You may have heard the rumors. Japan is super tight and strict with drugs. Yeah, it’s true. If you’re a foreigner and get caught with even an ounce of marijuana, you will most definitely be deported. Probably for life. Japan has the image of being a drug-free country, and while it can’t even begin to compare to other countries like the U.S. in terms of illegal drug abuse, but it is not without its dark sides.
You may never smell that unmistakable smell of pot while walking around your neighborhood at odd hours of the night, but people do secretly do marijuana. They will usually do it in a car, their home, or in underground bars, being careful not to let the smell travel. There were a little over 4300 cases involving cannabis in Japan in 2019, compared to 4700 arrests for marijuana possession in the US. This may not seem like a lot, and the US did see a decrease in marijuana-related arrests in 2019 from the previous year, but many states in the US have legalized its possession and recreational use, so people have gotten more freedom to use it and carry it around legally.
Cocaine and other harder drugs have even stricter regulations. Being caught with them will undoubtedly land you in prison for many years. The general population is, however, generally uneducated about the extent of its prolificness. Most people automatically stay away from them because the repercussions are so big. It’s an expensive past time anyway. Around the entire world, Tokyo is the city where weed costs the most, with one gram going for about $33 USD! In New York City, the city with the most weed consumption in the entire world, one gram only costs about $11 USD. Smoke a couple of grams and the difference is huge.
There is a police museum in Chuo City, Tokyo, where admission is free and there is a drug exhibit. You can learn much there about different kinds of drugs that are commonly seized in the prefecture, as well as the punishments that accompany being caught with them in your possession.
Drug use is very well hidden, and you may be surprised to learn that users are much closer to you than you think. Going to my university for 4 years, I had assumed that no one did any pot or other drugs because the atmosphere seemed so clean. I had never smelled or seen anything suspicious either, so I was surprised to hear from an acquaintance how common its distribution on my campus actually was.
I don’t support the use of drugs, and I highly recommend you don’t bring anything with you into Japan when you visit. It’s not worth the risk, and if you are looking for a trip, drink yourself silly. Alcohol is perfectly legal and much cheaper. Enjoy Japan and its non-smelling streets.