A reader wrote to Lifelines about legal concerns he has about conducting academic research at pedestrian crossings:
I am studying the impact of smartphones upon behavior in public space. As part of my research, I hope to record public behavior at intersections in Tokyo. Are there any legal constraints upon doing so?
Your research might cause legal issues if it conflicts with the public's right to privacy or their portrait rights. The right to privacy is not expressly defined by statutes in Japan, but the idea was brought across from the U.S., and Japanese courts now recognize it as a fundamental human right. The basic idea is that individuals have the right to be left alone, and for their own affairs or seclusion to be respected, not violated.