As VAOJ has stated many times, privacy laws are different in Japan. People have a right to privacy even when in public. So it is always best - and safe - to ask permission before taking a photo in public. See the story below from Japan Today, 9/5/14:
Japan was one of the first countries to sell mobile phones equipped with a camera back in 2000. Having a camera on you at all times sure does come in handy, as you’ll always be able to capture that special moment wherever you are.
Unfortunately, sometimes that special moment is a peep-shot or a scandalous photo which is certainly a violation of privacy. Japan has taken a very no-nonsense approach to help stop these highly inappropriate photos, and it comes in the form of the Anti-Nuisance Ordinance. So powerful is this law that the latest person to be arrested has caused a bit of commotion. His crime? Taking a picture of a fully-clothed woman sitting beside him on the train.
The 40-year-old man was arrested in Kawasaki City for taking pictures of a young woman next to him on the train. The police arrived on the scene after the woman called and informed them of what the man did. The photos in question did not contain any sneaky under the skirt shots or attempts to get a glimpse of her bra, just full body shots, head to toe.
So, why was the man arrested? Cases like this have made the news in the past few years, falling under the aforementioned Anti-Nuisance Ordinance. The law is quite broad in its language, but seeks to protect one thing: the safety and well-being of women. The law states that it doesn’t matter what you are taking a picture of, if the woman being photographed is made to feel uncomfortable or starts feeling anxious, you are liable to be arrested. Even so much as pointing a camera in the victim’s direction without taking a picture is grounds for arrest.
The last controversial case like this became big news back in 2011, when a man was arrested for taking pictures of a woman sleeping on the train. Another back in 2008 involved a Self-Defense Forces member, whose guilty verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court for violating the Anti-Nuisance Ordinance by taking 11 pictures of a woman’s butt/hip area. The woman had all of her clothes on but the court ruled he was in clear violation of the law.
The law also does not discriminate with the age of the woman and any female, young or old, can complain that she is feeling “shy, ashamed or embarrassed”, and the person causing that discomfort will have to deal with the police in some fashion.
With another case getting national coverage in Japan, the Anti-Nuisance Ordinance will surely continue to be scrutinized. For example, the ordinance does not mention males in any fashion. What if it’s a man’s picture being taken and it makes him feel uncomfortable? Is this against the law? There’s also the question of how far does this law go? What about people who are taking pictures in Shibuya Crossing, one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in the world? Or someone who’s been caught by the Google Maps car? Or most of the programs on Japanese TV?