Japan is a wonderful country. Even though you will be overwhelmed by the modern world with advanced technology once you wander the streets, the country also has the power to connect you with the past. In other words, Japan does a great job in mixing everything, from the vast technology opportunities to the outstanding traditional culture.
Despite being an archipelago that attracts thousands of tourists annually, safety is something that’s on your mind when visiting any destination. Given there was a devastating earthquake back in 2011, it really makes you wonder if nature disasters are as frequent and dangerous as you think. And what about crimes and terrorism? Are they existent?
This Japan safety guide is packed with what you need to know in terms of safety regarding the country of rising sun. Are you ready to find out if your trip has a high chance of being trouble-free or not? Let’s explore these Japan safety travel tips!
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself to When Visiting Japan
Overall Risks in Japan: LOW to MEDIUM
Japanese people are well-educated and are usually very welcoming and kind. Moreover, they are always careful not to disturb others, so most of the time, safety is not a concern, as most people are peaceful.
When it comes to crime levels, the situation is good, because they are low, meaning there are not so many incidents happening. Walking around at night and using public transport is possible without worrying about someone snatching your bag. Still, you shouldn’t take it for granted – wherever you go, the situation is unpredictable. You should stay vigilant at all times, and take precautions.
For instance, in Tokyo, there are two entertainment districts that are considered areas with higher risk of crime, especially at night. These are Roppongi and Kabuki-cho, and there were even reports of foreigners being targeted for sexual assault, robbery, fraud and others there. So, if your destination is Tokyo and you’re ever up for a drink, you may want to look into the other bars.
In spite of being a rarity, sexual assaults are still possible, so you should take care as a female traveler. Given the Japanese law requires a lot of proof to demonstrate that the act was not consensual, you could help live without the burden and have an enjoyable trip.
There are some restricted areas near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, as there is risk of radiation and contaminated food and water.
Protests are very rare in Japan. The country is a stable democracy, so you shouldn’t worry about being caught in the storm. When there are occasional demonstrations, there may be hostilities directed towards other countries. It’s better to stay away from demonstration areas, if something takes place.
When it comes to how safe is Japan for tourists regarding natural disasters, visitors should be aware that the country is a major earthquake zone. As such, the risk of earthquakes and tsunami is existent, thus people should take notes and be informed about them. There is also the risk of tropical cyclones from June to December, specifically in the Southern area.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risks in Japan: LOW to MEDIUM
Even though you won’t get the action and adrenaline from a bag snatcher like in Hollywood action movies, you shouldn’t overlook the fact that theft is possible. The crime levels may be low, but that doesn’t mean you should put rose-colored glasses on and forget that vigilance is required everywhere.
In the Kabuki-cho and Roppongi entertainment districts of Tokyo, there were reports of crime, even against tourists. Crime cases often involved drink-spiking, which led to robbery and credit card fraud. Moreover, cases of foreigners being offered drinks with higher alcohol levels also existed. They would wake up in an unknown location, without any idea of what happened prior to that, and without money, while large amounts have been billed to their credit card.
- How to avoid pickpocketing and theft in Japan?
To make sure you don’t end up in the other side of the country with no memory of the past hours, take care when you are visiting local bars. If visiting any of the entertainment districts of Tokyo, don’t go alone, and always stay vigilant. Guard your drink and never leave it alone on the table, especially in the company of someone you don’t know. Furthermore, if someone offers you something to drink, don’t accept it, because you never know if the drink was mixed with unknown substances. The last thing you want is being robbed of money while being dropped unconscious near a river.
Also, be careful at ATMs, as someone snatching the money you worked for is not exactly something to be longing for. If you’re wandering the streets at night, you should be wary of your surroundings, and never carry all of your savings wherever you go. Keep them somewhere safe, such as the hotel room. It’s recommended to spend the night at the hotel and not on the streets, even if the authorities make sure to keep safety levels high. Taking some extra safety precautions doesn’t hurt.
Radiation Risk: LOW
You may ask yourself “How safe is Japan for tourists regarding the radiation near power plants?”. There is indeed a small risk, but keeping yourself informed is the way to ensure that you keep it away.
The name “Fukushima” is probably not new to you, especially if you were always informed about the disastrous earthquake that happened back in 2011. Due to the impact, there was significant damage to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, leading to radiation in the area.
Therefore, there are some exclusion zones around it where you should avoid traveling. These areas have been kept under review for the past 5 years, and zones where evacuation orders are ready to be lifted still have some restrictions. One example would be that the visitors are not allowed to stay overnight. Make sure you are informed about these areas and their restrictions, so you avoid traveling there.
Around Fukushima, the Japanese authorities are monitoring the area to check whether food, produce and water are contaminated. In order to ensure the safety of the citizens, these controls are necessary.
The situation concerning Fukushima is still a concern, but the risks have begun to decline.
Scam Risk in Japan: MEDIUM
Even though the crime levels in Japan are relatively low, there are still people/ locals that will try and take advantage of the fact that you are a tourist - in this respect, we'll be covering some of the most common scams that you might have to face while traveling to this beautiful country.
Here, in Japan, most scams involve the many tourist activities that you'll probably like to try or experience - namely, bar scams, restaurants that overcharge, street sellers that scam tourists, fake monks and police, scams that involve thefts at certain massage parlors, and disaster relief scams.
You may also come across the scene of a fake car accident or such. However, if you keep an eye out for danger and ignore most of the locals that try to approach you in order to either sell you something or request your help, you should be out of any danger.
- How to avoid getting scammed in Japan?
Avoiding scams is easy, not only in Japan, but in every other country that you might travel to. First of all, you have to get familiar with the local currency - if you do so, it will be harder for people to scam you when you buy or order something, at a restaurant, for example. If you know the specific exchange rates and such, you won't have to deal with bar scams and facilities that overcharge you for their services - obviously, if you notice something suspicious, it's better to leave the area and find another shop/ boutique from where you can buy souvenirs.
Now, when it comes to fake monks and police, you should get familiar with the local customs and way of behavior of such individuals - meaning that you should know the procedure that a police officer must abide by when approaching you, as well as the behavior that a legit monk should have, so to say.
Keep in mind that Japan is a country of great culture, of respect, and of customs - given all of these, it shouldn't be hard for you to identify the people that are trying to scam you.
Kidnapping Risk in Japan: LOW
If we are to look at the available statistics, we'll see that Japan's kidnapping rate for 2014 was of 0.20 cases per 100,000 population. Moreover, given the fact that the highest rate, between 2003 and 2014, was of only 0.30 cases, in 2004, it is safe to assume that Japan doesn't have a kidnapping issue, so to speak.
It's true that there are certain issues when it comes to kidnapping children - however, the situation is entirely different here. Most of the articles you'll read on this subject refer to parents that, as a result of a divorce, kidnap their own children and bring them into their home. In Japan there's no such thing as joint custody and, unless the court has given the parental rights to one of the parents, either of them can actually kidnap their own children without having to worry about any repercussions.
Still, the rates mentioned earlier cover all of the kidnapping cases that have occurred in Japan - and, as you see, there is little to nothing for you to worry about. The country is overall safe and locals won't go out of their way, to to say, in order to get a ransom or sorts.
- How to avoid getting kidnapped in Japan?
Even though most of Japan is safe, you should get informed as to what areas you should stay away from - there are some districts, such as Roppongi and Kabuki-cho, that have higher levels of crime, mainly because they are entertainment districts. If you plan to travel within these areas, we advise you to be accompanied, by either friends or your tour guide.
Obviously, stay away from remote areas or parts of the city you're in that you wouldn't normally visit - as they say, play it safe and stick to the areas that are meant for tourists. Japan comes with a lot of things for you to see and, thankfully, most touristic objectives are usually guarded by the authorities.
Terrorism Risk in Japan: LOW
Regarding terrorism, Japan is free of worries. There is no recent history of terrorism in the country of the rising sun, so you can breathe in relief. However, that doesn’t mean that the possibility of an attack should be ruled out altogether. Given that everything is unpredictable, even if attacks are unlikely to take place, they could be indiscriminate. So, they could happen even in areas foreigners frequent.
- How to avoid terrorism in Japan?
As a rule of thumb, you should stay vigilant and wary of your surroundings, and always stay away from individuals who are too suspect. If you were asking yourself “Is Japan safe to visit when it comes to terrorism?” , you now have the answer to that question.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone in Japan: LOW to MEDIUM
Traveling alone as a solo woman can feel very empowering, as you feel like you are able to do anything, without requiring help. Still, you can’t help but ask yourself “Is Japan safe for solo women travelers?”.
Although many women have visited the country without issues, the possibility of incidents happening can’t be ruled out. Whereas things such as rape and sexual assault are rare, they do happen from time to time. There were even reports of inappropriate touching of female passengers on commuter trains, which is not really something you look forward to during a trip.
- How to avoid crime as a solo woman traveler in Japan?
As a fact, walking alone at night can be dangerous as a woman in any place, so being at the hotel at night is highly recommended. Additionally, if you’re a victim of inappropriate touching in trains or any public transport, you should shout at the perpetrator in order to attract attention. You should also ask a fellow passenger to call the train staff.
Rape Risk in Japan: MEDIUM to HIGH
When it comes to rape and sexual assault/ harassment, Japan is quite different from the rest of the world - even if its rape statistics are in good standing, so to say, it is because most women refuse to talk about such things. As you know, honor is very important for the Japanese people - naturally, rape is considered as a dishonorable action, no matter which side of the story you're on.
Moreover, the authorities don't even try to solve many of the issues that Japan, its people, and tourists have to face - as you may know, one common thing to happen on Japan's commuter trains it for women to be touched and/ or groped. In this respect, the authorities advise you only to shout at the offender and get the attention of the passengers or of any of the train staff nearby.
Thus, in a scenario that would most likely make you file a complaint in the US, all you can do is have someone scold, so to say, the person that's harassing you and kick him off the train.
Furthermore, there have been reports of drink-spiking and sexual assault cases within clubs and bars - this is why we recommend you to always be accompanied when visiting such facilities and when on public transport, obviously.
- How to avoid getting raped in Japan?
As mentioned before, you should not be traveling alone if you are a solo woman traveler - even though cases of rape, harassment, and assault are rare, they can still happen. First of all, you should stay away from any remote areas and neighborhoods with a bad reputation - obviously, avoid visiting any pubs or bars that are located in these areas.
You should stick to the areas that are meant for tourists and try not to be left alone, especially in the evening and during the night - stay where the crowds are, but always keep an eye on your surroundings.
Risks for People Traveling with Children in Japan: LOW to MEDIUM
If you plan to travel with your children in Japan, keep in mind that the country and, naturally, its biggest cities, can get very crowded - first of all, we have the Japanese people that fill the trains and streets and then we have the tourists - one thing's for sure, Japan is extremely popular among tourists. Not only that, but a lot of big companies have their headquarters there, meaning that there's a big number of foreigners that visit Japan during a business trip.
Therefore, the only real risk that your children are exposed to when traveling to Japan is of getting lost - especially when you are on a tiny street filled with shops and tourists/ locals as well. Almost every single Japan video log you'll watch will showcase the crowds one tourist can come across in Japan.
- How to avoid unwanted scenarios?
Obviously, losing your children is not something any parent would want to deal with - therefore, if you know you will not be able to keep up with or keep an eye on them at all times, then we recommend you to have someone accompany you, either friend, relative, or a trustworthy tour guide.
Usually, tour guides in Japan are very polite, understanding, and calm - you won't have any issues if you decide to let them watch over your children while you buy souvenirs or such. Still, you should keep them close and instruct them properly, so to say, before leaving your accommodation.
Natural Disaster Risks in Japan: HIGH
Japan may be safe in terms of dangers caused by other people, but the risks for natural disasters compensate for that. The country is no stranger to earthquakes, tsunamis, volcano eruptions, typhoons and floods.
Japan is a major earthquake zone. As such, you should inform yourself before you decide to visit, and take note of instructions at train stations, hotel rooms and on your local prefectural website. Due to their infrequency, though, the odds of being in an area while it is struck by disaster is pretty small.
Japan also has active volcanoes which you should be aware of, including the famous Mount Fuji. You should get information before visiting the area.
Additionally, tropical cyclones can also be expected in the country. The season is from June to July, and the most activity is usually between July and September. If you happen to be in the Southern area of the archipelago, you should know that the risk is higher there.
Typhoons usually cause landslides and flooding, and the dangers are even bigger if an earthquake takes place not long after a typhoon.
Check the weather situation and the news in Japan, so you avoid traveling if there are news about a typhoon approaching.
Transportation Risks in Japan: LOW
“Is Japan safe to visit regarding road travel?” may be one of your rambling thoughts before purchasing those plane tickets. Your question is just about to be answered.
Driving may seem a better option than using public transport, but you should always be aware of what comes with it. The rules you’re used to in your home country may be totally different compared to those of Japan, so the public transport idea may end up being the one winking to you.
In order to be able to drive, you will need an International Driving Permit, which is valid to use in Japan for one year. Without having the right documents, driving may end with severe penalties. If you want to stay there for more than a year, though, you should apply for a driving license.
Japan offers you the possibility to get driving insurance, which is of two types: voluntary insurance and compulsory insurance. The latter on its own may not be sufficient in cases of personal liability.
Concerning the streets, they are well maintained, thus driving will feel comfortable. The driving is done on the left. What you need to stay in alert for are the pedestrians who are crossing the roads at green lights, especially at junctions. Also, driving at night comes with some additional worries, because there may be cyclists traveling on the pavements. Some may even travel on the wrong side of the road without lights at night. Taxi drivers may also suddenly stop, so take care if there’s one in front of you.
If you’re going out for a drink, you should make sure beforehand that there’s someone else who doesn’t drink with you, or that you will use public transport when you leave. Drink driving could end badly, as the authorities give harsh penalties in such situations. Allowing someone else who has drank too much vodka prior to leaving the bar drive could end just as badly. Would you rather get severe penalties on your relaxation trip, or use public transport?
Night-Clubs, Pubs, and Bar Risks in Japan: HIGH
Partying in Japan comes with a lot of risks - beside the normal cases of drink-spiking, there are also cases in which the bartenders gave the customers spiked drinks or drinks with a higher level of alcohol than the ones they've requested. Some victims have described this type of cases, stating that they woke up in and unknown location, not remembering anything, with their possessions stolen, and/ or with large amounts billed to their credit card.
Furthermore, given the fact that getting a police report may be difficult - credit card companies will ask for it in order to process any claim you make -, you should be extremely careful when it comes to drinking in a night-club, pub, or bar. It is recommended that any drink you might order can't be modified, so to say - in short, grab something you know the taste of exactly, so you can tell if something's wrong or not.
As you remember, we mentioned that some locals might try to take advantage of the fact that you are a tourist and charge higher fees than usual - if you happen to come across such situations, it is better to remain calm, as there have been reports of tourists getting arrested for violently disputing with staff or for their refusal of paying huge, so to say, bar bills.
Once again, know the country that you are going to visit very well - its currency, customs, and such, including its customs when it comes to scamming and taking advantage of foreigners. Nevertheless, you can enjoy your time in Japan if you are e little more than just careful. Also, you can experience the sight of the blooming cherry trees and of the temples and such in Japan without having to drink alcohol.
However, if you really want to try the Japanese sake, we recommend you do so in a reputed restaurant and not in a bar - it is safer and sake goes much better with a traditional Japanese dish in front of you.
Health Risks in Japan
As expected from Japan, its medical facilities are good, very good in some cases - however, treatment and some medicine may come with a high price in most cases. All of the clinics and hospitals that you may come across while in Japan are well equipped and their staff is highly trained as well.
When it comes to language barriers, there are few foreign doctors in Japan - namely, US and UK doctors that speak English. Still, reports tell of the presence of Japanese doctors that speak English within some of the medical facilities, mostly within those located in highly populated or important areas, so to say.
Regarding the high costs of treatments, you will be expected to pay them in full - keep in mind that there have been reports of cases in which certain treatment was delayed, because the medical facility had to make sure that the insurance is legitimate. In this respect, it is recommended that you travel with proper travel health insurance and that you have more than enough funds to pay any medical treatment or medicine that you might have to buy.
As for actual health risks, there are no reports of outbreaks or any other diseases that one should protect themselves against while in Japan. If you require medical assistance, dial 119 and ask for an ambulance.
List of Vaccines You Need in Japan
There is a list of vaccines you may need prior to visiting Japan, so you should give your doctor a visit before the day comes. Some of the vaccines you may need are:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Routine Vaccines
Most Dangerous Areas in Japan
Concluding Remarks: Is Japan Safe to Visit?
Even though there are some small risks here and there, Japan is a safe country to visit overall. Just like any other country, there are areas that it’s better to avoid, and situations when you need to use some common sense.
As this Japan safety guide has advised you, stay vigilant on the streets, in bars, on the road, and pay attention to weather warnings and news upon visiting the country. Hopefully, these Japan safety travel tips we provided you with will be of help before you are overwhelmed by the beauty of Japan.