Marijuana In Japan: History And Culture
Marijuana in Japan is just recently seeing a rise in popularity. This is largely due to Japanese exchange students trying it during their travels abroad. However, both Japanese law and society still mistakenly believe marijuana is a dangerous and addictive drug.
The History of Marijuana in Japan
According to Japanese researcher Junichi Takayusa, hemp has been used for thousands of years in Japan. Evidence exists dating back to 10,000 BC showing early Japanese used the plant’s fibers for clothing, fishing lines, and bow strings.
It’s not clear whether or not psychoactive species of marijuana were smoked in ancient Japan. But experts point to historical evidence of marijuana being used in medicine in Japan until the 20th century. Often times marijuana was used to treat insomnia, chronic pain, and many other symptoms that medical marijuana treats today.
Marijuana and hemp were so highly regarded in ancient Japanese culture that references exist in ancient art and poems. One such poem stated that, “even the most crooked plant will grow straight when planted in a field of hemp.” It’s clear that marijuana in Japan played an important role in agriculture and industry.
This largely changed after World War II when the United States occupied Japan. The US wrote a new constitution for the country, and enacted strict anti-drug laws, including the “Marijuana Control Act”. This outlawed the growing of hemp and marijuana, and has been enforced by the Japanese government ever since.
Modern Japanese Marijuana Culture
Nowadays marijuana in Japan is treated extremely harshly. It is mistakenly seen as a drug on the same level of heroin and cocaine. Recently Japanese police caught ex-boy band member, Koki Tanaka with marijuana. He was widely criticized in the Japanese media for using it.
In 2016 a former actress and marijuana activist, Saya Takagi was arrested in her home in Okinawa, Japan for possession of marijuana. She too was paraded in front of TV cameras and criticized by the media. Shockingly some news channels interviewed Japanese doctors who falsely claimed marijuana was dangerous and addictive.
Is it worth the risk?
If you are thinking of smoking marijuana in Japan, let the lessons of Tanaka and Takagi be a lesson for you. Using marijuana in Japan is just not worth the risk or the price. In some places 1 gram can cost up to $60! Even scarier is the legal punishments. Possession can bring a sentence of up to 5 years, while marijuana growers are punished with 7-year sentences.
The Future of Marijuana in Japan
Despite this, there are Japanese activists fighting for changes in marijuana laws. Junichi Takayasu runs a marijuana museum outside of Tokyo dedicated to educating the public about marijuana. Another group, Cannabist-Kansai hosts an annual Marijuana March every year in Osaka. As countries like Canada, Uruguay, and the US legalize marijuana, progress will spread across the world. But until then, it’s best to enjoy your sushi while stoned in a country less harsh on marijuana use.