As expensive as they are, medical facilities are abundant in Japan, with the treatment and medicine being of a high calibre. To ensure the medical bills don’t rack up, make sure you are covered.
Yes, squat toilets exist here, mostly in public toilets and older buildings nowadays. Don't worry, they’re more of a bother than a personal hygiene risk. In hotels and transportation stations, you’ll find traditional Western toilets.
To use squatters in Japan, different to other Asian countries, face away from the door and toward the head of the toilet. You'll usually find toilet paper supplied, but again a few of the older conveniences don't, but you'll usually find a dispenser nearby where you can buy a box for small change. You might want to keep a few sheets in your day pack, just in case.
If you're visiting a private residence, you may encounter electronic toilets, some with over 30 buttons on a control panel to wash and heat yourself. There are robotic arms that squirt water, such as Oshiri, which gives your tush a spritz (if you don’t know the Japanese characters, look for the blue butt icon), a bidet for hosing off your front and Kansō for drying off. Additional buttons let you control the jet stream, angle and location of the water. What technology!
Plus you will find toilet slippers.
These are the filthiest object in the known univers (if you're Japanese) and should never be worn outside the toilet. Makes sense really, if you're in a home you're barefoot or in socks and walking on tatami mats - whatever happens inside the toilet should not be allowed to spread throughout the house. A touch of Japanese weirdness - these disgusting and filthy objects are usually adorned with kittens or love hearts - to negate the nastiness.
With all that gadgetry, some might be surprised to find that the toilets flush in the Western way - with a handle or button.
Something that might crop us as a health risk is the extreme Japanese practice of eating 'Fugu', a poisonous puffer fish prepared with the most meticulous of culinary care. To make it safe, chefs remove the internal organs of the fish containing the poison. As you can imagine, the cost of this dangerous delicacy runs pretty high.
If you want to take a chance with this once-in-a-lifetime, or life-ending, eating experience, rest assured that Fugu chefs go through rigorous training followed by annual evaluation to make sure their preparation skills are up to snuff (no pun intended). The Japanese government makes chefs practice under the guidance of experienced ones for years before they can get licensed to prepare the dish.
If you survive your encounter at the Fugu-ya, you may want to check out the nightlife when staying in a major Japanese city.
Roppongi is Tokyo’s entertainment district, and it attracts many foreigners and business types.
If you go looking for trouble you'll find it - same as any city in the world. Some of the seedier bars and clubs are run by yakuza - Japanese mafia with a penchant for all over body tattos and missing fingers. It most probably won't happen to you, but like anywhere, it's possible to get your credit card skimmed or your drink spiked.
The area of Shinjuku in Tokyo, particularly Kabuki-cho, Shibuya, and Ikebukuro, has it's fair share of shady establishments too, but generally if you stick to the popular areas it'll be fine.
In Osaka, there's no surprise that the yakuza have control of the adult entertainment businesses. Spa World (where you can get a themed spa during the day and something a little extra at night!) has a bad reputation after dark. If you're intent on visiting, stick to the well-lit areas when walking between Shin Imamiya or Dobutsuen-mae stations and Spa World.
The country of Geishas and hostess bars can also have a different view towards appropriate behavior toward women. Female travelers have reported others asking them personal questions or catcalling to them. There are also incidents of “chikan” physically assaulting women on public transit by groping them. Several train companies have instituted cars for women only during rush hour, indicated by pink signs directing women where to board.
Like in cases of sexual assault, many female victims have found police to be less than helpful to their plight. Anyone in a dangerous situation should call 110, Japan’s emergency number, or look for a police box, often located on every other corner. Those who find police assistance unhelpful can call the Japan Helpline at 0570-000-911.
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