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Japan: Age of Adulthood to Be Lowered to 18 in 2022

(Aug. 30, 2018) The Diet (Japan’s Parliament) passed an act in June 2018 to amend the Civil Code and other laws (Act No. 59 of 2018, KANPOU [OFFICIAL GAZETTE] Extra Ed. No. 132, at 6 (June 20, 2018), National Printing Bureau website (in Japanese)) to lower the age of adulthood to 18 (CIVIL CODE, as amended by Act No. 59 of 2018, art. 4). The Amendment Act will become effective on April 1, 2020. (Act No. 59 of 2018, Supp. Provisions, art. 1.) Currently, the age of adulthood in Japan is 20. (CIVIL CODE, Act No. 89 of 1896, amended by Act No. 44 of 2017, art. 4, Japanese e-Government website (English translation of the Act as amended by Act No. 78 of 2006).)

The voting age in Japan was lowered from 20 to 18 by a 2015 amendment to the Public Offices Election Act. (Sayuri Umeda, Japan: Voting Age Lowered from 20 to 18, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (June 24, 2015).) Two national elections for each house of the Diet have been held since the amendment became effective. (House of Representatives Election, YOMIURI ONLINE (in Japanese) (last visited Aug. 27, 2018); House of Councillors Election, YOMIURI ONLINE (in Japanese) (last visited Aug. 27, 2018).)

Concerns remained in the country that 18- and 19-year-olds would lose important protections if they were regarded as adults. For example, when a minor makes a contract, such as a credit card contract, without a legal guardian’s approval, they can cancel the contract. (CIVIL CODE art. 5.) But regarded as adults, 18- and 19-year-olds cannot cancel contracts when they are targeted by bad businesses. However, lawmakers have rectified this issue by strengthening consumer protections. (Age of Adulthood Expected to Be Lowered to 18 in April 2022 but Concerns Remain, MAINICHI (Mar. 14, 2018).)

The smoking and drinking ages were not changed. The titles and provisions of the Act Prohibiting Underage Smoking (Act No. 33 of 1900) and the Act Prohibiting Underage Drinking (Act No. 20 of 1922) were changed by replacing the word “underage” with the phrase “persons younger than twenty years of age.” (Act No. 59 of 2018, Supp. Provisions, arts 6 & 7.)