What can you be required to do in case Japan declares a State of Emergency?

As of Monday, April 6th at 6AM, Prime Minister Abe has not declared a state of emergency in Japan. However, due to the rapid daily increase in the number of coronavirus cases in Tokyo and Osaka, Japanese media reports that the government is close to making a decision.

On Sunday, Tokyo confirmed 143 new coronavirus infections, following 118 cases reported on Saturday.

A declaration of a state of emergency by Prime Minister Abe would then allow prefectural and local authorities to take practical measures to help slow the spread of the virus.

Even if a state of emergency is declared, essential services and business will continue to be open and function as usual. These include, for example, public transportation, supermarkets, banks, the postal service, pharmacies, and trash service.

What can you be required to do in case Japan declares a state of emergency?

Under the Special Measures Law, the following are the main measures that local authorities can take in case of a declaration of a state of emergency by national authorities.

One of the key points is that unlike in many other countries, authorities in Japan can only request not require people to take certain actions. The government cannot impose criminal penalties or fines in case people do not follow “stay-at-home” requests, for example. However, with respect to some measures, such as the use of private buildings and land for temporary medical purposes, a government order is binding.

Nonessential outings

Local authorities can request people to exercise self-restraint in nonessential outings.

Schools, day care, and elderly care facilities can be instructed to close

Local authorities have the power to tell schools, day care, elderly care, and other related facilities to close.

Sport, music, and entertainment events

Local authorities can request that sports events, musical concerts, and other entertainment events be stopped or limited in scope.

Preventive inoculations

Local authorities have the power to instruct people to get preventive inoculations.

Use of private buildings and land

The government will have the power to use any private building or land for temporary medical purposes (for example, for use as temporary medical facilities), without the consent of the owner.


The government can request or instruct railways and transport companies to prioritize the transportation of medical supplies.

Food and medical supplies

The government has the power to require private companies to sell food and medical supplies, and to confiscate food and medical supplies from private companies.

Sources: Japan Special Measures Law, March 28, 2020 (PDF in Japanese), Asahi newspaper, April 5, 2020 (in Japanese), Nikkei newspaper, April 6, 2020 (in Japanese), JapanToday, April 5, 2020

Lead photo: People walking in Shibuya, iStock stock photo

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