Japan is the technology capital of the world and sooner or later, most trends end up being popular there. The electric skateboard trend is at its peak so it’s only natural that it hits Japan. With many YouTubers riding electric skateboards, you may be tempted to join them, but there is a small matter of legality. If you live in or are visiting Japan, you should know if riding electric skateboards are legal, so as not to get in trouble.
Officially, the law doesn’t prohibit or make the use of electric skateboards illegal. However, the law is rather vague as it doesn’t exactly talk about electric skateboards. Instead, Japanese law forbids roller skating in crowded areas. As electric skateboards are still a developing trend, the law hasn’t yet been extended to account for it, but law enforcement officials may consider riding an electric skateboard similar to roller skating. In that case, simply obey the laws that come with roller skating and you should be fine. It is worth noting that some law enforcement officers may consider electric skateboards as toys and ask you to only use them in the playground. If you are faced with such a situation, you can quote or show this law to the official and you’ll be fine, or you can simply do what the officer says.
Where can I ride an electric skateboard in Japan?
The law only tells you to stay off crowded roads, leaving you to interpret where you can ride your electric skateboard. This creates several options but in the interest of public safety, you may have to stick to certain areas.
Bicycle lanes offer a great riding option, but it is subject to how busy the lane is. In some of the major cities in Japan, bicycle riders are very common, making the lane very busy and dangerous for an electric skateboard.
Less busy roads
This is one of the best options available for electric skateboards. This option applies to less populated cities where traffic is reduced. Some roads are less frequently used than others, earning them the tag ‘back roads’ used mainly by bicycle riders. It offers the perfect opportunity for electric skateboard riders to move at increased speeds compared to bicycle lanes.
Following the rule that restricts the use of toys to the playgrounds, playgrounds offer a free space where you can ride your electric skateboard freely. Here, you don’t even have to worry about the police or where you need to avoid it. Numerous skate parks qualify with this description all across the country and they are among the best in the entire world. Whether you’re just learning to ride or you’re a pro looking to perform complex tricks, skate parks are the solution.
Safety regulations for electric skateboard riders in Japan
If you’re on private property, law enforcement won’t bother you to obey safety rules, even though you should for your safety. In public though, there are certain safety expectations and requirements from all-electric skateboard riders. While these laws aren’t written, you are still expected to obey them for your safety and that of others.
While you may be using less busy roads, the term less busy is a bit ambiguous. A road may be less busy but still have significant traffic, pedestrian, and otherwise. The cities in Japan usually have a lot of pedestrians and they use roads frequently, especially the back roads. To avoid any accidents, harming yourself and any other pedestrians, you need to avoid overspeeding. While there are no official speed limits, it is recommended that you go under 20km/hr (12mph) where there are pedestrians nearby.
Use of safety gear
As the law doesn’t explicitly talk about electric skateboards, you will be operating under the assumption that your electric skateboard is a moped. All moped riders are required to wear a helmet when operating on the road. Obeying this law can help keep the police away from you. In addition to helmets, you may want to wear knee and elbow pads to protect these areas.
Do we need a license?
Seeing as electric skateboards aren’t stated in the law, you aren’t required to have a license to operate them. This has been a cause for conflict between police and electric skateboard riders. Vehicles drivers are required by law to have a license, and with electric skateboards not meeting vehicle requirements, riders aren’t issued licenses. Also, electric skateboards aren’t exactly street legal so licenses aren’t issued to operate them.
Do we need insurance?
As electric skateboards are illegal to operate in public places, you don’t need insurance to operate them. This is one of the main reasons why they aren’t considered legal as the law clearly states that all motorized vehicles require insurance before being operated in public. With electric skateboards not being deemed safe enough to be insured, they are considered toys by most law agencies. This is understandable as the main concern of the law is the safety of its citizens, and if electric skateboards aren’t safe, then they shouldn’t be on the roads.
Can you ride an electric skateboard on the sidewalk?
Legally, you can’t ride an electric skateboard on the sidewalk in japan. With major cities like Tokyo being densely populated, the sidewalk isn’t a viable option with pedestrians all around. However, eyewitness testimonies have been reported saying that the police advised people to stick to the sidewalks and keep off the main roads when riding an electric skateboard. If you are to use the sidewalk, please apply caution and ensure the sidewalk isn’t too populated with civilians, and always give way to them. The sidewalk is legally a path for civilians and you will be held accountable for any collisions and penalized.
For a more hands-on perspective, from an experience electric skateboard user, visit the website of a popular Japanese vlogger. Here, you get first-hand experience on the laws, where to skateboard, and safety tips to help improve your electric skateboard experience in japan. You should try to read up on the road laws of japan yourself. Since the laws are written in Japanese, you can read a translated version, relating to electric skateboards here. In the event you are pulled over by the police for operating an electric skateboard in public, you can show them the laws if it is in your favor and they should let you go. It is worth noting that the law in Japan is rather strict and where you are in the wrong, you risk facing severe punishment and fines, so endeavor to obey them at all times.
One bit of good news that electric skateboarders can look to is the fact that the law may change soon and electric skateboards can become street legal. As of now, a pilot program has been set in motion across the country in selected cities. It goal is to allow electric scooters access to bike lanes with Tokyo at the front of the campaign. While there is no official confirmation, for now, we can only assume that if the program is successful, it will give way to other motorized vehicles like electric skateboards being street legal as well. If this is the case, then it is only a matter of time before you can confidently stride across the streets of Tokyo with your electric skateboard without having to worry about the police or if you’re breaking any laws.