In Japan, Carrying A Swiss Army Knife is a Criminal Offense

In Japan, Carrying A Swiss Army Knife is a Criminal Offense

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Swiss Army Knife
Picture: YINGYANG / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
Many people carry Swiss Army knives with them without a second thought. But in Japan, the convenient tool got one man brought up on charges.

A Kafkaesque story of a man convicted for carrying a Swiss Army knife. A childhood love for nunchaku sticks and Bruce Lee attracting the suspecting gaze of Japanese police. A crude reenacting of ex-PM Abe Shinzo’s assassination causing panic and arrest.

These three events are as bizarre as they are similar in that they violate the same law: the minor offense law.

The Swiss Army knife

Multi-purpose knife (Swiss Army Knife)
Picture: bluet / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

In December 2021, police questioned a 48-year-old Osaka male for ignoring a red traffic light at an intersection nearby Fukushima Station on the JR Osaka Loop Line.

During this exchange, police conducted a search of the man’s belongings inside their police car.

The cops found a Swiss army knife inside an outer pocket of the man’s bag. The pocket was zipped shut before police searched its contents. Prosecutors indicted the man on charges of a summary offense citing his violation of the minor offense law.

The man claimed that he never intended to secretly hide the knife. He also stated his reason for carrying it purely for the convenience it would bring in the event of a natural disaster or in situations that warrant such tools.


In January 2023 the Osaka Summary Court found the man guilty and handed him a fine of ¥9,900. The court ruled that “his intentions to conceal the knife were clear as it was kept inside a zipped outer pocket” and that the knife served no realistic purpose, which therefore made his possession of the tool “socially inappropriate and unreasonable.”

The man continued to claim his innocence and appealed to the Osaka Higher Court. On August 1st, the Osaka Higher Court ruled in support of the first trial’s rulings and threw out the man’s appeal.

He now said he plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The nunchakus

Woman holding nunchaku (nunchucks)
Picture: photok / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

On a fall night in 2015, police knocked on the car window of a 55-year-old who was napping in the parking lot of a convenience store and requested to search the man’s car.

The man granted the police’s search request. They found his three nunchaku sticks in the backseat.

They confiscated the sticks as evidence which they used to file charges against the man two months later for violating the minor offense law.

The Tamashima Summary Court ordered the man to pay a fine of ¥9,900. The man refused to pay the fine and decided to fight it out with prosecutors in court. Less than 1% of those indicted with minor offense violations fight the charge due to the relatively small fine.

But the man was adamant about getting his nunchaku sticks back, one of which he had cherished for nearly forty years since falling in love with Bruce Lee movies. He trained every day like the invincible on-screen hero in his teenage room. The night of his police encounter, the man was en route to a New Year’s party where he had planned to give a nunchaku performance.

The Tamashima Summary Court found the nunchaku sticks potentially a harmful and unnecessary possession and delivered a guilty verdict to the man in question.

The man appealed to the Hiroshima Higher Court which threw out the first trial’s verdict and ruled in favor of the man in March of 2017.

The wannabe Yamagami and lookalike gun

This one is too uncanny.

On July 8th this year, a memorial event was underway at the site in Nara where ex-PM Abe Shinzo fell after his assassin Yamagami Tetsuya hit him with the bullets fired from a handmade gun exactly a year before.

Distasteful déjà vu interrupted the event.

In the crowd, a man with long hair, just like Yamagami. Rising towards the sky, a 30-centimeter cylinder wrapped around with black tape with a trigger shape attached, exactly like the weapon that killed Abe.

Police reacted and panic ensued. As the frenzied crowd dispersed, police tackled the man to the ground and arrested him. Police also arrested two other men whom they believed to be the Yamagami lookalike’s accomplices.

One of the alleged accomplices screamed out to reporters as police escorted him to their car.

“The black cylinder is not a gun, but something handcrafted with aluminum foil and black tape! The inside is empty and is not dangerous and won’t explode or shoot!”

We await further updates on this case.  

Man in Japan Prosecuted for Overly Long Scissors


[1] 【速報】“十徳ナイフを繁華街で携帯”は罪?注目の控訴審 大阪高裁も1審の簡裁判決を支持し有罪判決「自宅や職場から持ち出して携帯する必要性はなかった」. Yahoo! ニュースJAPAN

[2]趣味のダブルヌンチャク、警官は凶器と判断 真っ向勝負の裁判の結末. 朝日デジタル

[3] 【独自】安倍一周忌の現場で長髪の男「山上そっくり銃」で大騒動の一部始終…逮捕された男の言い分. Yahoo! ニュースJAPAN

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