Jul 21, 2018

Liability concerns just work differently in Japan

There’s something I think about quite often here in Japan, simply because there are so many cases where the thought applies: Japan just doesn’t have the same liability concerns as we do back in the States.

Trust me, I believe people in the U.S. are way too sue-happy, but growing up in that environment conditioned me to look at things from a different perspective. Here’s a recent example.

Last night, as we were departing from my school’s summer festival, the teachers handed us this:

Liability concerns just work differently in Japan photo

Hanabi, or fireworks.

Now keep in mind that this is Yochien/Hoikuen (pre-school/daycare) facility, meaning that all of the students range from 1 to 6 years old. That’s right, they gifted every family with at least one child six or younger fireworks.

Okay, so I should explain that hanabi aren’t like the exploding M-80s or firecrackers or other powder-type fireworks common back in the States; rather, they are more like sparklers.

Still, for you Americans out there, can you imagine how long a school could go handing out sparklers before finding themselves in court because some kid burned his/her hand or put out an eye?

Here, the concept of liability is different. Nobody could take a case to court and win saying that the school was responsible for a children injuring themselves using hanabi at home. At home, the kids are the responsibility of the parents. End of story.

The same goes for other things, like skiing out-of-bounds or hiking off-trail or taking any other risky behavior that isn’t formally sanctioned by a company or government organization. The bottom line is that liability in all those cases rests with the individual, not someone else.

I have to say that I agree with that mindset. My daughter is too young to use hanabi by herself. When we light those things up, I’ll be right there with her to make sure she doesn’t get hurt. If I’m not paying attention or she’s goofing off and hurts herself, there’s no way I’d try to blame someone else for it. Just like I wouldn’t expect someone to come rescue me if I decide to go trailblazing or partake in any other behaviors that I know to be risky.

What about you all? Do you agree with Japan’s mindset towards liability? Do you have any stories about how the system worked or didn’t work? Feel free to use the comments section below!



Hitting the books once again as a Ph.D. student in Niigata Prefecture. Although I've lived in Japan many years, life as a student in this country is a first.

Blessed Dad. Lucky Husband. Happy Gaijin (most of the time).

1 Comment

  • ReishiiTravels

    on Jul 21

    I totally agree with Japan's mindset. I feel like people are too sue-happy in the US.