So you’re thinking about flying a drone in Japan?
There is a lot of information online but most of it is out there on dense government websites, all in Japanese. So, I thought I’d clear things up. Fortunately, it’s a lot less complicated than it looks! This post will let you know everything about drone regulations in Japan. Generally speaking, you don’t need permission or licenses to get started — just a drone and a map!
The Laws on Drones
First of all, drones are still absolutely legal to fly in Japan – the laws that have passed just make it safer to fly for everyone. You can’t fly over crowds of people over a certain distance, you can’t fly near airports, and you can’t fly in densely populated areas. No flying over power lines and trains, or in public parks. But this is all common sense.
If you are flying in a safe fly zone, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Unrestricted areas across the country are required to stay below 150 meters (492 feet), and also be kept at least 30 meters (98 feet) from people, buildings, and vehicles. For more details on the drones regulations in Japan, here is a link to the official government page. Yep, that’s it. We also notice that there is a website that is solely dedicated for drones laws in Japan http://dronelawjapan.com/
This means that Tokyo is pretty much off limits since there are people, parks, trains and power lines everywhere. But venture outside of the capital and you’ll discover many opportunities to fly freely.
Fly Zone Maps
Drones are legal and you don’t need a license. Great. So where to fly? Fortunately, DJI, the world’s largest manufacturer of drones, has made it very easy to check on this page.
Just type in the place you’d like to go in the top left corner. Red means no-fly zone, and unless you have special permission like above don’t risk it (there’s a hefty fine). As you can see Tokyo is a no-go.
Everywhere else is generally fair game and is a safe-fly zone. But I always recommend checking this before taking your drone out anywhere. As you can see, Tokyo is in a sea of red. Don’t fly in Tokyo.
Being a drone “pilot” sounds cool but maybe seems like an inaccessible skill to learn. In the United States you have to register with the FAA while in other countries there’s reams of paperwork to be done.
But in Japan you actually don’t need any sort of certification or license to fly a drone. Nor do you need to register your drone with any 3rd party. You can simply buy one and fly, as long as you’re in a safe fly zone as outlined above.
If you would like to fly in a restricted zone, you’ll have to get permission from the government. There’s a document that you have to fill out online (飛行許可申請 – hiko kyoka shinsei, in Japanese) and send to them by post.
Last time I tried to get permission there was a three to four week-wait as they were “flooded with requests.” I suggest sending it far in advance. If you are unsure whether or not you can fly at a certain venue then you should simply ask the venue/building owner. Many places are cool with it, especially outside of Tokyo.
In summary, you can pretty much fly your drone outside of Tokyo. Before flying always check the DJI map and make sure you are in a safe fly zones. Lastly, if you’re unsure then make sure to check with the building owner or government.
Ready to fly? Some of my personal favorites are Kawaguchi-ko near Mt. Fuji, Hokkaido, Okinawa, Okutama (west tokyo) Mt. Takao, and Shizuoka. All safe fly zones!