Access to the internet may practically be universal, but that doesn’t mean that everyone experiences the same level of freedom when retrieving information and performing activities online. Depending on where you live, you may be bound to different rules compared to other people. It is crucial that you read on what you can and can’t do online before you attempt to do anything that may be considered illegal in your country.
If you live in Japan, you may be bound by existing restrictions that limit the content you may access online. Having a Virtual Private Network or VPN is going to be helpful, but you need to understand the context of internet access and freedom in Japan before delving into the world of VPN.
Internet Freedom in Japan
Japan’s internet structure is incredibly fast and well-developed. People can access this at relatively affordable prices, and the industry itself respect the idea of net neutrality. Japan’s constitution has sections that protect free speech and free press that extend online, but the right to privacy online is not absolute. Here are some things you should know when it comes to internet freedom in Japan:
- Free speech
Enshrined in Japan’s constitution is its people’s right to free speech and the idea of a free press. These can both be seen in articles 19 and 22 respectively—
“Freedom of thought and conscience shall not be violated.” – Art. 19
“Freedom of assembly and association as well as speech, press and all other forms of expression are guaranteed. No censorship shall be maintained, nor shall the secrecy of any means of communication be violated.” – Art 22
Both of these provisions and freedoms are extended to online activities in Japan. The limited control over the content online is partly caused by the active decision of the government to avoid any type of censorship like what happened before and during the Second World War. At the moment, the most publicized internet limitations in Japan are indecent material (read: pornography) and defamation.
- Right to privacy
In Japan, there is no general right to privacy. However, law enforcement is still required to have a search warrant before they can encroach upon your private space. Additionally, Japan also has a personal information act that creates protection for your personal information, whether in traditional or digital platforms.
- Access to the internet
No law enforces a legal right for everyone to have internet access in Japan. Only people who have the means to access the internet can do so, meaning that individuals without the necessary technology to reach the internet would not have legal grounds to demand access. However, the majority of Japan enjoys access to the internet—with 79.1% being privy to online information even back in 2012.
- Net neutrality
The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication (MIC) in Japan has worked with the country’s existing telecommunication providers to establish guidelines when it comes to net neutrality in the industry. The three principles that govern the net neutrality in Japan are the following:
- ISPs should deal with traffic surges online by expanding and constantly improving their network capacity.
- ISPs are allowed to alter internet traffic speeds, but only in exceptional situations.
- ISPs should always be justified when making technical decisions, and the criteria they use when determining important decisions must be objective in nature.
If you are living in Japan, you probably enjoy a good amount of freedom online. However, you will still likely experience restrictions enforced by the government, especially in content that they may deem harmful to you.
To have a better understanding of how Japanese citizens connect online, it is vital that you have a general idea on the basic facts about this country.
Japan lies off the eastern coast of the Asian continent and is considered as the 2nd most populous island country in the world. As of October 2018 census, Japan has a population of 126,440,000. It covers a total area of 377,973 square kilometers, which is 26 times smaller compared to the United States.
Japan has a total of 117,600,000 internet users (6th overall as of 2017) and offers an average connection speed of 17.1 mbps back in 2016. The most popular online categories in Japan are search and navigation and online video content.
The most popular social application in Japan is the LINE mobile messenger, followed by Facebook, Twitter, and Apple Music. Japan is also one of the strongest online commerce markets in the world, with e-commerce sales amounting to 89.66 billion USD in 2016.
As of January 2019, the active social media penetration in Japan and mobile social media penetration both stand at 61%. The number of active LINE users (monthly) in Japan as of the first quarter of 2019 is 80,000,000, and 22,600,000 of these people use Facebook. Most of these people use the following ISPs:
- ASAHI Net,
- Au one net,
- InterCon Systems Corporation,
- Internet Initiative Japan,
- Japan Computer Access Network,
- Nifty Corporation,
- Nippon Telegraph and Telephone,
- NTT Docomo,
- NTT Plala,
- Open Compute Network,
- SoftBank Group, and
The top 5 tech companies (by capital value, in no particular order) in Japan are Softbank Corp., NTT DoCoMo Inc., NTT Communication, KDDI Corporation, and Canon Inc. Apart from its broad tech industry, Japan is also known for its traditional arts, Manga and Anime, and natural marvels like Mount Fuji and its Cherry Blossoms.
Why You Need a VPN in Japan
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) gives you the option to create a more secure connection online. If you are living, working or travelling in Japan, here are some reasons why you may need VPN access:
- It allows you to access content that you wouldn’t otherwise be allowed to see without a virtual private network.
This is the function for which VPNs are mostly known for. VPNs will help you enter local and foreign websites that have been blocked by your country or ISP.
- It protects your private information and prevents tracking when downloading torrents.
Downloading music, movies, and software through torrents are stricter in some countries. If you want to prevent the authorities from tracking your IP address while downloading torrents, it would be better to use a VPN before clicking the magnet link.
- It safeguards your information when in a public network.
Nowadays, people are much craftier when it comes to accessing information through online means. Sometimes, when you connect in public networks like coffee shops or airports, people can access the personal data in your computer, including but not limited to passwords, credit card information, and banking data. When you have a VPN, no one will be able to intercept your data.
- It allows you to beat location-based streaming restrictions.
Websites sometimes restrict their content to people living in their own countries. That is the reason why people living in Japan will definitely have difficulty accessing streaming using platforms like the BBC iPlayer, as it is restricted to UK users only. When you have a VPN, you can use a local server and route the data to your country without issue.
- Save money when shopping for items online.
You may not be aware of it, but online stores sometimes have different prices for the same items depending on the country you are browsing from. If you want to get the local (or the lowest) rate, you can switch between servers to see which locations offer the best prices, saving you money in the process.
- Save money on flights.
Just as prices are different when you shop online, airfare rates also differ depending on where you’re browsing from. If you want to explore your options and see which location offer the best rates, try to play around with your VPN and see how much you can save.
- Improve internet speed.
More often than note, internet connections pass through numerous channels, making your internet speed slower than normal. VPNs allow you to directly connect with your server of choice for you to get the internet speed you’ve always wanted to achieve.
Now that you know the benefits VPNs can provide, you should definitely look up the best VPNs you can find in your country. VPNs will definitely expand the content you can access online, and can even help you save money along the way. See how Virtual Public Networks can help you achieve the internet freedom you’ve been wanting to have!