Japan’s Legal Age of Adulthood will be Lowered

Japan’s Legal Age of Adulthood will be Lowered
Picture: Birthday Balloons. By: Gaelle Marcel, via Unsplash, 2017


Malina Wiethaus

Japan and Human Rights Researcher 

Global Human Rights Defense 

From April 1st 2022 onwards, Japan will lower its legal age of adulthood to 18. Currently, a person is legally considered an adult in Japan once that person reaches the age of 20. The decision to drop the legal age by two years was made by the Japanese government in 2018 and includes revisions to the country’s Civil Code and Juvenile Law (Baseel, 2021).

The change in legal adulthood has many effects on Japanese teenagers. Apart from being subject to the criminal law earlier, marriage laws will also change. Under the current jurisdiction, one is legally considered an adult after reaching the age of 20 or being married (Baseel, 2021). Marriage however, is only legal for males aged 18 and females aged 16 with their respective guardians consent. As this is considered unfair, the revision taking place in April will make marriage for both genders legal at 18 without a guardian’s consent (Osumi, 2022). 

Moreover, the change in laws will benefit individuals idnetifying as transgender. Under the current civil law, individuals are only allowed to change their gender from age 20. The revision of the civil code drops this age to 18. This change is especially important as Japan still requires surgery before people can be legally recognized as such, which currently requires the age of 20 (Osumi, 2022; Human Rights Watch, 2022). 

In 2016, Japan changed the legal voting age from 20 to 18. This was supposed to engage more young people in politics and increase voter turnout (BBC, 2015). This change sparked the discussion on lowering the legal age of adulthood in Japan altogether. The parliament's decision to pass the amendments to adapt the legal age of adulthood was the first of its kind in 142 years (Osumi, 2022).

Sources and further readings: 

Baseel, C. (2021, January 25). Japan’s legal age of adulthood dropping by two years, but do 

teens understand what that means? Japan Today. Retrieved March 22, 2022, from 



BBC. (2015, June 17). Voting age in Japan to be lowered from 20 to 18. BBC News. 

Retrieved March 22, 2022, from https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-33160454

Human Rights Watch. (2022, January 13). World Report 2022: Rights Trends in Japan

Retrieved March 22, 2022, from 


Osumi, M. (2022, March 22). Japan is set to lower the legal age of adulthood. How will 

young people be affected? The Japan Times. Retrieved March 22, 2022, from