Tokyo Travel Advice
Security travel advice for Tokyo
How safe is Tokyo?
Threat level: Low
COVID-19 Situation in Tokyo
The nationwide state of emergency that had been declared in Japan for a month on the 16th of April to contain the spread of coronavirus ended on the 14th of May and restrictions have been lifted in stages as the number of infection cases has sharply fallen. Japanese authorities are asking people to maintain social distancing, avoid crowds and wear a face mask to avoid a second wave.
Further to this, entry is banned to foreign travellers from affected countries and visitors from other countries, who intend to travel for tourism. Travellers who intend to travel to Japan for work, studies or to visit a relative are allowed to enter, providing that they have a visa and can present a negative COVID-19 test taken at least 72 hours prior to their flight departure time.
See our healthcare section for more information.
Security Situation in Tokyo
The general travel advice for Tokyo is that Tokyo’s tourist districts including Roppongi and Kabuki-cho do have significantly more crime, such as robbery, credit card fraud, etc.; much of it targeted toward tourists in and around the night clubs and bars.
It is advised that visitors should remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings. If you are planning on late nights in bars and clubs, then do take precautions and be on the guard for drinks being spiked, etc.
Whilst Tokyo is one of the safest cities in the world, it has had its security issues and is prone to natural disasters and severe weather.
In January 2019 there was a terroist attack when a vehicle was rammed into pedestrians, the incident that was linked to the doomsday cult injured nine people.
March 20, 1995 saw Tokyo's worst attack, a (domestic) terrorist attack launched on the Tokyo Metro (Subway) by the "Aum Shinrikyo", a religious movement and doomsday cult. The nerve agent Sarin having been homemade was used in five coordinated attacks, across three lines of the Tokyo Metro. The attack was carried out in rush hour targeting Kasumigaseki and Nagatachō, Tokyo, home of the Japanese government. 12 people, 50 severely injured with over 1,000 casualties, many who only have slight, short lived vision issues.
Drug use is not permitted in Japan and the country has harsh laws for those caught in possession of controlled drugs. Further to this, it is strongly advised that if you are travelling into Japan with prescribed medication, that you check with your Embassy or Consulate prior to travel if the medication you are taking is permitted in Japan. Stimulants such as pseudoephedrine or codeine are banned in Japan.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Tokyo is preparing to host the 2020 Olympic Games, the XXXII Olympiad the Games have now of course been delayed due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak. The second time that the city has held the Summer Olympic Games, the first time being in 1964 and it is hoped that some of the same venues will be used for the 2020 Games with the opening ceremony was planned for 24th July 2020, but will now take place on Friday, 23rd July 2021. For information on security and health risk and other useful information on Tokyo 2020, see: Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Security Brief.
Tokyo's Police are very much in tune with the Islamic terror threat. Demonstrated at the Sumida River fireworks display last year, road blocks were in place to prevent a Nice-style vehicle attack. The Sumida River fireworks display attracts crowds close to a million people each year and was seen as a high risk event.
In Japan, it is the law to carry personal identification. So, if you are out and about, be sure to have your passport (or driving license) with you at all times. Police do carry out random ID checks in bars and clubs and these tests sometimes also include drug testing, so be warned!
Travelling around Tokyo
The Metropolitan area of Tokyo is split down into 23 wards called ‘tokubetsu-ku’or (Special Cities) and these wards are further divided into districts. Travel between these is very easy using the Tokyo subway system. Tokyo boasts a great subway that is very cheap to use and most locations in the city can be reached with one or two changes at the most. Japan Rail (JR) Pass is ideal for travel across the country and will allow you to access any JR line in the country for seven days including shinkansen (Japan's famous high-speed trains).
Japan does have an issue with female passengers being inappropriately touched by male passengers while on the subway or public transport (this is known in Japan as "chikan"). Should you be a victim of this, the UK FCO advise to: "shout at the perpetrator to attract attention and ask a fellow passenger to call the train staff".
Driving in Tokyo, just like any major city can be very frustrating and great care need to be taken at traffic lights, because it is quite common for drivers to jump red lights. You can drive anywhere in Japan with either a Japanese Driver’s License, or an International Drivers Permit (IDP). For your IDP, you will need to apply and receive it in your home country in advance of your stay in Japan.
The condition of the roads in Japan is generally very good and the roads are well-maintained. Care should of course be taken if driving through the countryside and in mountain regions. In Japan, they drive on the left, just like in the UK.
Do not be tempted to drink any alcohol and then drive in Japan. The Drink drive limits are far lower in Japan. There is a zero-tolerance policy towards drink-driving, the law in Japan refers to a figure of 0.03 blood-alcohol content. If you are tested and found guilty, you could be sentenced to up to five years in prison or subject to a fine of up to $10,000. The passengers in the car with you when you got pulled over may be prosecuted and/or fined for being so irresponsible as to let you break the drink and drive law.
Earthquakes in Tokyo
The whole of Japan is at risk from natural disasters, including earthquakes and tsunamis. Large cities such as Tokyo have early warning systems for tsunamis and major buildings will have a clear evacuation policy for earthquakes. According to Lloyds of London, Tokyo is the second-riskiest city in the world for disasters after Taipei.
Extreme weather in Tokyo
Tokyo is often subjected to adverse weather including typhoons. Pacific Typhoon Season from May to October each year. August and September are the peak of the typhoon season in Japan. Typhoon rains do cause local flooding and disrupt transportation. Always check local and national news if planning any road journey.
For more information on Weather, Climate and Earthquake Information, see the website of the Japanese Meteorological Agency.
Commercial Travel Risk Services
Intelligent Protection International Limited provides companies and organisations with Commercial Travel Risk Services designed to mitigate risks of staff when they travel for business. If you are interested in these services, please see: Commercial Travel Risk Services.
Emergency services in Tokyo:
Medical and Fire services: 119
Emergencies at Sea: 118
Tokyo Fire Department: (24/7) 03 3212 2323
Note: Operators are proficient in English
Religion: Shinto and Buddhism
Currency: Japanese Yen
Time now in Tokyo:
Consular information for Tokyo
U.S. Embassy Tokyo
Telephone: +81 33224 5000
British Embassy Tokyo
Telephone: +81 (3) 5211 1100
Visa requirements for Tokyo
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
There is an outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Tokyo. There is no vaccination against the disease, prevention is through washing your hands, not touching your eyes, mouth and nose, and avoiding contact with people presenting flue-like symptoms such as cough, fever and shortness of breath. People who have a weaker immune system such as the elderly, cancer patients are more at risk.
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.