Is Japan Safe Right Now? What Travelers Need to Know

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Japan is one of the safest countries in the world, but you should never let your guard down. Pasqualina shares her top safety tips for travelers to Japan.


Travellers in Zen Garden Photo © iStock

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Just how safe is Japan?

Japan is generally safe for visitors. The crime rate is low, but petty theft could happen at crowded tourist attractions. Common sense travel safety advice applies here, just like anywhere else.

Any stares from people on the street or on public transport are of the curious kind, and the people are some of the friendliest you could meet. Although they might tell you to be quiet on the train if you're talking too loud. 

While there aren't many dangers to travelers in Japan, there are some things you should know about general safety before your Japanese adventure begins.

Typhoons and earthquakes

Two of the biggest threats to travelers in Japan are natural: earthquakes and typhoons.

Japan is located in a seismically active region of the world and experiences huge earthquakes from time to time. The best thing you can do is be prepared by knowing what to do in an emergency. When you get to your accommodation, become familiar with the evacuation plan and study your room to see what might be the safest place to hide if an earthquake strikes.

Typhoon season runs from May to October each year and is at its peak in August and September. If you are traveling in Japan during this time, stay up to date with weather and become aware of the safest places to go when a warning has been issued. Flight delays and cancellations may affect your plans, so make sure you've got flexibility built into your travel times.

Do I need to worry about getting sick in Japan?

Right now during the coronavirus outbreak, travelers should be extra careful with personal hygiene and aim to keep a safe distance from people (which is difficult in crowded areas).

Japan is a very clean country. The food is cooked well, tap water is safe to drink, and the toilets are clean.

Before you go, see your travel doctor for the best advice on which vaccinations you need.

What most travelers should be careful of is injuring themselves while hiking or enjoying snow sports. Plenty of travelers visit Japan each year to go skiing and snowboarding, but injuring yourself on the slopes can be an expensive exercise. Make sure you buy a travel insurance plan that covers you for your needs and activities.

Yakuza (Gokudō) and crime in Japan

Despite popular belief, Japan is not immune from organized crime – the Japanese call their version of this organization, the Yakuza. Known for their discipline and their wide-spread presence, they are not to be underestimated. 

The Yakuza are known to the Japanese people as corrupt and violent criminals – as labeled by the police – and are not respected in Japan. They are responsible for many different criminal syndicates in Japan, ranging from petty gambling and prostitution circles to having power in the Japanese media, politics, and in the financial sector. 

While they have a large presence in Japan, it should be noted that they are unlikely to harm or target tourists. In saying this, you should still exercise the usual amount of caution that you would in your home country.

Drink-spiking in Japan

Don't get lulled into a false sense of security by Japan's reputation as a country with low crime rates. 

While Japan has a busy and exciting night scene, particularly in cities like Tokyo and Kyoto which have many cool and quirky bars and clubs, there has been an increase in reported incidents of drink spiking over the past few years. 

These occurrences, in some cases, have led to theft and even physical and sexual assault of the victim.

While this is rare, in areas such as the Roppongi district in Tokyo, you should exercise particular caution – don't accept drinks from strangers, and don't leave drinks unattended.

Women traveling alone should be especially careful, as they can be a perfect target for these attacks. It goes without saying: Practicing a bit of common sense and being aware of drink spiking dangers will go a long way.

Pollution dangers in Japan

Pollution is often talked about in other Asian countries, but not often mentioned when discussing travel to Japan

In recent years, air quality has declined. Some blame air masses originating from countries with high levels of air pollution, like neighboring China, as well as increased vehicle and industrial output.

This is particularly apparent in the winter months, especially on cold, still nights, so it's not advised to go walking outside in smoggy conditions. 

While this is not something that most travelers should be concerned about, it should be advised that if you have ongoing respiratory problems, it may pay off to research the areas you are going to.

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  • Jedis Anakin said

    Japan is absolutely NOT sate. See the truth.


  • Susie Lee said

    Jedis is right. Japanese government is successfully doing press control, lobbying foreign organizations and press to hide the truth, their citizens are treating talking about politics like a taboo and they rarely speak out about the problem. They are embellishing the reality in their mangas and animes. The government is spending enormous amount of money to produce propaganda movies and animes with misleading and wrong information to extend the longevity of their political power, but this does not change the fact that the problem is out of control.

    They are raising their official standard on "safe" radiation levels to pretend things are under control, wrapping Fukushima rice and groceries in bags labelled with names of other provinces and sell it everywhere in Japan, having campaigns to consume Fukushima groceries to support local communities at the cost of citizens' health and lives, storing highly contaminated Fukushima soils in kindergarten buildings, passing bills to criminalize Japanese people publishing radiation measures and sharing them, using Fukushima woods and building materials in Olympian apartments and other buildings, deceiving Vietnamese and other foreign workers in developing countries to make them "clean up" contamination in Fukushima(which is not resulting in any significant improvement), and relocating people back to highly contaminated areas to insist the problem is under control. All lies. Every single fact I mentioned here are based on what actually happened. You could google them and see news articles about them.

    The truth is they have no other option because Fukushima is their major source of food crops and their major source of daily protein is seafood, which are both seriously contaminated. Their soil, air and water is all polluted and you cannot guarantee whatever you are consuming is not from Fukushima in the entire territory of Japan. Their government has been brainwashing people for multiple decades and they successfully made people to think that talking about politics is causing useless trouble. They have no modern history of successful political revolution or demonstration against dictators. Instead, their government has always sacrificed their own citizens in case of national emergency. Do you think kamikaze pilots volunteered for their suicidal flights? They forced their top tier pilots into the cockpits and welded the cockpit doors. They confiscated personal savings of their own people in 1946 in economic crisis. Japanese "democracy" is not functioning as you would expect. Do you still believe Japanese government would ensure health of its own people and even foreigners from the danger of radiation poisoning? I am not being racist. This is national issue in Japan, rather than their ethnic or racial problem. Not all Asian countries are like this. They are all different and I know it because I am Asian. When you try to understand some situation in foreign country that is not familiar to you, you should first learn how things actually work out there. Sometimes merely avoiding everything that may offend someone and pretending every country may have same standards and thoughts is not the best way to understand what is actually going on.

    I personally would never travel in Japan (although I love japanese food and I have several travel destinations in Japan in my travel bucket list...It used to be a nice travel destination BEFORE 2011.), and would bring my own food and water even if I have to stay in Japan for any reason. Consuming their food may cause continuous radiation poisoning and this problem is even worse in the body of growing children who are actively growing up(meaning more active cell division and potentially more cell damage) and live longer than us. Many of my friends are Japanese or live in Japan, but I can hardly tell them the truth because many of them have no other option and the situation is too bad I would feel bad to remind them what they have to deal with. And I do not want to offend my Japanese friends as a foreigner.


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