Japan Travel Advice
Security travel advice for Japan
How safe is Japan?
Threat level: Low-Medium
The current travel advice for Japan is to remain cautious of petty crime in built up areas. Whilst most visits to Japan are trouble-free, the best travel advice for Japan is to ensure that you plan your travel well as the language barrier can be an issue, especially in rural areas of Japan, where English is not widely spoken.
For specific security and travel advice for Tokyo, see our page: Travel advice for Tokyo.
Crime levels are relatively low in most parts of Japan. It is safe to walk about at night in the majority of locations and to travel on trains and buses, but you should maintain a high level of vigilance and take the right security precautions. Tokyo’s main tourist districts, such as Roppongi and Kabuki-cho, are considered the highest risk areas for crime against foreign tourists, particularly at night.
The Yakuza clan plays a main role in the transnational organised crime syndicates who operate in Japan, but generally do not target tourists.
Foreign nationals have been arrested following violent disputes with bar owners and bouncers. Some have been violently beaten by locals and in some cases this has led to severe injuries after refusing to pay extortionate bar bills.
There have also been reports of drinks being spiked or bar staff deliberately giving customers drinks with much higher levels of alcohol than would be expected, in an attempt to rob them or manipulate them while they are highly intoxicated. In some cases, tourists have woken up in streets with no relocation as to what has happened to them, and all of their possessions and money gone. In some extremely isolated cases, victims have also been sexually assaulted.
Political demonstrations of a pro-nationalist are becoming more common in many areas of Japan, and they can involve hostility to foreign tourists. Be cautious of developments in demonstrations and if you become aware of any protests, leave the area if possible.
Sexual assaults and rapes on foreign nationals in Japan do happen regularly, particularly on public transport and in built-up areas. Reports of inappropriate touching of female passengers on commuter trains are fairly common, especially with young female tourists. The Japanese police advise that in the event that you are being touched or sexually harassed, you shout out loud to attract attention and ask a member of the train staff to call the Police.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in July 2012, has left an exclusion zone around the Power Plant, which has been designated a restricted area.
Japan's International Relations
Japan has a close diplomatic relationship with the United States and has strong involvement in organisations such as the United Nations. In the Cold War, Japan took a part in the Western world's confrontation of the Soviet Union in East Asia. Japan also has close ties to the European Union. There has been a general feeling among both Chinese and Japanese society of distrust and dislike towards each other, this follows political and diplomatic issues in the past between China and Japan. There are tensions due to worries of future territorial disputes, which could lead to conflict in the region.
Travelling around Japan
To legally drive in Japan, you must hold an International Driving Permit. If you stay in Japan for longer than one year, you will have to apply for a Japanese driving licence.
Earthquakes and other natural disasters have left roads in certain rural areas of Japan unworthy of travelling on, even for short periods of time. However, all the roads are well-maintained, and are repaired in a quick manor. June through to December is cyclone season and as such, you should be extra cautious and be prepared during this time.
Earthquakes in Japan
Japan is in a major earthquake zone and has suffered many major earthquakes in the past and regularly suffers from earthquakes of a Magnitude 3-5.
The largest ever earthquake recorded in Japan, was the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. A magnitude 9.0 quake that triggered a tsunami that killed an estimated 29,000 thousand people. The resulting tsunami caused damaged nuclear reactors and this in turn caused a nuclear incident known as The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
A wide area around Ōkuma, in the Fukushima Prefecture still remains closed.
You should familiarise yourself with safety procedures in the event of an earthquake or tsunami, you can find these in hotel rooms and online. Earthquake damage prevention measures in Japan are to a high standard.
Emergency services in Japan:
Emergency services: 119
Religion: Shinto and Buddhism
Currency: Japanese Yen
Time now in Tokyo:
Consular information for Japan
U.S. Embassy Tokyo
Telephone: +81 33224 5000
British Embassy Tokyo
Telephone: +81 (3) 5211 1100
Visa requirements for Japan
Most nationalities can enter Japan as a visitor for up to 90 days without needing a visa. You may need to provide evidence of a return or onward ticket before entering the country.
Healthcare and Immunisations
No special immunizations or medications are necessary for most trips to Japan. However, the following are advised: Influenza, Japanese encephalitis, Measles and Tetanus.
Okinawa Prefecture Department of Health issued a warning for Hand-Foot-and-Mouth disease. Yaeyama is the worst area affected, parts of Okinawa main island including Naha, especially the southern and middle region. Altitude including Acute Mountain Sickness, a potentially life-threatening condition can be experienced in destinations where altitude is high, there are parts of the country with high altitude of 2400m or more. It is adviseable to take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.