From: Masaaki Ishida <email@example.com>
Subject: Gun regulation in Japan
Date: 23 Aug 1995 20:18:06 -0400
Organization: Schlumberger Technologies, ATE division, San Jose, Ca.
Since I got a question about gun ownership, I present this article.
Sorry for my poor written English.
I'm glad other people posts similar information about their nation's gun
How to Own Guns in Japan
In Japan there are many people who believe that Japanese shooters at Olympics
are policemen or soldiers of Self-Defense Force. Some other people believe
that Japanese citizen cannot own guns and people who enjoy shooting have to
rent guns at shooting range, and some other people believes that legal
gun owners must keep guns in lockers assigned for them at shooting ranges.
So, I decided to write short introductory article about gun ownership in Japan.
In Japan, the kind of guns owned by civilian are as follows.
Air Pistol (limited to 500 people for sports shooting only)
Pistol (limited to 50 people for sport shooting only)
The purpose to own guns is limited to two, i.e., hunting or sports shooting.
It means we cannot own guns for defense purpose.
The procedure to own the gun is as follows.
Of course, people who use guns in their work (policemen, soldiers, etc.)
don't have to follow the following step for guns used in the job.
The terminology about 'air gun', 'air rifle' follow Japanese custom.
Participation in a lecture at nearby police station
This is a requisite condition for anyone who tries to own gun.
You go to the police station which is responsible for your address area, and
apply for the lecture on gun regulation for beginners. In case of Tokyo,
entire districts are divided into four blocks, and the actual place to have
the lecture is one police station in the block.
The lecture for beginner is held once in a month, I think.
The lecture starts at 9:00 in Saturday morning, and written examination
follows after lunch. To 20 questions, you have to give at least 14
correct answers. When I had this lecture, two or three people did not
pass among 32 or 33 attendance. This performance was high because usually
80 % of attendants pass the examination. After passing the examination,
a certificate is given and its copy must be submitted whenever you do some
application afterwards. The certificate is valid three years. It means,
after the valid date of the certification, you have to attend a lecture
for gun owners to get the new certificate. This time, no examination is
Air rifle, hand rifle, and shot gun
Once you get the certificate of the gun regulation lecture, there are two
different paths depending on what you want to own. Note that you cannot
apply for usual rifles nor pistols at this stage. To own them, you need
A. Air rifle or hand rifle.
People who are not familiar with gun confuses air rifle from
'air soft gun' (or simply 'air gun') which uses plastic bullet and
whose barrel does not have rifling.
In fact, recently it was reported on TV that some members of AUM camped
near by Mt. Fuji and did some military training using 'air rifle' of
AK 47. This report was not correct. What they used must be air soft
gun shaped like AK 47 or model gun of AK 47.
Hand rifle is unique to Japan. It is actually air pistol, but long
sleeve covers the barrel, and long stock is attached to the grip.
In Japan, ownership of pistol (air or not) is restricted because of
their small size which enables covered transportation. Therefore,
hand rifle was introduced for people who plan to own air hand gun
If you want to own air rifle or hand rifle, you can go to a gun shop
with certificate to show to clerks, determine which gun to buy, ask
clerks to write a paper which describe the detail of the gun, and name of
the shop. When you buy a gun not from a shop but from a current owner,
the same paper is needed.
You must be at least 18 years old, or, you need to be over 14
years old and have recommendatory letter from an organization which
governs all official sports organizations.
B. Shot gun.
Prior to go to gun shop, you have to take practical shooting course,
followed by examination. To apply for it, you have to submit a lot
of papers to the police, and it takes a few months until you get the
approval because you and your family who live together are examined.
After the approval, you have the course at a shooting range and pass
it (it is quite easy). Then, you go to a gun shop, determine the gun
to buy, and ask clerks to write the paper.
You need to be at least 20 years old.
After applying for any gun, usually it takes about one month until you get
permission. When you get notification from the police about permission,
you go to the police station to receive license booklet, take it to the
gun shop and receive the gun. Then within two weeks, you have to go to
the police station again with the gun to have it inspected and stumped on
SB - Small Bore rifle (0.22 caliber, rim-fire)
Since using of 0.22 caliber rifle (both rim-fire and center-fire) for
hunting is prohibited in Japan (probably small animals suitable as targets
of 0.22 caliber live not far from where people live), the only permitted
purpose to own it is for rifle shooting sports. The step to own Small Bore
(rim-fire) rifle is as follows.
A. Become a member of a branch of National Rifle Association of
Japan, then become a member of N.R.A.J. itself.
I my case, I became a member of Setagaya (one district in Tokyo) area
at first, which means automatic membership of Tokyo branch of N.R.A.J,
then had to wait one year until I was allowed become a member of N.R.A.J
it self. But this term differs with branches.
If you want to just enjoy air rifle, and have no interest in participating
in national wide shooting meet, to stay just as Tokyo branch's member
saves membership fee.
B. Participate in a few hour's lecture by N.R.A.J., and get certification.
C. Participate in at least two shooting meet per year before you apply for
D. Get certification of skill of shooting.
In case of shooting in Standing position, the score of criteria is
300 for S60, and 200 for S40. It is quite easy.
E. By satisfying above A,B,C,D, then you can apply for SB to N.R.A.J.
What you get if you pass the examination is recommendatory letter that
you are suitable for shooter of N.R.A.J., and have potential to become
a shooter for higher level competitions like Olympic.
F. Submit above letter as well as many other papers to the police station.
Like the case of shot gun, it takes a new months until the police
issues a permission to take shooting course in practice.
G. Take a practical shooting course at a shooting range, and get a
H. Apply for a gun to buy.
LB - Large Bore rifles (center-fire)
There are two purposes you can use LB, one is sports shooting under
control of N.R.A.J., and the other is hunting.
A. For rifle shooting as sports, the requisite to apply for it are
a. It is over one year since you have owned a SB.
b. You have already participated in 2 shooting meet per year with SB.
You apply for recommendatory letter to N.R.A.J., and follow the similar
steps (without practice course in a shooting range) as SB.
It looks only bolt action rifles can be allowed.
B. For hunting purpose, you must have continuous 10 years' history to
have own shot gun or SB. You simply apply for a gun to the police
The requisite condition to apply for air pistol is almost the same
as SB except that certification of more skill in shooting is
required (in case of AR S60, score of over 510).
Since the number of owners of air pistol is limited up to 500,
you usually wait one year or more (it means you wait someone
fails to update the license) until you get recommendatory letter.
After getting recommendatory letter from N.R.A.J, follow the same
procedure as other kinds of guns to apply for the license.
To apply for pistol, you need quite excellent skill of air pistol
(in case of AP60, score of over 555) to apply for pistol.
This time, the number of people is limited to 50, but because of
so hard criteria, I heard two years ago that only 30 people owned it.
Permission for ammunition
Anybody can buy bullets for air rifle, hand rifle, and air pistol without
restraint. For ammunition which contains powder, you have to get
another paper from the police.
On the permission paper, based on which kind of guns you have, the kind
of ammunition gun shops can sell to the owner of guns are listed as well
as total maximum amount. This paper is valid for one year, and, if my
memory is correct, the maximum number of ammunition the police allow to
a paper is 4,000.
Because of the law, the maximum number of ammunition you can keep
at home is limited to 800, and you must keep them in a specially designed
locker which is different from gun locker.
Updating the license
The license of gun is a booklet like passport.
Your name, photograph, address, birth date, license booklet No. and its
issue date, etc. are in the first page.
Then pages for up to 12 guns follow (so, if you own more than 12 guns,
you have several license booklets).
In the last page, there is a holder to insert the permission paper to buy
The license for each gun is valid three years (more correctly, until
the third birthday after you get the license).
It means, if you have three guns which you owned in three continuous years,
you have to update the license of different gun every year. If you have
three guns owned in the same year or owned in interval of multiple of three
years, you can update them in the same year. Here, 'year' means not
calendar year, but a interval between two birthdays of the owner, i.e.,
if you buy two guns, one a day before the birthday and the other one day
after the birth day, their licenses are updated in the different years.
To keep the license, following things must be cleared.
A. Requisite to update license.
There's no condition to update the license of air rifle, hand rifle,
and shot gun. But if you have not used them in the past three years,
license can not be updated.
To update the license of SB and LB, you have to show stump you got
at rifle shooting meets. Though one of conditions that N.R.A.J.
issues recommendatory letter for SB and LB is that owner should
participates at least two formal shooting meets per year for EACH gun,
in realty, it is not checked by the police strictly.
To update license of air-pistol or pistol, it is strictly examined
whether you participated in enough number of shooting meets, and score
at them were enough to qualify the ownership.
B. Annual gun inspection.
Usually in spring, there's a day of annual gun inspection (the date
differs with police stations). You bring not only all guns but also
a paper to report the number of times you used gun (for practice,
shooting meet, hunting) as well as the number of bullets you consumed.
C. Certification of a lecture which is valid at the time of update.
To update of the license, valid certificate of gun regulation lecture is
necessary. It means you have to attend the lecture every three years.
A. There are many kinds of papers which you submit to the police at
various opportunities. The following is a list of them (not all of
them are needed every time).
o Application for ownership
o Application for license update
o Application to buy ammunition
o Paper to return expired paper to buy ammunition
o Signed paper that gun shop or ex-owner agrees to sell a gun to you,
which contains detailed description of the gun
o List of your family who live with you
o Abstract of your family register
o Past 10 years' record of your address, job, crime, and guns
you ever own
o Doctor's certification that you are not a user of drugs, and
satisfies some other physical conditions.
o Certification of gun lecture (for beginners, or for owners)
o Certification of practice course at a shooting range
B. If you have some crime history, using knife or guns, you cannot
apply for gun ownership for some amount of years.
Also, if you live with dangerous people, like member of Yakuza,
it may happen application is rejected.
C. In Japan, most policemen are transferred every several years to avoid
their adhesion with residents. In case of a policeman who is
in charge of handling gun ownership, he is transferred every two years.
D. Because only one policeman works for gun ownership in each police
station, I experienced several times that he was absent for criminal
investigation. What I do when I have some business about gun ownership
is to call him in the morning to check his convenient time, then
go to the police station. So, it is often necessary to take
annual leave of a day or half just to submit papers.
I hope some reformation about this inconvenience.
E. The most popular accident caused by legal gun owner is to shoot the
colleague mistakenly at hunting.
In total, 10 to 20 accidents on legally owned guns happen every year.
N.R.A.J is proud of its record of no accident at shooting meets.
F. The number of owners of shot gun and air rifle are, if my memory is
correct, around 35,000 respectively, whereas owners of rifles are 1/10
G. Guns must be kept in your house in a specially designed locker.
One exception is pistol (not air pistol) which must be kept in a locker
of the nearby police station.
You must keep key of the locker in a secret place (your family should not
know it), and even if policemen comes to your home for inspection,
only owner should show guns.
He can reject to show guns if policemen come without prior notification.
It is to avoid an incident that guns are stolen by 'false police'.
H. To do hunting, you need another license for it.
Issuing of hunting license is under control of Governor of each
The first course for beginners is followed by written examination
follows like that for gun ownership. License is valid for 3 years.
I. When you apply for a gun, you specify its purpose (target shooting, or
hunting). You cannot use a gun for hunting if its purpose in the
gun's license is "target shooting".