Country summary – Japan

Written by Aneetta Peedikayil

July 10, 2022

Travel

Travel Risk: LOW

Country Overview

  • Third largest economy in the world
  • Four main islands: Honshu (largest of all), Hokkaido, Shikoku, and Kyushu
  • Currency: Japanese Yen (¥) 
  • Language: Japanese
  • Maritime neighbours: Russia (north); North Korea and South Korea (west), and China (west and southwest)

Indices

Topography

Climate

  • Best time to visit: Spring  (March-May) and autumn (late September – early December) 
  • Summer season (June – September): Very hot and humid temperatures are experienced after the monsoon ends(May-June). 
  • Winter season (December – February): Few areas experience extremely low temperatures with frequent avalanches and heavy snowstorms.

Crime

  • Low crime rate: Occasional incidents of bag snatching at popular tourist attractions. 
  • Crimes such as overcharging, credit/ATM card fraud, drink spiking, and assault are experienced at bars and nightclubs. 
  • Recommended: 
    • Avoid street touts that try to get you into venues or situations that leave your drink unattended.
    • Refrain from carrying credit cards or lots of cash to entertainment venues. 
    • Use ATMs located in well-lit public areas.

Transport

  • Trains and flights: Quick and convenient choice
    • Signs are usually in Japanese but the use of the English language is becoming common in bigger cities and tourist destinations. 
    • Female travellers are urged to exercise caution as groping incidents have been reported on subways. 
  • Taxis are generally reported to be safe. 
    • Self-driving in Japan can be challenging and expensive: Traffic congestion in cities, no legal roadside or curbside parking, and higher highway toll charges.
    • 2019: 3,920 road deaths in Japan equating to 3.1 road deaths per 100,000 of population.

Emergency Services

  • Dial 110 for the police and 119 for the fire or ambulance services. 
  • Calls will not be charged, including from pay phones. 
  • Female travellers can use the Digi Police smartphone app to report groping incidents on a real-time basis.

Domestic conditions

Entry requirements:

  • 90-day visa issued for non-remunerative purposes such as tourism, business, visiting friends or relatives, etc. 
  • A list of visa-free countries in Japan can be obtained here.
  • LGBTI travellers are allowed entry as well. 
  • Foreign nationals are mandated to provide detailed information when checking into their rental accommodation.

Social spectrum:

  • Major religions: Shintoism and Buddhism are two main 
  • Strict Laws: Cyber bullying, smoking in non-designated spaces, drunk driving, harbouring drugs (including recreational drugs), and those abetting the crime.
  • Social taboos: Tattoo(s) are banned from public spaces such as swimming pools, hot springs, beaches, and a few gyms while some venues may ask the traveller to cover up their tattoo(s). 
  • Political culture: Democratic country with fewer and infrequent instances of civil disturbances and violent demonstrations.
  • Recommended: 
    • Be scantily familiar with the local culture for instance, loud and boisterous behaviour is not considered a part of Japanese culture.

Modes of payment:

  • Predominantly a cash economy.
  • Credit cards issued by American Express, JCB, Mastercard, Visa, Discover, and Diners Club are generally accepted for payment.
  • Suica cards or Pasmo cards are alternatives to carrying cash. 
  • Tipping culture is not practised in bars, cafes, restaurants, taxis, and hotels.

Healthcare:

  • Excellent healthcare facilities: English-speaking staff in major cities. A list of hospitals with English and other foreign language-speaking staff can be obtained here
  • Insurance policy or means of payment may be confirmed before admission of a patient. 
  • Many cases related to measles and rubella have been reported in addition to Japanese encephalitis that occurs in the country’s rural regions.

Electricity and telecommunication:

  • 100 volts, A.C used uniformly across Japan: 50 Hertz frequency (eastern Japan) and 60 Hertz frequency (western Japan, including Nagoya, Kyoto, and Osaka).
  • A step-down transformer is required to convert the voltage when using foreign electronic appliances
    • Dual-voltage hair dryers, travel irons, and shavers are exempt.
  • WiFi spaces are available at airports, hotels, and other public spaces.
  • Wifi-rentals or SIM cards are also available. Click here to know more.

Areas to avoid/Exercise caution

Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant:

  • Some areas near the plant remain off-limits due to radiation concerns after the 2011 earthquake.
  • Visitors are not permitted to stay overnight.

Kamagasaki, Osaka:

  • Japan’s largest slum, infamous for organised crime. 
  • Large number of riots have occurred in the region.
  • Recommended: 
    • Do not be lured by the cheap prices of accommodation.

Shinsekai, Osaka:

  • Neglected neighbourhood 
  • Most residents tend to stay away from the region due to low-levels of organised crime. 
  • Travellers are advised to do the same.

Kabukicho and Roppongi in Tokyo:

  • Well-known for scamming travellers. 
  • Recommended:
    • Avoid nightlife areas due to risks of drink spiking, fraud, and luring of tourists by street touts.

Ueno, Tokyo:

  • Tokyo’s best tourist attractions are found here. 
  • Recommended:
    • Avoid this place at night as many of Tokyo’s homeless populations sleep in and around the park areas.

Final Assessment

  • Tourism industry:
  • Medical assistance:
    • Response time in rural areas is comparatively lower to urban areas. May lack English-speaking staff. 
    • Advised to purchase an insurance policy that covers your medical costs.  
  • Security risk:
    • Regional tensions with North Korea over its nuclear missile program and territorial disputes with China and Russia.
    • No imminent risk of war: Cordial relations enables a Japanese passport holder to travel to 192 countries absolutely visa-free!  
    • Prone to natural disasters: 
      • Travel risk ranges between MODERATE to HIGH
      • Excellent disaster preparedness, maintains large-scale efforts to minimise casualties.
      • Many countries advise citizens to exercise caution and seek emergency assistance during periods of natural disasters
  • The overall travel risk to Japan is LOW
  • Follow these safety precautions, download the recommended app, and monitor this website to stay abreast on any natural disasters.
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