such as:

  • the age of the people involved
  • the type of sexual activity
  • and the jurisdiction in which the activity occurs

The reason that countries set an age of consent is to protect minors from sexual abuse or exploitation and to ensure that sexual activity is legal and consensual.

The Age of Consent in Japan

The age of consent in Japan is 13 years old. It is governed by the Penal Code in Article 177.

The age of consent varies between countries
The age of consent varies between countries

But, as mentioned, there are some caveats and exceptions to this:

  • Sexual activity with someone under 18 is illegal if the person is being coerced or if the perpetrator is in a position of authority such as a coach, employer, or teacher. This is defined in Article 176 of the Penal Code.
  • Some Japanese prefectures have their own local laws that raise the age of consent to 16 or even 18 years old.
  • The production, distribution and possession of child pornography is illegal in Japan.
  • Prostitution is illegal in Japan, although certain activities that fall under the umbrella of “compensated dating” (enjo kosai) are not enforced or clearly defined. This is detailed in the Anti-Prostitution Law.

However, even if sexual activity is technically legal under the age of majority, engaging in sexual activity with a minor can still be considered morally wrong and has serious legal and social consequences.

How does Japan’s Age of Consent Compare to that in Other Countries?

The age of consent varies between countries. There is no universally agreed age of consent.

Japan’s age of consent at 13 years old is lower than in many other countries.

In the United States, the age of consent ranges from 16 to 18 years old depending on the state. In most European countries, the age of consent ranges from 14 to 18 years old.

According to some sources, Japan’s age of consent is the lowest of all developed nations.

Globally, only Trinidad and Tobago appears to have a lower age of consent at 12 years, with Sudan’s age of 13 for males and 12 for females.

However, it is important to note that the age of consent is only one aspect in determining whether sexual activity is consensual and legal.

Other factors such as the age difference between individuals, the nature of any activity and the presence of coercion are also important when discussing the legalities and consent.

What are the consequences for breaking the law regarding the age of consent?

If someone in Japan breaks the law regarding the age of consent, they can face criminal charges.

Sexual activity with someone under 18 is illegal
The age of consent in Japan

The penalties vary depending on the circumstances, but they can include:

  • Imprisonment – Engaging in any sexual activity with a child under the age of 13 can result in a prison sentence as it is considered statutory rape. Generally, prison terms are between three and 20 years. If the victim is aged between 13 and 18 and the person is in a position of authority such as teacher or team coach, or if the person uses threats or coercion, the prison sentence can be up to 20 years.
  • Fines – The offender may have to pay a fine. The exact fine will depend on the nature of the activity, the age difference between the individuals and whether it was consensual or coerced.
  • Registering as a sex offender – People who are convicted of some sexual offenses in Japan might have to register as a sex offender. This can limit where they can work as well as place restrictions on their movements.
  • Social stigma – Even if the person is not convicted of any crime, there are significant social consequences for those who have engaged in sexual activity with a minor. It will damage their relationships and their reputation.

Japan takes child sexual exploitation and child abuse very seriously. Anyone who breaks the law regarding the age of consent will face serious legal consequences.

Japanese Attitudes Towards Sex

In Japan, there are some typical attitudes regarding sex and norms that are worth mentioning.  

In Japan, there is a cultural emphasis on modesty and discretion when it comes to sexual behavior.

Japanese Attitudes Towards Sex
Cultural emphasis on modesty and discretion

Public displays of affection are frowned upon by many people and people generally do not discuss their sexual desires or preferences openly with others.

Japan favors traditional gender roles in many aspects of society, particularly when it comes to sexuality.

There is often the stereotype that men are sexually aggressive in Japan whereas the women tend to be submissive or passive.

Japan is also known for its extensive pornography industry with many styles and genres. Pornography is legal in Japan, but there are laws regulating it.

Dating in Japan is still very much traditional for many, following a prescribed set of rules and customs. Couples may swap letters of gifts to express their feelings and physical intimacy is often reserved for serious relationships.

In Japan, sex education tends to be more conservative than in some countries. Schools must teach basic biological information, but contraception and sexual pleasure are not always covered in depth.

Sex education in Japan facts
Sex education in Japan

Having said that, Japan is a diverse and rapidly changing society, so its attitudes towards sex are likely going to continue to evolve.

The proportion of young people in Japan who wait until they are married to have sex has declined recently.

Whilst there is still the cultural expectation of modesty and sexual restraint in Japan, particularly for women, young people are now starting to explore their sexuality before they marry.

There are said to be numerous factors contributing to this change in attitude such as a change in the economic and social conditions in the country and the increased prevalence of Western cultural values. The growth of social media and the internet in general is also said to play a part.

Japan has a declining birth rate too, which has led the government to create initiatives that encourage young people to get married and have children, which may have contributed to their changing attitudes towards sex before marriage.

However, there are still many people who wait until marriage to have sex, particularly in more rural and conservative areas.

Teenage Attitudes Towards Sex in Japan

Attitudes towards sex amongst teenagers in Japan can vary depending on their age, social background and gender.

However, there are some cultural norms and attitudes that still permeate teenage minds in general in the country.

Japan teens attitudes towards sex explained
Teenage attitudes towards sex in Japan

There remains a cultural taboo in Japan regarding teenage sexuality despite the low age of consent.

Discussing the topic is regarded as inappropriate in many circles.

Additionally, many teachers and parents in the country prioritize academic success over romantic relationships for their children and therefore many children follow their parents’ wishes and focus on their careers rather than exploring their sexual desires.

What’s more, there still remains some stigma regarding contraception in Japan. It is available, but its use amongst young people is often frowned upon.

Given that sex education is often limited in Japanese schools, there is often a lack of knowledge for teens regarding their reproductive rights and sexual health.

As young Japanese people are exposed to more Western cultural values, their attitudes to sex are likely to change.

Final Thoughts on The Age of Consent in Japan

Whilst Japan may have one of the lowest ages of consent in the world, the culture still permeates the belief that sexual promiscuity and sexual activity outside of marriage is still taboo.

Whilst we’ve no doubt that sexual activity amongst young people does take place, there are strict laws in Japan to protect individuals from non-consensual sexual activity or from coercion.

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