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Law enforcement in Japan

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Title: Law enforcement in Japan  
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Subject: National Police Agency (Japan), Sexuality in Japan, Outline of Japan, November 2010, In the news/Candidates/November 2010
Collection: Law Enforcement in Japan
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Law enforcement in Japan

Japanese Police logo
Aichi Prefecture Toyota Crown police car in the parking lot in the Expo 2005 Aichi Japan Before the South Korean pavilion.

Law enforcement in Japan is provided by the Prefectural Police under the oversight of the National Police Agency or NPA. The NPA is headed by the National Public Safety Commission thus ensuring that Japan's police are an apolitical body and free of direct central government executive control. They are checked by an independent judiciary and monitored by a free and active press.


  • History 1
  • National Organization 2
    • National Public Safety Commission 2.1
      • National Police Agency 2.1.1
        • Police Administration Bureau
        • Criminal Investigation Bureau
        • Traffic Bureau
        • Security Bureau
        • Regional Public Safety Bureaus
        • Police Communications Divisions
        • Imperial Guard
  • Strength 3
  • Local organization 4
    • Prefectural Police 4.1
      • Kōban 4.1.1
  • Riot police 5
  • Special police 6
    • Special judicial police officials (特別司法警察職員) 6.1
      • Cabinet Office 6.1.1
      • Ministry of Justice 6.1.2
      • Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare 6.1.3
      • Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries 6.1.4
      • Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry 6.1.5
      • Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism 6.1.6
        • Coast Guard Officer (海上保安官)
      • Ministry of Defense 6.1.7
    • Officials working for public safety, except for Special judicial police officials 6.2
      • The National Diet 6.2.1
      • Ministry of Justice 6.2.2
        • Public security intelligence officer (公安調査官)
      • Ministry of Finance 6.2.3
      • Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare 6.2.4
      • Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries 6.2.5
    • Tables 6.3
  • Special operations 7
  • Rank 8
  • Uniform 9
  • Conditions of service 10
  • Transportation 11
    • Ground 11.1
    • Aviation 11.2
    • Watercraft 11.3
  • Police-community relations 12
  • Historical secret police organizations 13
  • See also 14
  • References 15
  • External links 16


The Japanese government established a European-style civil police system in 1874, under the centralized control of the Police Bureau within the Home Ministry, to put down internal disturbances and maintain order during the Meiji Restoration. By the 1880s, the police had developed into a nationwide instrument of government control, providing support for local leaders and enforcing public morality. They acted as general civil administrators, implementing official policies and thereby facilitating unification and modernization. In rural areas especially, the police had great authority and were accorded the same mixture of fear and respect as the village head. Their increasing involvement in political affairs was one of the foundations of the authoritarian state in Japan in the first half of the twentieth century.

The centralized police system steadily acquired responsibilities, until it controlled almost all aspects of daily life, including fire prevention and mediation of labor disputes. The system regulated public health, business, factories, and construction, and it issued permits and licenses. The Peace Preservation Law of 1925 gave police the authority to arrest people for "wrong thoughts". Special Higher Police (Tokko) were created to regulate the content of motion pictures, political meetings, and election campaigns. The Imperial Japanese Army's military police (Kempeitai) and the Imperial Japanese Navy's Tokeitai, operating under their respective services and the justice and home ministries aided the civilian police in limiting proscribed political activity. After the Manchurian Incident of 1931, military police assumed greater authority, leading to friction with their civilian counterparts. After 1937 police directed business activities for the war effort, mobilized labor, and controlled transportation.

After National Public Safety Commission in the Office of the Prime Minister. The Home Ministry was abolished and replaced by the less powerful Ministry of Home Affairs, and the police were stripped of their responsibility for fire protection, public health, and other administrative duties.

When most of the occupation forces were transferred to National Police Agency.

The revised Police Law of 1954, still in effect in the 1990s, preserves some strong points of the postwar system, particularly measures ensuring civilian control and political neutrality, while allowing for increased centralization. The National Public Safety Commission system has been retained. State responsibility for maintaining public order has been clarified to include coordination of national and local efforts; centralization of police information, communications, and record keeping facilities; and national standards for training, uniforms, pay, rank, and promotion. Rural and municipal forces were abolished and integrated into prefectural forces, which handled basic police matters. Officials and inspectors in various ministries and agencies continue to exercise special police functions assigned to them in the 1947 Police Law.

National Organization

National Public Safety Commission

The mission of the National Public Safety Commission is to guarantee the neutrality of the police by insulating the force from political pressure and to ensure the maintenance of democratic methods in police administration. The commission's primary function is to supervise the National Police Agency, and it has the authority to appoint or dismiss senior police officers. The commission consists of a chairman, who holds the rank of minister of state, and five members appointed by the prime minister with the consent of both houses of the Diet. The commission operates independently of the cabinet, but liaison and coordination with it are facilitated by the chairman's being a member of that body.

National Police Agency

As the central coordinating body for the entire police system, the National Police Agency determines general standards and policies; detailed direction of operations is left to the lower echelons.[1] In a national emergency or large-scale disaster, the agency is authorized to take command of prefectural police forces. In 1989 the agency was composed of about 1,100 national civil servants, empowered to collect information and to formulate and execute national policies. The agency is headed by a commissioner general who is appointed by the National Public Safety Commission with the approval of the prime minister.[1]

The Central Office includes the Secretariat, with divisions for general operations, planning, information, finance, management, and procurement and distribution of police equipment, and five bureaus.

Police Administration Bureau

The Administration Bureau is concerned with police personnel, education, welfare, training, and unit inspections.

Criminal Investigation Bureau

The Criminal Investigation Bureau is in charge of research statistics and the investigation of nationally important and international cases. This bureau's Safety Department is responsible for crime prevention, combating juvenile delinquency, and pollution control. In addition, the Criminal Investigation Bureau surveys, formulates, and recommends legislation on firearms, explosives, food, drugs, and narcotics. The Communications Bureau supervises police communications systems.

There are also nine active field police squads 1st division: Homicide or unregistered weapons. 2nd division: Robbery or sex-related crimes. 3rd division: Controlled substances or organized crime. 4th division: Burglary, kidnapping or blackmail. 5th division: Bombs or explosives. 6th and 8th division: Rapid reaction units. 7th division: Financial crimes. 9th division: Cybercrimes. Two task-force-grouped centers include: Forensic Science Center: Forensic Section (Criminalistics Office). Forensic Biology Office (Medical Examiner Office). Fingerprint Office High-Technology Crime Prevention Center. Electronic surveillance and monitoring center Information management office

Traffic Bureau
Japanese Police Patrol Nissan Caravan in Osaka

The Traffic Bureau licenses drivers, enforces traffic safety laws, and regulates traffic. Intensive traffic safety and driver education campaigns are run at both national and prefectural levels. The bureau's Expressway Division addresses special conditions of the nation's growing system of express highways.

Security Bureau

The Security Bureau formulates and supervises the execution of security policies. It conducts research on equipment and tactics for suppressing riots and oversees and coordinates activities of the riot police. The Security Bureau is also responsible for security intelligence on foreigners and radical political groups, including investigation of violations of the Alien Registration Law and administration of the Entry and Exit Control Law. The bureau also implements security policies during national emergencies and natural disasters.

Regional Public Safety Bureaus

The National Police Agency has seven regional police bureaus, each responsible for a number of prefectures. Each is headed by a Director and they are organized similar to the Central Office. They are located in major cities of each geographic region. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department and Hokkaido Prefectural Police Headquarters are excluded from the jurisdiction of RPBs. Headed by a Director General, each RPB exercises necessary control and supervision over and provides support services to prefectural police within its jurisdiction, under the authority and orders of NPA's Commissioner General. Attached to each Regional Police Bureaus is a Regional Police School which provides police personnel with education and training required of staff officers as well as other necessary education and training.

Regional Police Bureaus locations:[2]

  • Tohoku - Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Akita, Yamagata, and Fukushima Prefectures
  • Kinki - Shiga, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Nara, and Wakayama Prefectures
  • Shikoku - Tokushima, Kagawa, Ehime, and Kochi Prefectures
  • Kanto - Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Niigata, Yamanashi, Nagano, and Shizuoka Prefectures
  • Chubu - Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, Gifu, Aichi, and Mie Prefectures
  • Kyushu - Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita, Miyazaki, Kagoshima, and Okinawa Prefectures
  • Chugoku - Tottori, Shimane, Okayama, Hiroshima, and Yamaguchi Prefectures
Police Communications Divisions

Metropolitan Tokyo and the island of Hokkaidō are excluded from the regional jurisdictions and are run more autonomously than other local forces, in the case of Tokyo, because of its special urban situation, and of Hokkaidō, because of its distinctive geography. The National Police Agency maintains police communications divisions in these two areas to handle any coordination needed between national and local forces.

Imperial Guard

See article: Imperial Guard (Japan)

In 1947 the Imperial Police Headquarters (皇宮警察本部 Kōgū-Keisatsu Honbu) was created under the control of the Home Ministry from the Imperial Household Ministry. It came under the aegis of the National Police Agency of Japan in 1957. It provides personal security for the Emperor, Crown Prince and other members of the Imperial Family of Japan, as well as protection of imperial properties, including the Tokyo Imperial Palace, Kyoto Imperial Palace, Katsura Imperial Villa, Shugakuin Imperial Villa (both in Kyoto), Shosoin Imperial Repository in Nara and the imperial villas as Hayama, Kanagawa and Nasu, Tochigi.


As of 2010, the total strength reached approximately 291,475 personnel.[2] The NPA total is about 7,709 with 1,969 police officers, 901 Imperial guards and 4,839 civilians.[2] The Prefectural police total is about 283,766 with 255,156 police officers and 28,610 civilians.[2]

Nationwide, there are about 14,900 female police officers and about 11,800 female civilians.[2]

Local organization

Tokyo Metropolitan Police Office in Kasumigaseki

There are some 289,000 police officers nationwide, about 97 percent of whom were affiliated with local police forces. Local forces include:[2]

These forces have limited authority to initiate police actions. Their most important activities are regulated by the National Police Agency, which provides funds for equipment, salaries, riot control, escort, and natural disaster duties, and for internal security and multiple jurisdiction cases. National police statutes and regulations establish the strength and rank allocations of all local personnel and the locations of local police stations. Prefectural police finance and control the patrol officer on the beat, traffic control, criminal investigations, and other daily operations.

Prefectural Police

Each prefectural police headquarters contains administrative divisions corresponding to those of the bureaus of the National Police Agency. Headquarters are staffed by specialists in basic police functions and administration and are commanded by an officer appointed by the local office of the National Public Safety Commission. Most arrests and investigations are performed by prefectural police officials (and, in large jurisdictions, by police assigned to substations), who are assigned to one or more central locations within the prefecture. Experienced officers are organized into functional bureaus and handle all but the most ordinary problems in their fields.


Officer providing assistance at a police station in Hiroshima, near Hondori

Kōbans are substations near major transportation hubs and shopping areas and in residential districts. They form the first line of police response to the public. The Koban system is composed of about 6500 police boxes (Koban) and about 7600 residential police boxes (Chuzaisho).[3] Koban are staffed by a relatively small number of police officers (usually 3-5 officers); a Chuzaisho is usually staffed by a single officer. About 20 percent of the total police force's officers are assigned to koban. Staffed by officers working in eight-hour shifts, they serve as a base for foot patrols and usually have both sleeping and eating facilities for officers on duty but not on watch. In rural areas, residential offices usually are staffed by one police officer who resides in adjacent family quarters. These officers endeavor to become a part of the community, and their families often aid in performing official tasks.

Vigilance at the Koban and Chuzaisho is maintained by standing watch in front or sitting watch inside, enabling police officers to respond immediately to any incident. While keeping a constant watch, they perform a myriad of routine tasks, such as receiving crime reports from citizens, handling lost and found articles, counseling citizens in trouble and giving directions.

Outside their Koban and Chuzaisho, police officers patrol their beats either on foot, by bicycle or by car. While on patrol, they gain a precise knowledge of the topography and terrain of the area, question suspicious-looking persons, provide traffic guidance and enforcement, instruct juveniles, rescue the injured, warn citizens of imminent dangers and protect lost children and those under the influence or intoxicated.

Radio-equipped patrol cars are deployed at each PPH, police station, Koban and Chuzaisho. Police officers use them for routine patrol and rapid response. These cars remain in constant radio contact with their police station and the communications command center of the PPH. When an emergency is reported, this rapid response capability plays a major role in the quick resolution of such incidents.[4]

Officers assigned to koban have intimate knowledge of their jurisdictions. One of their primary tasks is to conduct twice-yearly house-by-house residential surveys of homes in their areas, at which time the head of the household at each address fills out a residence information card detailing the names, ages, occupations, business addresses, and vehicle registration numbers of household occupants and the names of relatives living elsewhere. Police take special note of names of the aged or those living alone who might need special attention in an emergency. They conduct surveys of local businesses and record employee names and addresses, in addition to such data as which establishments stay open late and which employees might be expected to work late. Participation in the survey is voluntary, and most citizens cooperate, but an increasing segment of the population has come to regard the surveys as invasions of privacy.

Information elicited through the surveys is not centralized but is stored in each police box, where it is used primarily as an aid to locating people. When a crime occurs or an investigation is under way, however, these files are invaluable in establishing background data for a case. Specialists from district police stations spend considerable time culling through the usually poorly filed data maintained in the police boxes.

Riot police

Japanese riot police in Hibiya.

Within their security divisions, each prefecture level police department and the Tokyo police maintain Kidotai, special riot units. These units were formed after riots at the Imperial Palace in 1952, to respond quickly and effectively to large public disturbances. They are also used in crowd control during festival periods, at times of natural disaster, and to reinforce regular police when necessary. Full-time riot police can also be augmented by regular police trained in riot duties. Currently, there are 10,000 in the whole riot force.

In handling demonstrations and violent disturbances, riot units are deployed en masse, military style. It is common practice for files of riot police to line streets through which demonstrations pass. If demonstrators grow disorderly or deviate from officially sanctioned areas, riot police stand shoulder-to-shoulder, sometimes three and four deep, to push with their hands to control the crowds. Individual action is forbidden. Three-person units sometimes perform reconnaissance duties, but more often operations are carried out by squads of nine to eleven, platoons of twenty-seven to thirty-three, and companies of eighty to one hundred. Front ranks are trained to open to allow passage of special squads to rescue captured police or to engage in tear gas assaults. Each person wears a radio with an earpiece to hear commands given simultaneously to the formation.

The riot police are committed to using disciplined, nonlethal force and do not carry firearms while engaged in riot control duties. They are trained to take pride in their poise under stress. Demonstrators also are usually restrained. Police brutality is rarely an issue. When excesses occur, the perpetrator is disciplined and sometimes transferred from the force if considered unable to keep his temper.

Extensive experience in quelling violent disorders led to the development of special uniforms and equipment for the riot police units. Riot dress consists of a field-type jacket, which covered several pieces of body armor and includes a corselet hung from the waist, an aluminum plate down the spine, and shoulder pads. Armored gauntlets cover the hands and forearms. Helmets have faceplates and flared padded skirts down the back to protect the neck. In case of violence, the front ranks carry 1.2-meter shields to protect against stave and rocks and hold nets on high poles to catch flying objects. Specially designed equipment includes water cannons, armored vans, and mobile tunnels for protected entry into seized buildings.

Because riot police duties require special group action, units are maintained in virtually self-sufficient compounds and trained to work as a coordinated force. The overwhelming majority of officers are bachelors who live in dormitories within riot police compounds. Training is constant and focuses on physical conditioning, mock battles, and tactical problems. A military atmosphere prevails—dress codes, behavior standards, and rank differentiations are more strictly adhered to than in the regular police. Esprit de corps is inculcated with regular ceremonies and institutionalization of rituals such as applauding personnel dispatched to or returning from assignments and formally welcoming senior officers to the mess hall at all meals.

Riot duty is not popular because it entails special sacrifices and much boredom in between irregularly spaced actions. Although many police are assigned riot duty, only a few are volunteers. For many personnel, riot duty serves as a stepping stone because of its reputation and the opportunities it presents to study for the advanced police examinations necessary for promotion. Because riot duties demands physical fitness—the armored uniform weighed 6.6 kilograms—most personnel are young, often serving in the units after an initial assignment in a koban.

Special police

In addition to regular police officers, there are several thousand officials attached to various agencies who perform special duties relating to public safety. They are responsible for such matters as forest preservation, narcotics control, fishery inspection, and enforcement of regulations on maritime, labor, and mine safety.

Special judicial police officials (特別司法警察職員)

Cabinet Office

Ministry of Justice

  • Prison guard (刑務官)

Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare

  • Narcotics agent (麻薬取締官)
  • Labor Standards Inspector (労働基準監督官)

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

  • Authorized Fisheries Supervisor (漁業監督官)
  • Officers of Regional Forest Office, under Forestry Agency (林野庁森林管理局職員)

Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry

  • (鉱務監督官)

Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism

Coast Guard Officer (海上保安官)

The largest and most important of these ministry-supervised public safety agencies is the Japan Coast Guard, an external agency of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport that deals with crime in coastal waters and maintains facilities for safeguarding navigation. The agency operates a fleet of patrol and rescue craft in addition to a few aircraft used primarily for anti-smuggling patrols and rescue activities. In 1990 there were 2,846 incidents in and on the waters. In those incidents, 1,479 people drowned or were lost and 1,347 people were rescued.

  • (船員労務官)

Ministry of Defense

  • Military police officer (警務官)

Officials working for public safety, except for Special judicial police officials

There are other officers having limited public safety functions.

The National Diet

  • Diet guard (衛視)

Ministry of Justice

  • Immigration control officer (入国警備官)
  • Immigration inspector (入国審査官)
Public security intelligence officer (公安調査官)

They handle national security matters both inside and outside the country. Its activities are not generally known to the public.

  • Public prosecutor (検察官)
  • Public prosecutor's assistant officer (検察事務官)

Ministry of Finance

Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare

  • Quarantine Officer (検疫官)

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

  • Animal Quarantine Officers (家畜防疫官)
  • Plant Protection Officer (植物防疫官)


Officers working for public safety
Officer are Special judicial police officials (特別司法警察職員) can arrest suspects with arrest warrant can carry firearms Salary schedule which is applied
Imperial guard (皇宮護衛官) Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Public Security Service
Prison guard (刑務官) Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Public Security Service
Narcotics agent (麻薬取締官) Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Administrative Service
Labor Standards Inspector (労働基準監督官) Green tickY Green tickY Red XN Administrative Service
Authorized Fisheries Supervisor (漁業監督官) Green tickY Green tickY Red XN Administrative Service
Coast Guard Officer (海上保安官) Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Public Security Service
Military police officer (警務官) Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Officials of Ministry of Defense
Diet guard (衛視) Red XN Red XN Red XN (議院警察職)
Immigration control officer (入国警備官) Red XN Red XN Green tickY Public Security Service
Immigration inspector (入国審査官) Red XN Red XN Green tickY Administrative Service
Public security intelligence officer (公安調査官) Red XN Red XN Red XN Public Security Service
Public prosecutor (検察官) Red XN Green tickY Red XN Public Prosecutor
Public prosecutor's assistant officer (検察事務官) Red XN Green tickY Red XN Public Security Service
Customs official (税関職員) Red XN Red XN Green tickY Administrative Service
cf.) Police officer (judicial police official) Green tickY Green tickY Public Security Service

Special operations

The National Police Agency has a counter-terrorist unit known as the Special Assault Team, operating under police control.[5]

A small number of anti-riot-trained police officers had been trained to handle incidents that can not be dealt with by regular police and riot police officers, but can operate independently or with SAT cooperation. These units include the Special Investigations Team of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, the Osaka Police's Martial Arts Attack Team and the Chiba Police's Attack Response Team.


Police officers are divided into nine ranks:[6]

Commissioner General (Japanese: 警察庁長官 Keisatsu-chō Chōkan): The Chief of National Police Agency. The rank outside. 1 capacity.
  • Superintendent General (警視総監 Keishi-sōkan): The Chief of Metropolitan Police Department. 1 capacity.
  • Superintendent Supervisor (警視監 Keishi-kan): Deputy Commissioner General, Deputy Superintendent General, The Chief of Regional Police Bureau, The Chief of Prefectural Police Headquarters, others. 38 capacity.
  • Chief Superintendent (警視長 Keishi-chō): The Chief of Prefectural Police Headquarters.
  • Senior Superintendent (警視正 Keishi-sei): The Chief of Police Station(large). More than this rank, all police officer join to National Police Agency.
  • Superintendent (警視 Keishi): The Chief of Police Station(small or middle), The Vice Commanding Officer of Police Station, Commander of Riot Unit.
  • Police Inspector or Captain (警部 Keibu): Squad Commander of Police Station, Leader of Riot Company.
  • Assistant Police Inspector or Lieutenant (警部補 Keibu-ho):Squad Sub-Commander of Police Station, Leader of Riot Platoon. National Police Officer 1st class's career start from this rank.
  • Police Sergeant (巡査部長 Junsa-buchō):Field supervisor, Leader of Police box. National Police Officer 2nd class's career start from this rank.
Senior Police Officer or Corporal (巡査長 Junsa-chō): Honorary rank of Police Officer.

The NPA Commissioner General holds the highest position of the Japanese police.[7] His title is not a rank, but rather denotes his position as head of the NPA. On the other hand, the MPD Superintendent General represents not only the highest rank in the system but also assignment as head of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.[7]


For much of the twentieth century up to the mid-1990s, police officers wore a formal work uniform consisting of a tunic or Ike jacket with polished silver buttons, and trousers with a sewn in truncheon pocket. No stab vest was worn and much less equipment was carried than is today. Following concerns about the police uniforms safety it was suggested that the uniform should be changed.

From the 1990s it was generally accepted that the police could patrol in "shirt-sleeve order" which meant that they need not wear the jacket, as its widespread use was hampering in some situations. The NPA, in agreement with the government and on the cooperation of the Prefecture Chiefs of Police, changed the uniform from the business attire with no protection of the torso, to a uniform of button down shirt with trousers, stab vest, duty belt, and jacket when needed.

Although there are minor variations in the styling, pattern and insignia, the police forces all wear very similar uniforms. In general, these have taken their lead from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, due to it being the largest police service in Japan. The base color is a dark blue or a frosted grey for summer wear.

Female officers' uniforms have gone through a great variety of styles, as they have tended to reflect the women's fashions of the time. Tunic style, skirt length and headgear have varied by period and force. By the late 1980s, the female working uniform was virtually identical to male, except for headgear and sometimes neckwear.

Formal uniform comprises an open-necked tunic (with or without an attached belt, depending on the force and rank of the Officer) and trousers or skirt, worn with a white or light blue shirt and black tie (usually clip-on, so it cannot be used to strangle the wearer).

The normal working dress retains the shirt and trousers. In some forces short sleeved shirts may be worn open-necked. Long sleeved shirts must always be worn with a tie, worn with or without a jersey or fleece. If a jersey, fleece or jacket is worn over a short sleeved shirt, then a tie must be worn.

Today, female officers almost never wear a skirt in working dress, and frequently wear trousers in formal dress as well. Officers also frequently wear reflective waterproof jackets, which have replaced the old greatcoats and cloaks traditionally worn in inclement weather. Most officers now wear stab vests, a type of body armour, when on duty.

Basic headgear is a peaked cap for men, and a soft round bowler hat for women. Traffic officers wear white cap covers or caps.

Most Japanese police wear white gloves while they are on duty. Some also wear white pistol belts, lanyards, helmets, boot laces or leggings.

Conditions of service

Education is highly stressed in police recruitment and promotion. Entrance to the force is determined by examinations administered by each prefecture. Examinees are divided into two groups: upper-secondary-school graduates and university graduates. Recruits underwent rigorous training—one year for upper-secondary school graduates and six months for university graduates—at the residential police academy attached to the prefectural headquarters. On completion of basic training, most police officers are assigned to local police boxes called Kobans. Promotion is achieved by examination and requires further course work. In-service training provides mandatory continuing education in more than 100 fields. Police officers with upper-secondary school diplomas are eligible to take the examination for sergeant after three years of on-the-job experience. University graduates can take the examination after only one year. University graduates are also eligible to take the examination for assistant police inspector, police inspector, and superintendent after shorter periods than upper-secondary school graduates. There are usually five to fifteen examinees for each opening.

About fifteen officers per year pass advanced civil service examinations and are admitted as senior officers. Officers are groomed for administrative positions, and, although some rise through the ranks to become senior administrators, most such positions are held by specially recruited senior executives.

The police forces are subject to external oversight. Although officials of the National Public Safety Commission generally defer to police decisions and rarely exercise their powers to check police actions or operations, police are liable for civil and criminal prosecution, and the media actively publicizes police misdeeds. The Human Rights Bureau of the Ministry of Justice solicits and investigates complaints against public officials, including police, and prefectural legislatures could summon police chiefs for questioning. Social sanctions and peer pressure also constrain police behavior. As in other occupational groups in Japan, police officers develop an allegiance to their own group and a reluctance to offend its principles.



In Japan, there are about 40,000 police vehicles nationwide with the average patrol cruisers being Toyota Crowns and Nissan Crews and similar large sedans, although small compact and micro cars are used by rural police boxes and in city centers where they are much more maneuverable. Pursuit vehicles depend on prefectures with the Honda NSX, Subaru Impreza, Subaru Legacy, Mitsubishi Lancer, Nissan Skyline, Mazda RX-7, and Nissan Fairlady Z are all used in various prefectures for highway patrols and pursuit uses.

With the exception of unmarked traffic enforcement vehicles, all Japanese police forces are painted and marked in the same ways. Japanese police vehicles are painted black and white with the upper parts of the vehicle painted white. Motorcycles are usually all white and riot control and rescue vehicles are painted a steel blue.


Helicopters are extensively used for traffic control surveillance, pursuit of suspects, rescue and disaster relief. Total of 80 small and medium-sized helicopters are being operated in 47 prefectures nationwide.


Japanese police boats are deployed to major ports, remote islands and lakes, where they are used for water patrol and control of illegal immigration, smuggling and poaching. Ranging from five to 23 meters long, there are about 190 police boats nationwide.

Police-community relations

Despite legal limits on police jurisdiction, many citizens retain their views of the police as authority figures to whom they can turn for aid. The public often seeks police assistance to settle family quarrels, counsel juveniles, and mediate minor disputes. Citizens regularly consult police for directions to hotels and residences—an invaluable service in cities where streets are often unnamed and buildings are numbered in the order in which they have been built rather than consecutively. Police are encouraged by their superiors to view these tasks as answering the public's demands for service and as inspiring community confidence in the police. Public attitudes toward the police are generally favorable, although a series of incidents of forced confessions in the late 1980s raised some concern about police treatment of suspects held for pretrial detention.

Historical secret police organizations

See also


  1. ^ a b "Interpol Japan Page". Interpol. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Public Safety Commission System and Police Activity Support". Japanese National Police Agency. Archived from the original on 2012-02-15. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  3. ^ "Japanese Community Police and Police Box System". Japanese National Police Agency. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  4. ^ C.D. Alexander Evans (2011-05-11). "What Keeps the Japanese People Together". Dissent Magazine. Archived from the original on 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  5. ^ "Chapter IV. Maintenance of Public Safety and Disaster Countermeasures".  
  6. ^ "Metropolitan Police Department Organization Chart". Tokyo Metropolitan Police. Archived from the original on 2012-02-15. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  7. ^ a b "Description of the Japanese Police Organization". Archived from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  • Reference to Kidotai force: [1]
  • Yoshino, Jun. (2004). "Law Enforcement in the Edo Period". In: Japan Echo, vol. 31 n. 3, June 2004. p. 59-62.

External links

  • NPA Official Site (Japanese)
  • NPA Official Site (English)
  • Imperial Guard Headquarters

Regional Bureaus

  • Kanto Regional Police Bureau
  • Chubu Regional Police Bureau
  • Kinki Regional Police Bureau
  • Chugoku Regional Police Bureau
  • Shikoku Regional Police Bureau
  • Kyushu Regional Police Bureau

Police communications Bureaus

  • Hokkaido
  • Tokyo


  • Pictures
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