by Shigeru Aso

Historically in Japan, cannabis has been used for many centuries, until the end of World War Two, when Gen. Douglas McArther and the General Head Quarters (GHQ) decided this ‘Godsent’ herb to the Japanese people were immoral, and dangerous to not only the public health of the Japanese people, but to the chemical fiber industry. Until then, cannabis grew all over Japan, and today the Self Defense Force and the Japanese equivelent of DEA goes to such places and burns the plants. Many people don’t realize that our historical crop is the same thing as this ‘dangerous and immoral’ drug.

Propaganda against cannabis is very prevelent in Japan, both from the mass media and the centralized and local governments. It is taboo here to even discuss marijuana, and medical use for cannabis.

Cannabis has deep roots in the Japanese society, not only as medicine but for the purposes of creating rope, clothing, food, shamanism etc., and plays a big part in our Shinto culture including sumo, shrines and imperial ceremonies.

Hemp, or Asa in Japanese, appears in many different Haiku’s that were written by famous Haiku poets. One goes like this: ‘In the dawn always there will be a storm of hemp’ – by Shiki Masaoka, perhaps one of the most imporatant Haiku Poets in Japanese History. We consider this to be foreshadow or metaphor for our new coming age of legal Cannabis in Japan.

Until the end of war, and the US Federal Government imposed the Cannabis Control Act, Japan used to sell East Indian Cannabis Solutions and various cannnabis derrivitives at regular drug stores to treat pain and constipation, lack of sleep and furthermore.

On the other hand, methamphetamines were kept legal to promote and increase labor and high productivity. Eventually, methamphetamines bacame illegal as well, as social problems arroused.

The Cannabis Control Act, forced upon us by the aforementioned GHQ, has no title or reason for it to exist. Does this sound like a first world democratic country to you?

The Cannabis Control Act carries a maximum sentence of up to five years for simple possession, regardless of the content – whether it’s seeds that can grow or it’s just leaf, you will get locked up if you are caught. Cultivating carrries up to 7 years in Jail. Unless it is considered for sales purposes, usually first time offenders receive a suspended sentence, however, repeat offenders and those who violate the suspended sentences are sent to prison for ‘rehabilitaion’ for sure. Medical marijuana is no exception. Such prolonged sentences are known to be extremely ‘hard time’.  Japanese jails are clean, yet very strict. Only a very selected few may obtain a license to grow pot in Japan, mostly for harvesting seeds for food and stocks for hemp. However, our country does not even allow doctors to experiment with cannabis to alleviate pain and other disconmforts for patients.

The courts are rather malicious towards those who try to fight such unconstitutional laws. The courts seem to lack the concept of separation of administration, legislation, and judicature, for heavy punishments are imposed on those who intend to fight the law.

By the UN, it is estimated that about 1.7 million Japanese people have experienced cannabis.
Occasional users are estimated at 300,000 potheads. We believe these numbers are dramatically increasing, for many young people have turned to indoor growing. About 3000 people are caught every year and such ‘victims’ of the Cannabsis Control Act usually have there lives completely destroyed by imprisonment and media and it is quite common to lose their jobs and educational status.

There are two different main sources of how cannabis is obtained in Japan. The first is importation from third world countries such as Thailand and Nepal, India, Cambodia, Indonesia etc. There is very high quality pot circulating among the underground pot smokers today. Hashish (also known as Choco) is also very popular. The next method is guerilla growers and indoor cannabis cultivation. However, perhaps our biggest problem is that often the cannabis is imported and distributed by the Yakuza, our Japanese mafia. These people sell amphetamines , MDMA and various chemical drugs as well, and this is a problem for the low-end user, often tricked into buying harder and more dangerous drugs. It is our high priority task to try to separate such pipelines for hard illicit party chemicals, and marijuana. Slowly this is changing, due to the fact that many indoor growers have become the source of circulating marijuana.

The internet has also played a big role in the spreading of cannabis for medical and recreational use in Japan, for the interent offers valuable information from all over the world. The Japanse public is slowly learning the truth about cannabis. It also helps that many Japanese people travel abroad, and often are fortunate enough to encounter marijuana in legal environments in good settings.

Overall, in Japan, the punishments simply does not fit the crime. The criminal element of cannabis can be resolved easily by utilizing the existing licensing laws to grow. However, it is not very realistic at this point to obtain a marijuana cultivation license, for it is even very difficult to obtain such proper paperwork. The government often refuses to issue licenses, to any new growers. This seems to be the governmental policy, eventhough each governers of each prefecture reserves the ultimate right to issue the license or not.

In Japan, quite surprisingly, it is not a crime to inhale marijuana, for farmers inhale fumes from legal cannabis and may test positive from first hand and secondary contact at any time. Cannabis for a long time has been a symbol of a large yield of rice crop, and was commonly grown around the rice patties all over Japan. However, as mentioned before, possession of any amount without a license is strictly prohibitted. Ninjas also utilized the fast growing properties of this plant to train for their high jumps, by jumping over hemp trees everyday.

As a cannabis legalization group, we strongly recommend that travelers to Japan not to engage in smoking, cultivating and importing pot into Japan. The airports are high-tech, and there are sniffing dogs regularly. The customs agents are professionals at spottting the tourists carrying cannabis and other illegal drugs. The Japanese police are tenacious and malicious regarding cannabis control laws, and usually when a dealer is apprehended, all of his/her clients tend to follow them to the nearest jail, where you can be held up to 20 days with no official charge. The conviction rate in Japan is 99% (!) after arraignment. Foreigners with cannabis charges will be deported immediately after serving his/her own sentence, with an occasional exception for those who are married to a Japanese person or have Japanese children or permanent residency.

Thank you for your time, and please keep us in your heart, for we are trying very hard to participate in this world-wide movement to legalize medical and recreational cannabis.


  1. Linz says:


  2. Shigeru Aso says:

    Hello to you too!

  3. I truly believe the Legalization will come fast for Japan. It is just a matter of educated the mass public. The government will have no choice but to follow. The benefits are far reaching, Marijuana lowers suicide rates, increases revenue, and definitely will increase tourism to Japan, something which is desperately needed now with the worlds fear of visiting. Truthfully as an American I was shocked to find Japans drug policies to be so strict. In a land with mostly Buddhist people this seems very strage, as Buddhist people have a mind so closely resembling the feeling one achieves from smoking this peaceful plant.

    Anyways I am glad someone is working towards education rather than religious persecution. Marijuana is a religion for many. I think it is important to remind people of that fact.

  4. Shigeru Aso says:

    Thank you for your kind response. Yes it is true that Japan needs a change in Marijuana Policy. As for Buddhism, this spirit lives everywhere in Japan, alongside it’s national religion which believes in animism in nature. We have gods for everything, including marijuana. Our Shinto religion uses hemp and cannabis culture immensely. Anyways, we hope for a quick change in policy, and wish you the best of luck!

  5. J.J says:

    I appreciate your work. I have many questions and will bother you with times, I hope you will answer them all?
    1. Is there any procession or hope so far for Marijuana being legalized or at least decriminalized in Japan?
    2. Do Japanese government really listen to you? I mean every year Marijuana Marches in Tokyo are held, do they vibrate in Govt also is just a `just for fun` walk around the town?

    • Shigeru Aso says:

      Thank you for your comment,

      1 I think there is great hope in legalizing cannabis in Japan in the near future. The younger generation are much more ‘open’ to the Japanese pot scene. We hope somehow to initiate medical marijuana propositions at the very least.

      2 Unfortunately, our government does not recognize cannabis as what it truly is and what it represents in our culture. As a cannabis legalization group, our next step is to lobby politicians, especially those who are members of the Japanese parliament.

      The marijuana march is held every so often as I understand, but there are just not enough people willing to ‘come out’ and speak the truth. We hope such events take place more often.

  6. Jeff Anderson says:

    Thanks for a Japanese perspective in flawless English. I was searching the internet for information about cannabis use in Japan and this is the best site I’ve found. I’ve always been fascinated with the apparent lack of cannabis culture in Japan and the strict laws against it. I wish you luck in your efforts!

  7. Shigeru Aso says:

    You are very welcome.And thank you for your support!

  8. Alexander says:

    Hi! This was a very good read, and I’m really glad to see that people are doing an effort over there to change peoples perspectives. I’ve been in Japan in total for about 4 months, and I’ve felt afraid to ask people about cannabis when I’ve been there. I wouldn’t have smoked there if someone offered me, as I’m aiming to move to japan, and I don’t want my plans to go down the drain, but it would however be great to open some minds if I could. I would never tell people to break the law and go smoke it, but in the end it’s a matter of how many of us there are out there willing to stop this endless ignorance by spreading a good word, instead of false propaganda.
    I’ll be going to Tokyo in two months, and I’ll definitely try to ask some people about it this time.
    Keep up the great work, and I’ll try to do my part here in Norway for now. :)

    • Shigeru Aso says:

      Hi, Alexander, thank you for your comments. Norway huh? I wonder what the laws on cannabis over there are like, and how are they enforced. Please keep in touch, and enjoy your stay in TOKYO.

  9. Rory Gray says:

    It is fantastic to see fight for the legalisation of cannabis in Japan. It has always been my dream to live and train in the warrior art I practice in Japan, with the Soke or grandmaster, my dream will finally come to fulfilment next year all things going to plan! But I too am involved in the legalisation of cannabis in New Zealand with a youth organisation called the Green Wave, and feel that while I would love to smoke a fat blunt in Tokyo, I have far too much respect for the people and culture to break Japanese laws, however after some research and this article it is a relief off my mind knowing that people fight against ignorance and prejudice in Japan too, and that like minded people are still protecting the plant that only brings peace, and peace is integral to a warriors heart. Thank you for the article, its good to know that while seas, language and culture may separate people, people’s hearts still remain the same as good and honest human beings, who are able to call bullshit when they see it.

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  14. The Rover says:


    I notice there hasn’t been any activity recently on this website. Is there any news regarding the movement toward the legalization of cannabis in Japan?

    Best Regards.

  15. Rasta Man says:

    any information on buying weed in hiroshima?

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