145 Japan

White with a large red disk (representing the sun without rays) in the center.

Flag courtesy of the CIA World Factbook

Map courtesy of the CIA World Factbook

Google Earth

A Laughing Buddha in Narita.

Photo courtesy of the CIA World Factbook

Japan is a member of ICAO and JARUS.
Last updated on July 10, 2024


According to Britannica, Japan’s constitution was promulgated in 1946 and came into force in 1947, superseding the Meiji Constitution of 1889. It differs from the earlier document in two fundamental ways: the principle of sovereignty and the stated aim of maintaining Japan as a peaceful and democratic country in perpetuity. The emperor, rather than being the embodiment of all sovereign authority (as he was previously), is the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people, while sovereign power rests with the people (whose fundamental human rights are explicitly guaranteed). Article 9 of the constitution states that Japan “forever renounces war as a sovereign right of the nation”, a clause that has been much debated since the constitution’s promulgation.

The government is now based on a constitution that stipulates the separation of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The emperor’s major role now consists of such formalities as appointing the prime minister, who is first designated by the Diet (Kokkai), and appointing the chief justice of the Supreme Court (Saikō Saibansho), convoking sessions of the Diet, promulgating laws and treaties, and awarding state honors, all with the advice and approval of the cabinet (naikaku).

Legislative powers are vested in the Diet, which is popularly elected and consists of two houses. The House of Representatives (Shūgiin), or lower house, ultimately takes precedence over the House of Councillors (Sangiin), or upper house, in matters of passing legislation, controlling the budget, and approving treaties with foreign powers. Executive power is vested in the cabinet, which is organized and headed by the prime minister, though formally appointed by the House of Representatives. If the House of Representatives passes a resolution of no confidence or refuses to pass a vote of confidence in the government, the cabinet must resign, unless the House of Representatives is dissolved within 10 days of such action. There are governmental ministries and agencies in addition to the Prime Minister’s Office. All offices of the central government are located in and around the Kasumigaseki district in central Tokyo. An independent constitutional body called the Board of Audit is responsible for the annual auditing of the accounts of the state.

The 1947 constitution establishes the principle of autonomy for local public entities. Significant powers are allotted to local assemblies, which are elected by direct public vote, as are their chief executive officers. Many matters related to labor, education, social welfare, and health, as well as land preservation and development, disaster prevention, and pollution control, are dealt with by local governing bodies.

Japan is divided into 47 prefectures, 43 of which are ken (prefectures proper); of the remainder, Tokyo is a to (metropolitan prefecture), Hokkaido is a  (district), and Ōsaka and Kyōto are fu (urban prefectures). Prefectures, which are administered by governors and assemblies, vary considerably both in area and in population. The largest prefecture is Hokkaido, with an area of 32,221 square miles (83,453 square km), while the smallest is Kagawa, with 724 square miles (1,876 square km). The population of Tokyo, the most populous prefecture, is some 20 times greater than that of Tottori, the least populous. An intermediate level of governmental services is formed between the central and prefecture levels. The branch offices of several central ministries are located in certain cities, which, as regional centers, generally administer several prefectures together.

Prefectures are further subdivided into minor civil divisions; these include shi (cities), machi or chō (towns), and mura or son (villages). All these local government units have their own mayors, or chiefs, and assemblies. In addition, a city that has a population of at least 500,000 can be given the status of shitei toshi (designated city). Designated cities are divided into ku (wards), each of which has a chief and an assembly, the former being nominated by the mayor and the latter elected by the residents. The number of these cities has steadily increased since the first five (Yokohama, Ōsaka, Nagoya, Kyōto, and Kōbe) were named in the mid-1950s. Tokyo has 23 tokubetsu ku (special wards), the chiefs of which are elected by the residents. These special wards, created after the metropolitan prefecture was established in 1943, demarcate the city of Tokyo from the other cities and towns that make up the metropolitan prefecture; the city proper, however, no longer exists as an administrative unit.

The judiciary is completely independent of the executive and legislative branches of the government. The judicial system consists of three levels: the Supreme Court, eight high (appellate) courts, and a district court and a family court in each prefecture (except for Hokkaido, which has four). In addition, there are many summary (informal) courts, which hear cases for some minor offenses or those involving small sums of money. Other than those minor cases, district and family courts are the courts of first instance, except for cases involving insurrection, which are tried in the high courts.

The Supreme Court consists of a chief justice and 14 other justices. The chief justice is appointed by the emperor upon designation by the cabinet, while the other justices are appointed by the cabinet. The appointment of the justices of the Supreme Court is subject to review in a national referendum, first at the time of the general election following their appointment and then at the general election every 10 years thereafter. An impeachment system also exists; the court of impeachment consists of members of the House of Representatives and of the House of Councillors. The Supreme Court is the body of final review, and its rulings set the precedent for all final decisions in the administration of justice. The Supreme Court also exercises the power of judicial review, enabling it to determine the constitutionality of any law, order, regulation, or official act. Lower-court judges are appointed by the cabinet from a list of persons nominated by the Supreme Court. The appointment term is for 10 years, and reappointment is allowed. All judges of lower courts are required by law to retire at the age of 70.

Civil / National Aviation Authority (CAA/NAA)

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is a government agency responsible for the comprehensive and systematic use, development and conservation of national land, the consistent development of social infrastructure for this purpose, the promotion of transportation policies, the development of meteorological services, and the ensuring of maritime safety and security. It was established on January 6, 2001 as part of the reform of central ministries and agencies, with the former four ministries (Hokkaido Development Agency, National Land Agency, and Ministry of Transport and Construction) as the parent body. The Civil Aviation Bureau conducts the following activities:

1) inspections of aircraft and equipment,

2) checks of the operation and maintenance systems of the air carriers,

3) confirmation of the competency of aviation personnel, such as pilots and mechanics, through examinations and other checks, and

4) ramp inspections of foreign registered aircraft at airports in Japan.


SkyVectorGoogle MapsADS-B Exchange

ICAO countries publish an Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP). This document is divided into three parts: General (GEN), En Route (ENR) and Aerodromes (AD). ENR 1.4 details the types of airspace classes they chose to adopt from classes A through G. Japan AIP (requires user name and password).

Japan ANS

Japan Airspace

Japan Airspace

Drone Regulations

Drone Laws

Japan’s safety rules on Unmanned Aircraft (UA)/Drones

Background – An amendment to the Aeronautical Act was issued on Sep. 11, 2015 to introduce safety rules on Unmanned Aircraft (UA)/Drones. The new rules came into force on Dec. 10, 2015. The details of the rules are as follows:

Definition – The term “UA/Drone” means any airplane, rotorcraft, glider or airship which cannot accommodate any person on board and can be remotely or automatically piloted. (Excluding those lighter than 100g. The weight of a UA/Drone includes that of its battery.)

Prohibited Airspace for Flight – Any person who intends to operate a UA/Drone in the following airspaces is required to obtain permission from the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

(A) Airspace around airports. (airspaces above approach surface, horizontal surface, transitional surface, extended approach surface, conical surface and outer horizontal surface.)
* As of September 18, 2019, Airspace below approach surface, transitional surface and above the airport premises is added to a no-fly zone at the following airports; New Chitose Airport, Narita International Airport, Tokyo International Airport, Chubu International Airport, Kansai International Airport, Osaka International Airport, Fukuoka Airport, Naha Airport.
(B) Airspace at or above 150m above ground level.
(C) Above Densely Inhabited Districts (DID), which are defined and published by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

* For the further details of (B) and (C), please refer to
Please click “OK”,you can confirm the areas of (A) and (C).
Green area : (A) Airspace around airports
Red area    : (C) Densely Inhabited Districts

Prohibited Areas
Operational Limitations – Regardless of where you fly, you must follow the rules listed below when flying a UA/Drone:
* Rules [1]-[4] will be added on September 18th, 2019.
[1] Do not operate UA/Drones under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
[2] Fly and operate UA/Drones after preflight actions.
[3] Operate UA/Drones to prevent collision hazards with airplanes and other UAs/Drones.
[4] Do not operate UA/Drones in a careless or reckless manner.
[5] Fly and operate UA/Drones in the daytime.
[6] Operate UA/Drones within Visual Line of Sight (VLOS).
[7] Keep a 30m or more operating distance between UA/Drones and persons or properties on the ground/water surface.
[8] Do not operate UA/Drones over event sites where many people gather.
[9] Do not transport hazardous materials such as explosives by UA/Drone.
[10] Do not drop any objects from UAs/Drones.If you intend to fly a UA/Drone regardless of rules [5] to [10] above, you must obtain approval from the Regional Civil Aviation Bureau in advance.

Exception – Requirements stated in “Airspace in which Flights are Prohibited” and “Operational Limitations” are not applied to flights for search and rescue operations by public organizations in case of accidents and disasters. (Exception for part of the rules.)

Penalty – If the above rules are violated, the UAV operator is liable for a fine of up to 500,000 yen.
(* If [1] is violated, the UAV operator is liable for imprisonment for up to one year or a fine of up to 300,000 yen.)

Permission & Approval – You are required to submit an application in Japanese for permission or approval to the Ministry of Land Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism at least 10 days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays) before you fly a UA/Drone. For further information, please contact the UA/Drone Counseling Service.

UAS Flight Rules infographic

Japan Flight Rules

Rules on flying drones in Japan


Japan to Allow Drone Flights in Urban Areas from Dec 4, 2022

Tokyo, Dec. 4 (Jiji Press)–Japan’s revised civil aeronautics law will take effect Monday, allowing drone flights beyond pilots’ line of sight above residential areas including urban districts. The law revision is expected to lead to full-fledged utilization of drones by a wide range of industries, especially the logistics industry facing labor shortages, prompting many related companies to prepare to make use of drones in their future services. Drones are currently allowed to fly over urban areas only when operators and others can monitor them visually.

The revised law will relax these regulations, opening the way for so-called Level 4 drone flights, in which operators fly drones in airspace above urban areas even outside their line of sight, the highest level of the country’s four-tier drone flight operation scale. Operators are required to obtain aircraft certificates and pilot qualifications. They also need to gain advance permissions about safety measures from the land minister for each drone flight operation.


National Police Agency – The Drone Act


Advanced Air Mobility (AAM)

Advanced Air Mobility

Concept of Operations for Advanced Air Mobility (ConOps for AAM)


The Osaka Edition Roadmap and the Action Plan toward the Social Implementation of the Air Mobility Revolution

2023 – EH216 AAV Completes Its Japan’s First Passenger-Carrying Demo Flight

2023 – LIFT Aircraft completes piloted eVTOL demonstrations in Japan

2023 – EHang inducted into Japan’s Public-Private Committee for Advanced Air Mobility

2023 – Wisk Aero and Japan Airlines partner for future AAM operations

2023 – SkyDrive to identify vertiports, flight routes for 2025 Osaka Kansai Expo

2023 – SkyDrive to participate in Smart Mobility Expo project at 2025 World Expo in Osaka, Japan

2023 – SkyScape to develop vertiports for eVTOL operations in Japan

2023 – eVTOLs set to be big in Japan?

2023 – SkyDrive Secures $83M Innovation Grant to Propel Aerial Mobility in Japan

2023 – Skyports Infrastructure and ConOps Partners work to shape future landscape of Japanese Aerial Mobility

2023 – Joby, ANA Holdings Partner with Nomura Real Estate Development for Vertiports in Japan

2023 – Californian eVTOL Maker Gearing Up for Air Taxi Services Across Japan

2024 – Eve Air Mobility and SkyScape announce first urban ATM agreement in Japan

2024 – SkyDrive Begins Production of Revolutionary eVTOL Aircraft with Suzuki

2024 – EHang Announces Japan’s First UAM Center in Tsukuba

2024 – AutoFlight Delivers Prosperity Air Taxi To Japanese Operator

2024 – FAA accepts SkyDrive’s eVTOL certification application

2024 – MOL Switch invests in electric seaglider developer Regent

2024 – SkyDrive to Conduct eVTOL Implementation Study in Japan

2024 – Japan’s Setouchi Community plan to build AAM network from Osaka to Kita Kyushu by 2028




Short Essay Questions

Question 1

You have been hired by a Drone Startup Company. Your boss has immediately assigned this job to you.

They need you to prepare a one-page memo detailing the legalities of using a drone to film in Narita.

They need you to mention any national laws and local ordinances.

They specifically want to know what airspace you will be operating in and whether or not you need an airspace authorization.

Does it matter whether or not you are a citizen of the country?

Lastly, there is a bonus for you if, as you scroll through this chapter, you find any typos or broken links!

Question 2

Do you need a certificate to fly UAS?

If so, how do you obtain one?

Are there fees associated with this?

If so, how much?

Question 3

May you operate beyond visual line of sight?

If so, what procedures must you follow?

Question 4

Does the country have UAM/AAM laws? If so, describe, citing the exact law.

Question 5

Are you aware of any new laws or policies not mentioned above? If so, describe, citing the exact law or policy.





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Drones Across the World Copyright © 2023 by Sarah Nilsson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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