Today Japan has some of the strictest anti-cannabis laws in the world. Punishment for possession is a maximum 5 years behind bars and illicit growers face 7-year sentences.
Annually around 2000 people fall foul of these laws - their names splashed on the nightly news and their careers ruined forever. The same prohibition which dishes out these punishments also bans research into medical marijuana, forcing Japanese scientists overseas to conduct their studies.
For decades, these laws have stood unchallenged. But now increasing numbers of Japanese people are speaking out against prohibition - and at the heart of their campaign is an attempt to teach the public about Japan's long-forgotten history of cannabis.
Although not updated since 2010, the most detailed English website about cannabis in Japan is at taima.org accessible here.
"Most Japanese people see cannabis as a subculture of Japan but they're wrong. For thousands of years cannabis has been at the very heart of Japanese culture," explains Junichi Takayasu, one of the country's leading experts.
According to Takayasu, the earliest traces of cannabis in Japan are seeds and woven fibers discovered in the west of the country dating back to the Jomon Period (10,000 BC - 300 BC). Archaeologists suggest that cannabis fibers were used for clothes - as well as for bow strings and fishing lines. These plants were likely cannabis sativa - prized for its strong fibers - a thesis supported by a Japanese prehistoric cave painting which appears to show a tall spindly plant with cannabis's tell-tale leaves.
"Cannabis was the most important substance for prehistoric people in Japan. But today many Japanese people have a very negative image of the plant," says Takayasu.
In order to put Japanese people back in touch with their cannabis roots, in 2001 Takayasu founded Taima Hakubutsukan (The Cannabis Museum) - the only museum in Japan dedicated to the much-maligned weed.
source by newsonjapan