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Sebenza In Japan

Dec 31, 1998
Going to Japan on vacation. Should I take my large Sebenza and risk customs? Has anyone dealth with this problem? Maybe play it safe with taking a Delica?
Honestly, I would leave it home, nice and safe. Why tempt fate and some sticky fingered rent-a-cop with your Seb.
You may miss it while you are gone, but you will miss it alot more if someone else "aquires" it.

"Worst of all my foes, I fear the enemy within"
*John Wesley*

Romans 10:9-10

"Military" Fans Unite!!

Uhh...If I may,
You really don't want to take a knife to a foreign country, especially Japan, that violates their legal blade length laws. I believe, when I was there in 1982, the legal limit was less than 3".
Japanese jails are BAD places and they don't care for Americans in there.
If you do happen to get stopped by the Japanese constabulary and they catch you with an "illegal" knife, you will get little, if any, help from the U.S. Embassey.
Count on it.
You will be on your own in a foreign country and no one will be there to aid you legally.

My most humble advice is, find out without a shadow of a doubt, what the legal carry length is and adhere to it religiously.
This is the best favor you can do for yourself.
I don't want to sound like the voice of paranoia, but neither do I want to see a fellow American in a Japanese s**thole for many years either.
Good Luck and be Safe!

If it's stupid but works, then it isn't stupid.

Don't take it. I have a friend that is currently living in Japan. He has a small (about 2" blade) lockback that I gave him and he says people flinch when he gets it out. I'd pick up a Spyderco Dragonfly or something similar to carry, or maybe a SAK. BTW I asked my friend to find me a Japanese knife of some sort and he says they are hard ot find unless you go to a specialty cutlery store, and then they are expensive. I would say that part of this depends on where in Japan you are going also. My buddy lives in a large metropolitan area. People are probably more used to knives in the more rural areas. I find the same to be true in the U.S.
In Japan the maximum allowable blade length in the city is 2 1/2".

Leave it at home.

Ron Knight

Yeah I'm crazy, but what do you want me to do about it
Everyone gets frisked at Narita airport. They are pretty uptight over there. I would leave it at home. Or at least pick something really cheap.
Is it really sensible to fly <strong>anywhere</strong> with an expensive knife?

You can't keep it in the carry on luggage and lost luggage is only replaced with money according to the checked in weight, and the amount for 20kg is only on the order of what a Sebenza goes for.

Urban Fredriksson

Thanks for the info. I have several cheaper/smaller knives to choose from. Maybe I will just take a Kubaton and buy OC if possible when I arrive.


Fred Morton
I travel to Japan often on business. Your personal appearence while going through Japanese immigration has more to do with problems than anything else. I have never been frisked or hassled or anything... I always carry a micra and my BF carbon spyderco and have never had a problem. Once they showed pictures of a fixed blade and asked if I had one. Nevertheless, I would leave the Sebenza at home and take a smaller folder... And don't wear tie dyed t-shirts, cut-off shorts and sandals through customs and you won't have problems.

You've never been frisked? Everytime I stop at Narita, all the passengers stand in a line and get frisked (or at least a pat down). I've never seen exceptions.
Ditto those who say "don't take it" -- if you really need to carry-on, those suggesting Dragonfly, small SAK, etc., are right on. If you take a multi-tool other than Micra, Crosscut, etc, pack it w/the stowed luggage.

I've been to Japan numerous times and agree w/Steve: the more formal the attire, the less hassle. I've never been stopped, and only occasionally have I seen anyone get searched.

Also, Misque's comments RE jails, "especially Japan": do you know of actual experiences? Japan is among the strictest in upholding legal restrictions, to be sure, but incarceration there is not as you suggest. Jail time would suck anywhere, but in Japan you wouldn't nearly approach the poor treatment you'd receive even in the US. If you're an American citizen, you're probably the *least* likely to face unfair treatment (although if you're not white, this drops a bit).

Probably doesn't matter either way, but are you sure you're not confusing it w/Singapore (where spitting or littering is *legally* grounds for fine or imprisonment)?

.02 --
The only knife I had on my at Narity Airport was a Victorinox SAK Spartan. I was not searched...OTOH, I was only transferring to another plane to Taipei.

A guy told me he had his Victorinox Classic (2 and one-fourth inches closed) in a closed briefcase through customs there. He said they made him open his briefcase and confiscated the little penknife. I don't know it it's the law, or if someone working at the airport wanted a new little SAK, but that's weird.

All jails anywhere in the world, including the U.S., are bad places. I doubt, however, that Japanese jails are any worse than in Taiwan, China, Turkey, Mexico, Brazil,England, U.S., Australia...you get the picture.
I would definitely take it. As you and the knife are getting older you will always remember the cool places you've taken it. (I know I'm getting sentimental here.) It would be the same like owning an expensive watch and letting it sit at home in fear of scratching it up.

When I went to Japan about two years ago, my luggage didn't get hand searched, neither did I see that been done to anybody else. Of course you could have the "luck". Even then I wonder if they will ever pick on a knife you have in your beauty kit.

To avoid those hassels, you can fool them easily with a Sebenza. You just take it apart. The handle slabs make for nice key chain pendants (especially when engraved with a name!), one for you and one for your partner. The blade goes - neatly wrapped - in your beauty kit with shavers and toothbrush. If you think that's not save enough you can hide it inside your camera (depending on type) or tape it to the bottom with black tape (use some cardboard to disguise the shape of the blade). Just let the thumb stud stick out (looks like some kind of exotic button). That way you can even take your Benza on board and nobody will ever notice it.

Hey, these guys deserve to be fooled! And what's live without a little thrill?

[This message has been edited by Ralf (edited 23 September 1999).]
Re: Jail time in Japan

I only have the stories relayed to me by a couple of buddies who have first hand experience with doing time Japanese style.
1.Predjudiced American hating guards. Read: unprovoked beatings.
2.Fish heads and rice for meals, often.
3.Unsanitary (read:filthy)hole-in-the-floor type of "relief" stations.
4.Oh, BTW did I mention nearly everybody has a relative who died in Hiroshima and/or Nagasaki? read: more beatings (from fellow inmates).
of course you will not see this on the news because Japan is our ally, but this is what I've been told goes on there.
Also, I need to add that this info comes from a friend of mine who got into a traffic accident in a rental car in Iwakuni and made the idiotic mistake of trying to flee the scene. He was caught and turned over to the police, tried and sentenced to a year in jail.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to take his word for it over you folks unless you have done time over there and have something further to add or dispute.
Well, anybody done time in the Japanese penal system?

I would be fascinated to hear your stories!

BTW I agree 100% that there are far worse places to be incarcerated in other parts of the world, but this does not sound like any cake walk to me.

If it's stupid but works, then it isn't stupid.

[This message has been edited by misque (edited 23 September 1999).]
I really like the idea of disassembling the Seb and disguising the pieces, very inventive. I wouldn't risk it personally, but I like it anyway.


"Worst of all my foes, I fear the enemy within"
*John Wesley*

Romans 10:9-10

"Military" Fans Unite!!