Weapons in Japan


With the dreadful mass shooting in Las Vegas a few evenings ago – by someone you can simply call a domestic, white, terrorist – I thought I’d take a look at what the situation is in Japan with gun ownership.

The first bit of good news is the existence of the weapons law of Japan which starts by saying outright:

“No one shall possess a firearm or firearms or a sword or swords”. 

Very few exceptions are allowed.

Handgun ownership is out rightly banned, while shotguns and air rifles are allowed for hunting and sport shooting and you can only apply to own a rifle on proof that you have owned a shotgun for 10 years.  I’m not entirely sure what the difference between a shotgun and a handgun is but a gun is a gun. Also, people who do own guns and need cartridges must return the spent cartridges to the /a gun shop (of which each prefecture in Japan can have no more than three) in order to be allowed to buy more.  A person’s gun or guns have to be kept under lock and key and the police have to be told where it/they are stored.


Not even ordinary cops in Japan use guns that regularly, even though they do carry them. They spend more time on their judo, in which they are all expected to gain a black belt, and practicing Kendo (with wooden swords) than learning how to use the gun they’ll have to carry around.  In general, cops leave their guns at the station before heading home in the evening and apparently there is a case of one cop, who used his gun to kill himself while on duty, being charged posthumously with a criminal offence.  Yep, they don’t mess around.

Apparently, the Yakuza are the only ones affected (boohoo) though they still manage to find ways of importing them illegally.  In general, gun crime in Japan is still one of the lowest in the world and they can also hold their head high for rejecting the idea of gun ownership in the first place.  Incidentally, most ordinary folks in Japan are very concerned about the idea being touted for the Self Defence Forces becoming less self-defence and more offence in its structure (even with the current threat from that one particular neighbour).

Anyway, the current gun law has been in force since 1958 but their stringent gun laws go back a long way when in 1685, people were encouraged to hand in their firearms for a reward (I wonder what the reward was?).  So, long before 1876, when an Edict called the 廃刀令Haitōrei (the Sword Abolishment Act), banned everyone, bar former Lords (Daimyōs), the military and law enforcement officials, from carrying weapons.  Usually it was only samurai and government officials who carried swords by then (maybe because everyone else handed them in back in 1685?), and samurai/government families who owned them, so it was mostly these who were affected by this and other laws – losing their swords, topknots, their identity as warriors.  Ordinary farmers and so on were not allowed own arms I’m sure.  Feel free to correct me on this. People who made swords on the other hand were obviously going to be inconvenienced!

It’s a pity that samurai swords are still exported from Japan, even if they’re cheap imitations, and used by all kinds of morons (a very American insult I like to use!) in various countries to show off with and/or use for violence towards others, as I’ve often read about in news reports over the years.   Japan should try and ban the export of samurai swords, unless they are used for display in museums and then perhaps sent back to Japan.

Where there are large scale attacks or killings in Japan, it’s done with knives (except for the sarin gas attack by the Aum cult in the 90s) and there are unstable people in Japan as there are in many other countries who should not get that far, whatever their choice of weapon. But gun control is one situation where Japan can hold its head high.

I feel so bad for the people killed or injured in Las Vegas, and have real admiration for the police force but also various civilians who risked their own safety to help others.

Let’s not forget the two victims of the attack in Marseille either.  Knife attack victims of another terrorist who was luckily prevented from attacking anyone else.



After the Storm

After the Storm – 

another hit from the

class Kore-eda?

There’s a film out at the moment called ‘After the Storm’ starring Hiroshi Abe and Kiki Kirin which is meant to be really good.   I’d go see it only it’s not available anywhere near me.  I might have to head to another city to see it so we’ll see.   It looks like one I’d add to my ‘Films worth a look’ list.   It’s another one by Kore-eda whose films are nearly always about family ties.

Haven’t studied any Japanese in a few weeks.  I think I just got to a level on Renshuu that I had to think ‘Oh well where do I go now?’   I went to another part of the site that specialised in kanji but found myself going over old ground, really basic old ground so was not very motivated to continue it.  I like to copy a lot of sentences from it which have new terms in them, or certain grammar structures I want to perfect, into word files according to theme and then I try to go back to the Word files once in a while to look over what I’ve learned – I’ve pages and pages by now per theme (politics, business, sport, food/drink, household, etc.) – to review them.   Well, good intentions and all ….  I don’t usually have the time.   Still, it’s good to give something a break now and then so you can return to it with a clear mind.

One or two files that are really handy at the moment are the politics and war files considering the antagonism coming from NK towards Japan and the new leader in South Korea.  Another is my weather and climate file since firstly Japan has such a wide range of weather conditions and catastrophes and secondly since the climate is more important than ever and not just because or since that clown in the White House pulled out of the all-important Paris agreement.  Boooo!! 馬鹿だよ!

Any thoughts on this?  I look forward to hearing them.

Slightly edited – 3/6 – to add haiku and other additions to main text.


Itami’s slices of life

‘I must get back to

some Japanese film watching’

I said, and I did


After a bit of a gap in Japanese film-watching, I decided to go browsing for films and ended up making this weekend a Juzo Itami weekend after watching Minbo (ミンボの女) on Friday and The Funeral (お組織) last night , while A Taxing Woman (マルサの女) is planned for this evening. Thank you video-streaming website in question (and, of course, the people who put these films up)!  After watching Minbo, I saw The Funeral pop up as a recommended film and then A Taxing Woman showed up later.  I do remember watching Minbo while at college but had kind of forgotten a lot of it, while before this weekend I had never watched the other two.  In December it will be 20 years since the death of Juzo Itami, in 1997, apparently forced to commit suicide by a branch of the Yakuza who he had pissed off through his portrayal of them in the film Minbo where the Yakuza characters are defeated by the wiles of a sassy lawyer, played by Nobuko Miyamoto, and the staff of the hotel the Yakuza make trouble for.

Miyamoto Nobuko (宮本 信子) and Yamazaki Tsutomu  (山崎 努) co-star in A Taxing Woman, The Funeral and of course Tampopo, another of Juzo Itami’s gems.  Yamazaki doesn’t appear in Minbo.  You might know him from Departures (2008), – not The Departed as I mistakenly called it in a rush to write, an entirely different film Hong Kong or US-wise hehe ; ) – already gushed about in this blog, where he runs an undertaker business and coaches the main character in how to prepare deceased folk for burial.  They’re both brilliant in all the films. I’m going to include A Taxing Woman even if I am yet to watch it as I’m confident I’ll enjoy watching them in that as well.   The four films, as I’m including Tampopo, have other actors in common as well, playing supporting characters.

I really enjoyed Minbo and the Funeral, though in different ways.   Minbo has a strong female character standing up to the bullies that are the Yakuza, and teaching others to stand up to them (although if you ask me the final scene shows them still a little apologetic to them, so clearly there’s only so far you can go).  It also shows how the police were somewhat afraid to deal with them as well.  Ordinary cops on the beat at least as the detective and his gang had a great attitude to defeating them.   There are bound to be police that were and still are either afraid of them or colluding with them.

The Funeral shows that funeral procedures are the same in many countries in the ways people deal with them, personally at least.  In this one, the couple who have taken charge of organising the funeral, played by the afore-mentioned actress and actor, have to watch a How To video on how to put on a funeral, use the correct speech to funeral-goers and so on.  There is a lot of awkwardness and indecision about the funeral arrangements and family disagreeing over said arrangements, and comments on the personality of the deceased, which I’m sure many people watching would empathise with.   Uninvited guests make it yet more awkward but there is humour in the film as well.  There’s also a very brief cameo by the elderly father from Tokyo Story,  who plays the priest who appears in a Rolls Royce (another thing in common with clergy around the world – where’s your vow of poverty?).

I recommend these films without hesitation. A Taxing Woman, The Funeral and Tampopo are from the 80s but Minbo is from the early 90s (Minbo, 1992) but don’t let that put you off.  There is somewhat of a dearth of films coming from Japan at the moment but even if we were flooded with films from today’s Japan I would still watch and recommend these old favourites.