Life During the Pre-indictment Stage: The 23-day Detention Period


Bail is the exception rather than the rule in Japan and virtually unheard of for foreigners on visitor status. Regardless, bail is not approved until they are indicted (formally charged). If they are arrested in Japan, they will in all likelihood remain in custody until they are indicted or released. Suspects are usually kept at the local jail where they were arrested and generally eat the same Japanese-style food as the other prisoners.


Suspects detained in Japan are prohibited from making or receiving phone calls. The precise terms of their confinement will be read out by the prosecutor.

However, suspects are able to write and receive letters from family and friends. The police routinely censor all outgoing and incoming mail, except for correspondence from lawyers or a Consul.

Note: Consequently, there may be delays in sending or receiving mail if it is not written in Japanese or has a Japanese translation available since it has to be screened first. they may be charged for translation fees if they write/receive letters in foreign language/s including English/Filipino.

For most drug cases, prosecutors place a suspect incommunicado which prevents them from receiving visitors and corresponding with anyone other than a lawyer or a Consul. Some suspects incommunicado may also be prohibited from receiving mail or reading material from the Embassy or Consulate, although they are usually allowed to meet in person with a Consul and to write to a Consul. Incommunicado orders may continue until the first trial date.


Suspects are allowed to receive visitors during business hours. The visitor is separated from the suspect by a window and all visits must be monitored by a police officer. Most police officers in Japan do not speak English. Therefore, a visitor must bring an interpreter. Visitors should check with the police station about the scheduled visiting hours and other requirements before any visit is made.

Clothing, Toiletries, Snacks, Etc.

Until they are convicted, suspects wear their own clothes. Laundry facilities are normally available only once a week, so suspects should make arrangements to have sufficient clothing. The police also provide basic toiletry items, but visitors can supply familiar brands of soap, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.

Visitors are also permitted to provide books, magazines, and newspapers. However, some police stations may refuse those written in foreign languages. News journals would be censored of any references to the suspect’s own or related crimes. At the police’s discretion, visitors can purchase snacks (including take-out meals) to supplement the normal jail food. Suspects can also purchase items through the police if they have no friends and relatives in Japan.

Life During the Post-indictment Stage: The Trial

Like the pre-indictment period, bail is virtually unheard of for foreigners. Life in the detention prison is much more regimented than at the local jail. There are numerous rules covering all aspects of behavior, including how one sits in a room.

In order to do anything, like see a doctor, write a letter, purchase snacks, etc., one must submit a written request, called a “gansen.” The suspects are usually confined to individual cells with little opportunity to talk with other inmates. The most common complaint about life at the detention prison is boredom.


Inmates at detention prisons are not allowed phone calls, and mail continues to be censored. Visiting hours at the detention prison are strictly limited, with no provision for after-hours access. Visitors are allowed to make only one visit a day, which is generally limited in duration. The timing of visits may also be affected by the availability of language-qualified prison officials to monitor the meeting. Meetings with the lawyer and the Consul, however, are not monitored.

Clothing, Toiletries, Snacks, Etc.

Visitors are permitted to supply reading material and clothing. Other items, such as soap, snacks, toiletries, etc., must be purchased at the prison shop. Prisoners can purchase items on their own expense from the prison shop by submitting a gansen. The guards have a list of items available for purchase. Prescription medications should be obtained through the prison doctor.

Life After the Trial: In Prison

1. Arrival at Prison

If one is convicted and given a prison sentence, they will be transferred to a prison. In eastern Japan, almost all male prisoners are sent to Fuchu Prison in Tokyo prefecture and almost all female prisoners to Tochigi Prison. Fuchu Prison and Tochigi Prison are where the majority of foreign inmates are held. Exact procedures vary between prisons but upon arrival, they normally undergo a two to three week orientation period. Prisoners will be taught the many rules of the institution and have their skills assessed. At some prisons, they may be offered a choice of diet. They may be given a guidance booklet outlining the rules of the prison, which they may keep for the duration of their time in prison. At the end of their orientation period, most prisoners are assigned to a prison factory.

2. General prison conditions

Most prisoners spend the majority of their time in the prison factories or in their rooms. Fuchu prisons have separate accommodation blocks for foreign prisoners where the cells have beds rather than futons, and many prisoners are in rooms by themselves. In other prisons, you may be placed in either a shared room or a single room. The system for allocation of rooms varies from prison to prison.

Communication with other prisoners is limited, as talking is only permitted at certain times, such as exercise periods and breaks. Inmates are usually allotted 30 minutes of exercise per day (this time may include moving to and from your cell to the exercise area). Talking is not permitted during work. Prisons operate a system of punishment and reward, and detainees are expected to strictly follow the rules and regulations set out by the facility. Good behaviour, success at work, and length of time served may all lead to an increase in rank. Privileges depend on rank with more senior prisoners often being allowed more visitors or to send more letters.

3. Receiving money

A prisoner can receive cash in Japanese Yen in prison. If a prisoner’s family and/or friends are in Japan, they can go to the prison directly to deposit the money. They may also opt to send the money via “Genkin Kakitome” (Domestic Postal Money Orders). It’s better to coordinate with the prisoner’s respective facility for specific information as the rules vary.

If the prisoner’s family and/or friends live in a country other than Japan or the Philippines, they should contact the nearest Philippine Embassy for advice on how to send money. We cannot accept and forward any money sent in cash directly to the Embassy.

4. Prison work

Almost all custodial sentences in Japan are detention with work, so the prisoner will likely have to work. After the prisoner’s skills have been assessed, they will be assigned to a factory, where they could be making anything from leather goods to toys to electrical components. Generally, inmates work eight hours per day Monday to Friday with three breaks, including one for lunch. Prisoners receive money for work done but the pay is very low.

Please note that there are periodic study days when prisoners do not work in the factories. Also, the pay prisoners receive is not available for them to spend in prison. It is given to them once they are released.

5. Medical and dental treatment

If a prisoner needs urgent medical attention while detained, they should inform the nearest prison officer. All penal institutions in Japan are equipped with medical departments as required by law. Medically trained prison officers visit prison factories periodically. A prisoner should inform them about any health problems. Japanese prisons also have resident doctors and there are medical prisons for prisoners with serious illnesses. Some prison facilities have a dedicated medical wing (known as Medical Priority Facilities) where treatment for more complex medical issues can be administered.

However if the treatment needed is not available at the facility, the authorities may ask for the prisoner to receive treatment at a different medical facility. This can take a considerable amount of time. Fuchu prison is considered a Medical Priority Facility. Most treatment that is deemed necessary by the prison authorities will be provided free of charge. There is also an emphasis on security in prisons, and when staff are not available to escort detainees, visits to external medical facilities might not be possible.

In rare cases, inmates may receive treatment by booking appointments with external doctors at their own expense. If requested, however this is at the warden’s discretion. Many prisoners find it difficult to access medical care they are satisfied with. Waiting times for dental treatment can be particularly long. If you have difficulty obtaining suitable treatment for medical problems, please let the Embassy know through a letter or during a visit. The Embassy will try to relay your treatment needs with the detention facility.

6. Mental health

Prisoners’ mental health is just as important as their physical health. Some prisons, including Fuchu, periodically have a counsellor visit the facility. If they are struggling with their mental health, please let the facility know and schedule a meeting with the counsellor to discuss their concerns. Additionally, you can also let the Embassy know who they can follow up accordingly with the facility.

7. Penal Institution Visiting Committees

All prison facilities have Penal Institution Visiting Committees (Keiji Shisetsu Shisatsu Iinkai). Lawyers and doctors take part in these committees and they inspect facilities, consider issues, and can point out and demand improvements. The visiting committee can receive information from inmates, friends or families, and should be addressed to the Visiting Committee of their respective prisons. Prison officers are not permitted to open letters addressed to the committee.

8. Food and Diet

At Fuchu prison, prisoners are offered a rice-based or bread-based diet. The latter may not be available at all in some facilities. They will be asked to choose which diet they want upon arrival and it will be very difficult to change at a later date. If they have allergies or religious reasons, meals without pork or vegetarian diets are available.

Japanese prison menus are strictly calorie-controlled, with the nutritional level based on factors such as sex, body size, and type of work. Prisoners may lose weight in prison. They cannot buy additional food or receive food/drink from visitors or through the post.

9. Mail and Parcels

If a prisoner is convicted and receives a prison sentence, they must give a list of relatives’ names to whom they want to write letters to upon their arrival at the prison. Letters will be censored if they contain news of people not on the approved list. This list is very difficult to change once it has been submitted.

Family and/or friends may write as often as they wish, but prisoners may only write a strictly limited number of letters in line with their rank in the prison. Depending on their rank and the facility, this may equate to between three to five (3-5) letters a month. There are no restrictions on the number of letters a prisoner can send to the Embassy.

10. Telephone calls

Making or receiving phone calls is not allowed for detainees. In exceptional circumstances where consular visits are not allowed, the Embassy may be able to schedule a call with the detainee at a prison instead of a visit. This is subject to whether the service is available at the facility.

11. Leisure and entertainment / Study

Fuchu and Tochigi Prisons have well stocked libraries containing many foreign books (Fuchu has over 10,000 titles). They also hold Japanese language classes, although the infrequency of lessons and the sizes of the classes make it difficult to study the language seriously. You may also be put on a waiting list for the lessons, as they are usually very popular. Prisoners are allowed 15 minutes each day to read a newspaper and can watch a small amount of television, usually in Japanese. They can also attend organised religious events.

12. Smoking

Cigarettes are not allowed in Japanese detention facilities.

13. Work duty

In Japan, nearly all prison sentences involve imprisonment combined with labor work. Work duty refers to compulsory work in prison factories or cells (a possibility if a prisoner is placed in solitary confinement) while serving their sentence in Japan. Refusing to do so will result in punishment.

14. Fines

Fines will generally be calculated according to the crime for which a prisoner is convicted (e.g. street value of narcotics or an estimation of damage caused, etc.). During the work duty period (maximum 2 years), the sentence is suspended. After the completion of the work duty, the sentence is re-started and the new termination date of the sentence will be fixed.


The Philippine Embassy in Tokyo compiled the information on this corner. It is revised whenever the need arises.

If you feel any of the information contained on this website is inaccurate, please contact us at

The Philippine Embassy in Tokyo is not accountable for the information provided in this page. Local proceedings are subject to change at any time. We are hoping for your kind understanding, thank you.


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