When A Child Might be Abused
– A Guide for When and Where to Call in a Child Abuse Case in Japan

Published September 2023

What do you do when you find out that a child may be abused? This page explains what you should do and what you can do if you find a child may be abused in Japan.

(This article is also available in standard Japanese and simple Japanese (やさしい日本語).)

All children are covered

Under the Japan’s Child Welfare Law and Child Abuse Prevention Law, all children can receive protection and welfare regardless of their nationality or origin, as long as they are within Japan’s jurisdiction.

This includes:

  • children that have no nationality in any country
  • children whose nationality is not clear
  • children who don't have a valid status of residence
  • children whose status of residence is not clear

Definition of abuse

Child abuse is the act by parents (guardians) of not taking the responsibility to protect their children and instead harm them physically or mentally.

Sometimes adults living together, other than the parents, abuse children.

Examples of child abuse [1]
Physical abuseBeating,
shaking violently,
inflict burns,
restraining in a room with ropes,

This also includes physical punishment for the purpose of discipline.
Sexual abuseSexual acts on children,
showing sexual acts to children,
touching a child’s genitals,
having a child touch someone’s genitals,
using children as subjects of pornography,
NeglectLocking children inside a house,
not giving children food,
leaving children extremely dirty,
leaving children in a car,
not taking children to the hospital even if they are very sick and need treatment,
Psychological abuseVerbal threats,
unfair treatment between children,
violence to family members in front of children (domestic violence: DV),
abusive actions to other children (brothers and sisters),

In some cases of child abuse, parents are also abused or controlled by their spouse/partner. When a child witnesses a parent being subjected to violence or verbal abuse, it is called “men-zen DV” (面前DV) in Japan, which is a form of psychological abuse.

(If you are a parent and your spouse/partner is threatening or violating you or controlling you mentally or financially, seeking outside help may help protect you and your child.)

Where to call?

If you find a child who you think is being abused, it is legally required to report (notify) the local “Child Guidance Center” or the local municipal office that has jurisdiction over the area. The nationality or age of the person who report does not matter.

(1) Child Guidance Center

Child Guidance Center (jidou soudan sho 児童相談所) is basically the child protection service in Japan.

Dial “189” on your phone to contact the “Child Guidance Center Child Abuse Dial”.
This is a dedicated dial created specifically for child abuse.


  • “189” is available 24 hours a day
  • Only available in Japanese (Lights On Children confirmed directly with the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare)
  • Toll-free call
  • You do not need to tell your name. The personal information of the caller and the details of the conversation will be kept confidential.
  • You will not be blamed if your report later turns out to be a mistake. If you think a child is being abused, please call anytime.

Available language support may be different depending on the Child Guidance Centers.
For example, at the Child Guidance Center in Tokyo, they have a special project team and process manuals to support people with different background, cultures and languages [2a-b].
In some other areas, they are using a translation device.

(2) Municipal Offices

You can visit municipal offices directly or call the department in charge of child welfare.
Some of the municipal offices are prepared for communications in foreign languages.

Municipal offices do not have the authority to execute strong actions such as separating the children from their parents. If necessary, that decision will be made by the Child Guidance Centers.

(3) Police

Dial “110” on your phone to contact the police department. Some of the local police departments and kobans are prepared for communications in foreign languages.

(4) Legal Affairs Bureau “Human Rights Consultation for Foreigners”

“Human Rights Consultation for Foreigners” (外国人のための人権相談) is a consultation desk run by the Japanese government for foreign nationals. It is available in several languages. You can call or send a text online. For more details, please see the link below:

The focus of this consultation is discrimination based on being a foreigner, but you can also consult about child abuse cases of foreign nationals. Matters related to child abuse will be coordinated from this consultation desk to the Child Guidance Center. (Lights On Children confirmed directly with the Ministry of Justice).

(5) Legal Information for Foreign Nationals (Hou-terasu)

Hou-terasu (法テラス) provides information on the Japanese legal system, bar associations, and relevant organizations at no cost. The service is available in several languages via by phone.

If you wish to contact by e-mail, currently, the service is only available in Japanese.

What will happen after child abuse is reported?

(1) What the Child Guidance Center does first

After Child Guidance Center receives report about child abuse, they categorize the report into “consultation” (soudan 相談) or “notification” (tsukoku 通告), which is more urgent.

In the case of a “notification”, the Child Guidance Center is required by law to visit the site and directly check the safety of the child. (In principle within 48 hours).

If the abuse is serious, the Child Guidance Center will conduct a “temporary protection” (ichiji-hogo 一時保護) of the child on the spot and separate him or her from the family.

(In Japan, even when child abuse is confirmed, parents are not always arrested and prosecuted. The child’s protection & welfare and the legal actions proceedings against the parents are decided by different agencies.)

(2) Protection and Guidance by the Child Guidance Center

In addition, if the temporary protection is not sufficient, the Child Guidance Center will consider to place the child in a children’s home, infant home, or foster home (jidou-yougo-shisetsu 児童養護施設, nyuji-in 乳児院 and sato-oya 里親, respectively).

If it is determined that it is ready for the child to live with his/her parents, the child is returned from the facility/foster care to the parents under the judgement of the Child Guidance Center.

While the child is in the care of an institution or foster parent, visits between the child and their parents is basically permitted. However, in cases of severe abuse, etc., an order may be issued restricting parent-child contact.

On the other hand, the Child Guidance Center’s job is not limited to separating parents and children.
Depending on the degree and frequency of abuse, the Child Guidance Center may decide that there is no need to separate the parent and child.

In such cases, the Child Guidance Center will not separate the child and the parent but will instead provide support through home visits and other ways of support.
The Child Guidance Center will support the parent in raising the child by understanding the parent’s concerns and sense of burden. If the parent and child require special support, the center can work with them to find appropriate welfare services.

(3) Status of Residence

There are cases where a child has not obtained residency status or loses it during the process. In such situations, the Immigration Services Agency will decide whether to grant special residency status.


You may hesitate to make a report if you only have partial information or if you are unsure if the child has been abused.
But if you give the information to the experts, they can make a judgment on whether abuse has occurred, while referring to other information.

Please report if you suspect a child may be abused.
Your report may save the child’s life, and it may also help the child’s parents.


[1]Japan Children and Families Agency (2023). 児童虐待防止対策. https://www.cfa.go.jp/policies/jidougyakutai/, (Retrieved August 22, 2023).
[2a]Keita Ozaki (2013). 児童の権利に関する条約からみた外国籍児童の要養護問題と児童相談体制の課題. The Bulletin of Kansai University of International Studies, 14, 7-17. http://id.nii.ac.jp/1084/00000363/, (Retrieved August 22, 2023).
[2b]Tokyo Metropolitan Child Guidance Center (2021). 東京都児童相談所 事業概要 2021年版. https://www.fukushihoken.metro.tokyo.lg.jp/jicen/others/insatsu.files/jigyogaiyo2021.pdf, (Retrieved August 22, 2023).

* This article was written by Lights On Children and was translated into English with the help of volunteers.