In Japan, what buildings are illegal to take pictures of?


  • Building only. Zero humans on the picture.
  • Taken from public street only. No entering private property/shops/transportation or similar.

Context: Loving architecture I always take tons of pictures when walking in the street, and sometimes get scolded by security guards. When talking with them they sometimes claim that some laws ban taking pictures of the building they protect, but without being able to tell me what law in particular.

enter image description here

  • Done, in peer review.
    – Flup
    Jun 19, 2015 at 9:35

2 Answers 2


You can take pictures of any buildings if you are in a public place, and can freely use such photographs without consent of a owner or designer of that building. [Japan Copyright Act, art. 46]

BTW, external appearance of buildings in U.S. Armed Forces facilities are NOT confidential under US-Japan Security Treaty and related statutes enacted in Japan.

  • 1
    Do you have a law text explaining this (preferably in Japanese) that I could show to the next security guard who prevents me from taking pictures? The last one I talked with said he would call the police and they would put me in jail. Also, last week I was walking with a tourist friend and that friend tried to take a picture of an embassy, and a nearby police officer (real Japanese police, not security guards) shouted "No picture!". So an official document would help. Oct 26, 2015 at 3:55
  • Check out this article president.jp/articles/-/2180
    – Hijiri
    Oct 27, 2015 at 4:22
  • This article indeed says "撮影禁止の施設であっても、公道からの撮影であれば、プライバシー侵害など別の問題が生じない限り、法律上許される。" ("Even if photography is restricted on the property, shooting from a public road is legal as long as there are no privacy concerns"). But the article's title contains "著作権" (copyright), so I think the article only focusses on copyright/publicity, I also think it focusses on shrines/temples/etc without considering rare cases like military bases and embassies. Oct 27, 2015 at 5:51
  • The article mentions not only copyright but also other legal issues (e.g., trespass action, general tortious under the Civil Code, rights of publicity). The sentence you quoted is saying "法律上許される" (allowed under laws)" -- this means any laws, including but not limited the Copyright Act.
    – Hijiri
    Oct 27, 2015 at 13:38

At least, US military bases and affiliated facilities in Japan are illegal to photograph. Here's the Mutual Cooperation and Security Treaty under Article VI Facilities and Areas and the Special Criminal Act Attendant upon the Enforcement of the Agreement Regarding the Status of United States Armed Forces in Japan:




Basically, violating the "confidentiality" (機密) of a US Army base by providing "documents, diagrams, etc" with a "purpose" of harming the Army is punishable by up to ten years in prison.

I got scolded by security guards in front of non-US buildings, so I guess this is only a partial answer. Other answers for other types of buildings are very welcome.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .