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Summary

  • Exercise normal safety precautions in Japan. Use common sense. Look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media and other sources for changes to local conditions and regional security threats.
  • Relations between Japan and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) are tense. The DPRK has conducted underground nuclear tests and ballistic missile tests in recent months. Further provocations by the DPRK directed at neighbouring countries, including Japan, are possible. The situation could escalate with little warning. See Safety and security.
  • Japan experiences earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and volcanic activity. The Japan Meteorological Agency provides up-to-date information in English on these issues. See Additional information.
  • Radiation levels in most parts of Japan, including Tokyo, are within the normal range. See Local travel.
  • Exercise a high degree of caution in Areas 1 and 2 near the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant and do not travel to Area 3 near the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant because of health and safety risks, as directed by the Japanese Government. See Health.
  • Japanese family law is very different from Australian law, including in relation to child custody and divorce. Child abduction issues between Australia and Japan are governed by international law. See Laws.
  • Travellers visiting for less than 90 days are required to carry their passport at all times. Foreigners residing in Japan must always carry their residence card. See Entry and exit.
  • Every year a number of people are injured or killed during the winter months in snow-related accidents in Japan. See Additional information.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Visas

If you are visiting Japan for tourism and for less than 90 days, you could qualify for a 'visa waiver'. Japan's Visa Waiver Program is strictly enforced. To qualify, you'll need to provide evidence of sufficient funds and an onward/return ticket or confirmed accommodation arrangements. Otherwise, or if immigration authorities believe you intend to seek employment, you could be denied entry and you could be refused entry into Japan for up to five years. If you are denied entry, you cannot appeal the decision.

In other circumstances (long-term stay, study, employment) you'll need to get a visa before you travel. Make sure you understand and comply with your visa conditions.

Some unscrupulous employment agents entice foreigners to work in Japan without the correct visa. If you work while in Japan on a tourist visa, you could be prosecuted. See Laws.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact an Embassy or Consulate of Japan for up-to-date information. The Embassy of Japan in Canberra has information for visa applicants on its website.

More information:

Other formalities

All foreign nationals, including permanent residents of Japan, are photographed and must have their fingerprints electronically scanned on arrival in Japan. If you refuse to provide fingerprints or be photographed, you could be denied entry into Japan. People under 16 years of age and holders of diplomatic or official visas are exempt.

If you stay in Japan long term, you'll need to register your details with the Immigration Bureau of Japan prior to your arrival. A residence card will be issued upon presentation of the correct landing permission, which you must carry with you at all times. 

Japan has strict rules governing the import of medication, and what can be carried into the country for personal use. See Health.

More information:

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to obtain access to your passport by deception.  If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice.

By law, you must, as soon as possible report a lost or stolen passport:

Money

The currency of Japan is the Yen (JPY). No restrictions apply to bringing foreign currency in or out of the country. Declare all amounts over JPY 1,000,000 (or equivalent) on arrival or departure.

Cash is preferred in Japan. Major credit cards are accepted at most hotels but many shops and service providers do not accept payment by card. Credit card facilities are not widely available, especially outside Tokyo.

ATMs may not accept all foreign cards. Check with your bank and card provider whether your ATM card and credit card will work in Japan and the location of ATM services for your card in Japan.

Safety and security

Regional threats

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has conducted underground nuclear tests and is carrying out regular ballistic missile tests, aggravating the already tense situation on the Korean Peninsula and in the region. The DPRK could conduct further tests or other 'provocations' in the future, which could lead to responses from Japan and/or the Republic of Korea (ROK). Tensions in the region could escalate with little warning.

Historically, there has been heightened rhetoric from the DPRK during annual ROK/US military exercises. These routine military exercises usually take place in February/March and August/September.

  • Monitor developments closely.
  • Take official warnings seriously.
  • Read the advice on preparing for emergencies produced by the Japanese Cabinet Secretariat for National Security Affairs and Crisis Management.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.

Crime

Japan generally has a low rate of crime but foreigners can be targeted by criminals, especially in bars and nightclubs. Sporadic incidents of bag snatching have occurred.

There have been reports of bars and night clubs (particularly in the Roppongi and Kabuki-cho entertainment areas of Tokyo) targeting foreigners for overcharging, fraudulent credit card charges, drink spiking, illegal drugs and, in some cases, assault. Some venues use street touts to entice foreigners into their premises. Australians have reported being poured drinks that have a higher percentage of alcohol than would normally be expected. In some cases, victims have woken up in unknown locations and/or discovered exorbitant credit card charges. Victims have experienced difficulties in obtaining police reports to submit to their banks and travel insurers.

  • Avoid street touts.
  • Don't accept food or drinks from strangers or new acquaintances.
  • Don't leave food or drinks unattended.
  • Monitor your belongings, especially in bars, nightclubs and crowded places.
  • Avoid carrying credit cards or large amounts of cash to parties, bars, clubs or entertainment districts.
  • Use common sense.
  • Look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.

More information: Partying overseas

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world, including in Japan. Heightened security measures are in place at key facilities, including on public transport and at ports of entry.

More information: Terrorist Threat Worldwide

Local travel

The Japan National Tourism Organisation provides regularly updated emergency information in English as well as other essential advice to travellers on how to have a safe and hassle-free visit to Japan.

Fukushima and surrounding areas

There are some exclusion zones around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant following a devastating earthquake that resulted in lethal radiation being released.

More information:

Mountain climbing and trekking

Trekking and mountaineering can be dangerous. Every year, a number of people are killed while attempting to climb Japan's highest peak, Mount Fuji. Japanese Emergency Services warn against climbing during the off-season (September-June) which is considered especially dangerous. Standard travel insurance policies generally exclude dangerous or extreme activities such as mountain climbing.

There has been an increase in bear sightings, and some attacks, in Northern Japan.

  • If you plant to trek in the Japanese Alps, read and follow the safety advice of the Nagano Prefectural Government
  • Pay careful attention to warning notices on hiking trails.
  • Follow the advice of local authorities.
  • Make sure your travel insurance policy covers all your activities. Understand any limitations on your cover.

Road travel

In general, roads are vehicles in Japan are well-maintained and traffic is orderly. Heavy snowfalls and ice in the winter can make driving dangerous.

The blood-alcohol limit for drivers is zero. It is also an offence for a passenger to allow someone under the influence of alcohol to drive. See Laws.

More information: Road travel

Driver's licence

To drive in Japan, you must hold either:

  • a valid Japanese driver's licence or
  • a valid International Driver's Permit (IDP) and a current Australian driver's licence.

After 365 days from your initial visit to Japan, you'll need to get a Japanese licence.

More information: Driving in Japan or see advice from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when riding a motorcycle. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Taxis

Taxis are generally a safe mode of transport. Adopt the same safety precautions that you would in Australia and ensure that you alight the taxi with all of your possessions.

Public transport

Japan has well-developed and reliable rail and bus services.

Sea travel

A number of cruises stop over in Japan. See our Cruises page for more information.

Air travel

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Japan.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Possession of illegal drugs is a crime. You can be charged with possession if trace amounts are found in your bloodstream or urine. Do not use, carry or get involved with drugs.

More information: Drugs

Family laws

Japanese family law is very different from Australian law. After divorce, only one parent can legally have parental rights in relation to a child. Child custody and access and divorce decisions are based on Japanese family law. If you're involved in custody or other family disputes, before you leave Australia consult a lawyer for advice on how Japanese family law may impact your family circumstances.

Australia and Japan are both parties to The Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. If you are concerned that your child has been wrongfully removed or detained in Japan, contact the Attorney-General's Department in Australia.

More information: Travelling with children

Employment

Some unscrupulous employment agents entice foreigners to work in Japan without the correct visa, or with financial arrangements that could leave the foreigner vulnerable to exploitation. Australians have been arrested for working in the 'entertainment industry' while in Japan on a tourist visa.

If you are considering travel to Japan for work, verify the true nature of the work being offered and make sure you have the correct visa before arriving in Japan. Consider getting professional legal advice before signing any contract.

More information: Living and working overseas

Police powers

Police have broad authority to stop, search, seize and detain people. Police can stop you on the street, demand identification and search you and your possessions.

If you're in a public place, police can seize knives longer than 5.5cm (including blades and penknives), firearms, any other weapons or items that could be used as weapons, drugs and any item they can reasonably suspect was stolen or unlawfully obtained. If any of these items are found in your possession, it is likely that you will be detained.

If you're arrested, you can be detained for up to 23 days without charge. Even if you consider that the alleged offence may be minor, you may be held for weeks or months during the investigation and legal proceedings.

The initial police interview may last several hours and be recorded in writing rather than electronically. Under Japanese law, you can remain silent if you wish, access legal representation, and have an interpreter provided. However, police are entitled to question you without your lawyer present. English interpretation may be sub-standard. A list of English-speaking lawyers around Japan is available on the website of the Australian Embassy.

Other laws

Travellers visiting for less than 90 days are required to carry their passport at all times. Foreigners residing in Japan must always carry their residence card.

While legal in some countries, the following activities are illegal in Japan:

  • purchasing or consuming alcohol, if you are under 20 years old
  • driving with any alcohol in your bloodstream
  • allowing someone under the influence of alcohol to drive a vehicle in which you a passenger
  • importing or possessing firearms or other weapons without a proper permit
  • smoking on the streets – in some parts of Tokyo and other cities
  • use of UHF-CB radios (walkie-talkies) which do not meet Japanese specifications (such as those purchased outside Japan)
  • obstructing the duties of an official, for example by resisting arrest

Penalties for serious crimes, such as murder, include the death penalty. Other sentences can include heavy fines, lengthy imprisonment with hard labour and deportation.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition. Different environments, unfamiliar customs and language barriers may exacerbate existing mental health conditions and possibly trigger unfamiliar mental health issues. Mental health treatment and facilities can differ significantly to those in Australia.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

If you need counselling services while in Japan, call:

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Japan has strict rules governing the importation of medication, and what can be carried into the country by travellers for personal use. Medicines are classified into five categories (general, narcotic, psychotropic, stimulant medicine or a medical device). Depending on the classification, name and quantity of the medicine, you may need to apply for permission/certification to take that medicine into the country.

Some medicines including the stimulant medicine dexamphetamine (used to treat ADHD) and pseudoephedrine (found in some cold and flu tablets) are banned in Japan. You could be detained if you are found with them.  For others, such as narcotic medicines (codeine, morphine and oxycodone), you'll need to apply for a Narcotic Certificate. If you don't have this certificate when entering Japan, the medicine may be confiscated.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel.

Take legal prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Always carry your prescription and a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information:

Health risks

Radiation poisoning

There are some exclusion zones around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant following the earthquake that resulted in lethal radiation being released. See Local travel.

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) provides information on radiation in Japan. ARPANSA assesses that background radiation levels in most parts of Japan, including Tokyo, are within the normal range.

The best source of advice on the local situation in Japan is the Japanese Government.

More Information:

Mosquito-borne diseases

The mosquito-borne disease Japanese encephalitis occurs in rural areas of Japan.

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses in rural areas:

  • ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including always using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • get vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis before you travel

More information: Infectious diseases

Measles

There have been a significant number of cases of measles in Japan in recent years. Make sure your measles vaccinations are up-to-date before you travel.

Medical facilities

Medical facilities across Japan are of a high standard. Medical facilities with English-speaking staff can be found in most major cities.

Medical care in Japan can be expensive. Payment in full or a guarantee that costs will be met is usually required at the time of treatment.

A list of medical institutions throughout Japan is available on the Australian Embassy, Tokyo website.

Japan has a number of hospitals equipped with decompression chambers, located in regions where diving is popular.

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Information on living in Japan is available in English, from the Japanese Cabinet Office, the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations, and the Tokyo International Communications Committee. In Tokyo, the Foreign Residents' Advisory Centre (81 3) 5320 7744 can provide assistance and advice in English.

Emergencies

  • Police: 110 or contact the local police at the nearest police station
  • Fire and Ambulance: 119
  • TELL Lifeline services in English: (81 3) 5774 0992
  • TELL Counselling services in English: (81 3) 4550 1146

Police reports may be difficult to obtain even when reporting a crime. Seek advice from a qualified lawyer, or the English Speaking Police, if you experience difficulties.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas. For consular assistance, contact the Australian Embassy in Tokyo.

Australian Embassy, Tokyo

2-1-14 Mita, Minato-ku
TOKYO 108 8361
Telephone: (81 3) 5232 4111
Facsimile: (81 3) 5232 4057
Website: japan.embassy.gov.au
Email: consular.tokyo@dfat.gov.au

Check the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

You can also seek consular assistance from the following Australian Consulates-General and Consulates in Japan.

Australian Consulate-General Osaka

16th floor, Twin 21MID Tower
2-1-61 Shiromi, Chuo-ku
OSAKA 540 6116
Telephone: (81 6) 6941 9271 or (81 6) 6941 9448
Facsimile: (81 6) 6920 4543
Web: japan.embassy.gov.au/tkyo/location_osaka.html

Australian Consulate-General Fukuoka

7th Floor, Tenjin Twin Building
1-6-8 Tenjin, Chuo-ku
FUKUOKA 810 0001
Telephone (81 92) 734 5055
Facsimile (81 92) 734 5058
Web: japan.embassy.gov.au/tkyo/location_fukuoka.html

Australian Consulate Sapporo

17th floor, Sapporo Centre Building
North 5, West 6 2-2 Chuo-ku
SAPPORO 060 0005
Telephone (81 11) 242 4381
Facsimile (81 11) 242 4383
Web: japan.embassy.gov.au/tkyo/location_sapporo.html

If you are unable to contact the Embassy in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Japan is subject to volcanic activity, earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons. In an emergency, the Australian Government's ability to provide consular assistance may be severely limited.

The Japan National Tourism Organisation provides disaster preparedness safety tips for visitors to Japan and other useful emergency information. Radio stations in the Tokyo area that broadcast emergency information in English include the US Armed Forces station at 810AM and Inter FM (76.1FM).

  • Take responsibility for your own and your family's preparedness to deal with emergencies, natural disasters or any form of crisis. 
  • Maintain a basic emergency supply kit at all times.
  • Secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • Take official warnings seriously.
  • Familiarise yourself with the advice of local authorities on preparing for a natural disaster or other emergency.

If there is a natural disaster:

  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • closely monitor the media, other local information sources and the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

Typhoons and severe weather

The typhoon season is from May to November. Local authorities broadcast current typhoon information through the local media and the Japan Meteorological Agency website. The precise path and strength of a typhoon are difficult to predict and can change quickly.

Earthquakes and tsunamis

There is constant risk of earthquakes and tsunamis throughout Japan. The Japan Meteorological Agency provides information in English about earthquakes and tsunamis.

You can get information on emergency plans in your area from local or prefectural government offices. Local authorities bear primary responsibility for providing assistance during a crisis to people living or travelling within their jurisdictions.

  • Familiarise yourself with emergency evacuation plans in your region and identify your local shelter, which is often a local school or other public facility.
  • Check for information on earthquakes (and tsunamis) in the Pacific on the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center website.
  • If you are in a coastal region after a major earthquake, move to higher ground immediately.

More information: Earthquakes

Volcanoes

There are 110 active volcanoes in Japan, several of which currently sit at alert level 2 (do not approach the crater) and alert level 3 (do not approach the volcano). A complete list of the latest volcano warnings can be found on the website of the Japan Meteorological Agency.

  • If you plan to visit the area of a volcano, stay informed of local alert levels, which can change at short notice.  
  • Take official warnings seriously and follow the advice of local authorities. 

Winter weather

Heavy snowfalls and extremely low temperatures are features of winter in Japan. Conditions can change suddenly. Each year, a number of people are injured or killed in snow -elated incidents, including motor vehicle accidents, avalanches, ice falls from roofs, prolonged exposure to extreme cold and ski collisions.  Many travellers have suffered serious head injuries that could have been prevented by wearing the right equipment.

Walking alone or under the effects of alcohol, or veering off marked trails can be fatal. Skiing or snowboarding off-piste, either inside or outside a ski resort's boundaries, is also dangerous. Avalanches are common and heavy snowstorms can create deep powder snow drifts.

Each ski region has rules which are governed by the local ski resorts. You can be arrested and detained for unruly behaviour. See Local travel

Some general insurance policies may not cover snow sports.  

  • Pack (and use) your helmet and protective gear.
  • Understand and follow local ski region rules.
  • Consult local sources such as tourism centres, your hotel and ski resort on local rules and weather conditions.
  • Only visit areas that are designated as safe by local authorities.
  • Make sure your travel insurance policy covers all your activities. Read the fine print and understand any limitations on your cover.

More information: Travel insurance

Additional resources