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Japan has a complex set of laws that address terrorism directly or indirectly in its domestic law. The offences are quite narrowly drawn and sentences do not differ from those in ordinary criminal cases. Participation in any group is not per se criminalized.

Compliance with International Law:
Last updated: one year ago

The Definition of Terrorism in Domestic Law

There is no single definition of terrorism in Japanese law. An important definition is, however, contained in Section 1 of the Act for Punishment of the Financing of Criminal Activities for the Purpose of Intimidation of the General Public and of Governments enacted in 2002. In this act, terrorism is defined in line with the 1999 Terrorist Financing Convention. The common characteristics of terrorism acts are the following predicate offences where they are done with a view to intimidating the general public or compelling conduct by a government:

  • Murder, serious injury with armed forces, kidnapping, or the taking of hostages by force of arms
  • Hijacking or the destruction of planes or ships
  • Explosions or destruction of public transportation vehicles or electricity, gas or water supply facilities and buildings for public use.  

There are other older definitions of terrorism in Japanese law. Section 38(4) of the Ordinance regarding establishment of the National Police Agency (1954) defined terrorism as "terroristic subversive activity" and as an act to be regulated for the sake of national security. This section has been amended to define terrorism as the same activities mentioned in the 1999 Act on the Control of Organisations Which Committed Indiscriminate Mass Murder

The 2002 Act on Punishment of Financing to Offences of Public IntimidationArt. 1,  Act No. 67 of 12 June 2002stipulates that "an act of public intimidation" means any of the following criminal acts carried out with the aim of intimidating the public, national or local governments, or foreign governments and other entities:

(i) killing a person, causing bodily injury by using a weapon or any other means to cause serious bodily harm, kidnapping by force or enticement, or taking of hostages;

(a) crashing, overturning, or sinking an aircraft in flight, or, by any other means, causing danger to its flight;
(b) sinking or overturning a ship in navigation, or, by any other means, causing danger to its navigation;
(c) seizing or exercising control at will over an aircraft in flight or a ship in navigation by act of assault or intimidation, or by any other way which causes an inability to resist;
(d) destroying or causing serious damage to an aircraft or a ship by detonating an explosive, arson or any other means;

(iii) destroying or causing serious damage to any of the followings by detonating an explosive, arson or any other means which are likely to cause serious harm:
(a) a train, a motor-vehicle or other vehicle which is used for the transportation of persons or cargo and for official business or the benefit of the public, or a facility which is used for the operation of these vehicles (except for facilities which come under subparagraph (b));
(b) a road, a park, a station or similar facility which is used for the benefit of the public;
(c) a facility providing services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage or communications services for official business or the benefit of the public;
(d) a facility producing, refining or processing, transporting, or storing materials such as oil, flammable natural gas, coal, nuclear fuel or raw material thereof;
(e) a building (excluding facilities which come under any of subparagraphs (a) through (d)).

There is also a general definition of terrorism in the 1954 Ordinance regarding establishment of the National Police Agency:

Terrorism (meaning violent subversive activities based on political or other principles, which are carried out with the intention of achieving the purpose by causing widespread fear or anxiety)....Art. 40, 1954 Ordinance regarding establishment of the National Police Agency. 

More recently, a 2013 law described terrorist activities as

activities intended to kill or injure people or destroy important facilities or other objects for the purpose of forcing a political or other principle or belief upon the State or other persons or causing fear or terror in society based on such principle or opinion.Art. 12(2), Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, Act No. 108 of 2013. 


Membership of a terrorist group

There is no provision in the criminal law nor in the Subversive Activities Prevention Act to sanction members of an organization criminally merely for joining or participating in such an organization.  

Adherence to Global and Regional Terrorism Treaties 


Japan has adhered to all of the main United Nations treaties on terrorism.


Adherence to Global Terrorism Treaties
Treaty Adherence
1973 Convention on Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons State Party
1979 Hostage-Taking Convention State Party
1997 Terrorist Bombings Convention State Party
1999 Terrorist Financing Convention State Party
2005 Nuclear Terrorism Convention State Party

In adhering to the 1999 Terrorist Financing Convention, Japan objected to the reservation by Pakistan which stated that extradition for alleged offenders was subject to its domestic law. Japan stated that the objection did not preclude the entry into force of the Convention between itself and Pakistan.


There is no regional terrorism treaty to which Japan can adhere.

Laws and Penalties for Terrorist Offences

Sentencing practices in terrorism cases do not differ from those in ordinary criminal cases. The death penalty may thus be imposed as it is for ordinary murder. In practice, most of the defendants in terrorism cases have been sentenced to prison. In the Aum Shinrikyo case, thirteen defendants were given the death penalty in the ordinary court and five were given life imprisonment. Among other defendants (twenty-two people), the average length of imprisonment was less than ten years.

As further explained by Imai:

Offences related to terrorist acts can overlap. For example, offences of financing of terrorism and of preparation for murder by a terrorist can be applied simultaneously. This overlap reflects the different purposes of the offences. For example, the offence of financing of terrorism is to protect the society from the risk of terrorism, while murder is to protect the life of the victim. In theory, offences in the 2002 Act and ordinary crimes can be applied to the same defendant simultaneously. Nevertheless, there has not been an actual case where the offence of financing of terrorism and another ordinary offence such as murder have been applied concurrently to the same defendant. In fact, there has not been any case where a conviction for terrorism financing under the 2002 Act has been obtained.T. Imai, “Japan” in K. Roach (ed.), Comparative Counter-Terrorism Law, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2015.

Counterterrorism Capacities and Policies at Domestic Level

Article 40 of the 1954 Ordinance regarding establishment of the National Police Agency establishes the International Terrorism Prevention and Counter-Terrorism Division, which is charged with addressing terrorism (defined as violent subversive activities based on political or other principles, which are carried out through the causing of widespread fear or anxiety) where this concerns the acts of foreign nationals or Japanese nationals whose base of activities is in a foreign country. 

The 2001 Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law seeks to enable Japan to contribute to the prevention and eradication of international terrorism.

In May 2016, the Supreme Court dismissed a case brought against the police practice of blanket surveillance of Japan’s Muslim community, including of people perceived to be Muslim. In 2010, 114 internal documents from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department were leaked online, which included personal and financial information about Muslims in Japan labelled as “suspected terrorists”. The documents included personal information, such as individuals’ names, physical description, personal relationships and the mosque they attend. Seventeen plaintiffs, many of them originally from Middle Eastern or North African countries, sued the Public Prosecutor's Office and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government for violating their rights to privacy, equal treatment and religious freedom under the Japanese Constitution. In 2014, the Tokyo District Court acknowledged the illegality and negligence of the leak and ordered the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department to pay compensation. It concluded, however, that such surveillance and information gathering activities were permissible as necessary for national security. The Tokyo High Court upheld this decision in 2015, as did the Supreme Court in 2016.Amnesty International, Japan: Inadequate Protection Against Discrimination, Amnesty International Submission for The UN Universal Periodic Review, 28th Session of the UPR Working Group, November 2017.


2002 Act on Offences of Public Intimidation (unofficial translation)

Amnesty International Report on Japan to the UPR (2017)