Photography Privacy Laws in Japan

Beautiful Asian Woman Photographing

(Photo credit:

Until my husband mentioned that filming people in Japan without their permission is illegal, I had never even considered that the privacy laws here might be different.

I went searching for information on the internet and found an excellent write up by an anthropology professor in Osaka regarding this very issue and providing guidelines based on what legal precedents he has found as well as comments from photographers and photo-journalists working in Japan.

It seems that in Japan you can be sued by a person in one of your photos who has been harmed in some way by the depiction, for example if they were photographed in such a way that it harmed their reputation, and that it is likely the case will be found in favour of the victim and damages can be quite high. Many of the photographers questioned in the article posted their work on English language sites or in foreign newspapers so the chance of damage was greatly lessened.

My overall sense from reading the 7 articles was that this is an ambiguous area, not as safe as America/UK where photographing people in a public sphere is fine; but not exactly illegal, though it could be characterised as damaging in court. Is it better to be safe than sorry, or hope that people viewing themselves in a film or photograph don’t decide they want to sue?


Could all these people sue? (Photo credit: loiclemeur)



9 thoughts on “Photography Privacy Laws in Japan

  1. I always wondered why you weren’t able to turn off the camera sound from the iPhone… This is probably way.


  2. I’ve been inspired recently by some great street photographers and am always amazed by their courage. I just can’t get myself to take photos of people while walking around the streets of London, and yet I absolutely love some of the candid, paparazzi photos that I see of commuters on the London Underground. Interesting post.


  3. I never knew of anything like this. It is very helpful for me (and probably others who are going to take pictures during our language trip to Tokyo) and hopefully I can get some pictures without anyone suing me!


  4. Very interesting. I have noticed that many Japanese people are careful to cover or obscure their face in any picture that will appear on the internet. In that cultural context, it is easy to believe that some would object to being filmed.


    • Yes. You’ve probably noticed the TV shows always blur out the faces of people in the background too. I’ve been told 祭り and public events like yosakoi are generally fine to photograph – however prevents most other street photography.


    • Yes, I was surprised too. I think in general it’s ok to photograph participants at festivals and I’ve found that many people don’t mind having their photo taken when you ask (shashin totte ii desuka?).


  5. Pingback: Drunk-Shaming Campaign Might Get People Sued In Japan | Kotaku Australia

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