The Prostitution Prevention Law of 1956, makes it illegal to have 'intercourse with an unspecified person in exchange for payment' Article 3 states that 'No person may either do prostitution or become the customer of it'. However penalties are defined only for soliciting by prostitutes, organising prostitution, operating brothels, procuring or inducing a person for sex work, coercing a person into sex work, and profiting from the sex work of others. This means that buying sex is not effectively illegal. The definition of prostitution is limited to vaginal intercourse so that other forms of commercial sex are legal and can take place in massage parlours and 'soaplands' which are known as fuzoku. These businesses are regulated by the 1948 Businesses Affecting Public Morals Regulation Law.
Sex workers say that law enforcement focusses on migrants in the Japanese sex industry who are regularly arrested and deported.
HIV and STI testing are officially voluntary and confidential.