Contact with the outside world

All prisoners have the right to receive visits


Visiting a detained person requires notifying the institution and completing certain documents.
In practice, access to the prison is not systematically denied to visitors who arrive without warning. Their request is examined upon arrival at the site by a prison officer.

/ Japan Federation of Bar Associations, “Information for Prison Inmates”, p.18.

People eligible to visit


If a visitor has a long-standing relationship with the prisoner (friend, family, acquaintance, former teacher, colleague, etc.) he or she will generally be allowed to see the prisoner.

Meetings usually take place in a meeting room with transparent partitions separating prisoners from visitors and prohibiting physical contact. Prison guards attend the visits if deemed necessary “for the maintenance of discipline and order in the penal institution or adequate pursuance of correctional treatment of a sentenced person, or for any other reasons” (Article 112 of Act on Penal Detention Facilities and Treatment of Inmates and Detainees). Unfortunately, this supervision tends to be the rule rather than the exception.
The number of visits for each prisoner is determined based on their ‘privilege level’. Level 4 prisoners (lowest level, most restricted) are allowed to receive two visits per month, Level 3 prisoners three visits per month, Level 2 prisoners five visits per month and Level 1 prisoners can receive visitors seven times a month.
Prison officials control the length of each visit, which are by law, no less than five minutes and no more than 30 minutes.

Prisoners and visitors can meet without physical barriers


Some prisons have meeting rooms without partitions for visitors, but such rooms are seldom used.

Prisoners are allowed to receive visits from their children or minor relatives


It is hard for children to visit their mothers in detention, with only limited visits available.

Conjugal visits are allowed


Prisoners are allowed to exchange mail

yes, under certain conditions

There are limitations on the number of letters prisoners can write, but no limit on the number of letters they may receive. Prisoners are generally allowed to write to and meet with only their family, their lawyer and the embassy representatives (for foreigners). Prisoners who cannot write in English or Japanese may find no censor is available and thus cannot send letters. Prisoners must pay for all postage and stationary; lacking funds, they cannot write letters.

Mail exchanged is subject to control


Almost all mail is censored, even mail addressed to the Bar Association or attorneys.

Prisoners are allowed to exchange mail in sealed envelopes

in some cases

Prisoners are allowed to receive parcels


Convicted prisoners can receive books, magazines, photographs and money. All other products must be purchased at the prison shop.

Prisoners are allowed to make external phone calls


It is extremely unusual for people detained in Japan to be allowed to make telephone calls. Sentenced inmates close to release may be permitted to engage in communication by telephone if it is deemed instrumental either for their reform and rehabilitation or for their smooth re-entry into society.