- We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Japan. You should exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media and other sources for changes to local travelling conditions.
- Following a large 6.4 earthquake on 14 April, the Prefecture of Kumamoto and neighbouring prefectures on the southern island of Kyushu have continued to experience a series of aftershocks. A second significant 7.1 earthquake occurred in the same area in the early hours of 16 April and further seismic activity is expected. There has been localized damage and some fatalities in Kumamoto and surrounding prefectures. Services have been disrupted but are working. Australians should heed the advice of local authorities and keep informed of local conditions if they intend to remain in or visit the region.
- Japan is subject to earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and volcanic activity. The Japan Meteorological Agency provides up to date information in English on these issues. See Additional information.
- The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) assesses that the radiation levels in most parts of Japan, including Tokyo, are within the normal range of variation of background radiation. See Local travel.
- You should exercise a high degree of caution in Areas 1 and 2 near the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant as specified by the Japanese Government in the following map.
- You should not travel to Area 3 near the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant as specified by the Japanese Government in the following map.
- The Hague Convention (Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction) entered into force in Japan on 1 April 2014. Australians are reminded that Japanese family law is very different to Australian law. See Laws.
- 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.
- Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
- organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
- register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency
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Entry and exit
Visas are not normally required for Australians entering Japan for tourism for visits of less than 90 days. Japan's Visa Waiver Program is strictly enforced. Visitors may be refused entry if the applicant is unable to provide evidence of sufficient funds, an onward/return ticket or confirmed accommodation arrangements, or if immigration authorities believe the traveller intends to seek employment. If entry is denied, the decision cannot be appealed and travellers may be refused entry into Japan for up to five years
As visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice, you should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Japan for the most up to date information. The Embassy of Japan in Canberra has information for visa applicants on its website. Other informative websites are: Immigration Bureau of Japan, and the Customs and Tariff Bureau of Japan.
All foreign nationals, including permanent residents of Japan, are required to have their fingerprints electronically scanned and are photographed upon arrival in Japan. Refusal to provide fingerprints or be photographed is grounds for refusal of entry into Japan. People under 16 years of age and holders of diplomatic or official visas are exempt. More information is available from the Immigration Bureau of Japan.
If you reside in Japan, ensure you are aware of, and comply with, relevant immigration, visa and residence registration requirements. Further information is available from the Immigration Bureau of Japan and Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication.
Japan has strict rules governing the importation of medication, and what can be carried into the country by travellers for personal use. See Health section for more information.
Safety and security
Japan generally has a low rate of crime. However, you should exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.
There have been reports of bars and night clubs (particularly in the Roppongi and Kabuki-cho entertainment areas of Tokyo) targeting foreign citizens 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 incidents where they have been poured drinks that have a higher percentage of alcohol than would normally be expected. In some cases, victims have woken up in an unknown locations and/or discovered exorbitant credit card charges.
We strongly recommend avoiding street touts or accepting drinks from strangers. Keep an eye on your belongings and never leave your drink unattended. Victims have experienced difficulties in obtaining police reports to submit to their banks and travel insurers.
If possible, avoid carrying credit cards or large amounts of cash to parties, bars, clubs or entertainment districts. Think about your personal safety, take appropriate precautions and refer to our information for travellers partying overseas for further advice.
Sporadic incidents of bag snatching have occurred. Exercise normal safety precautions and take care with your valuables.
Japanese government authorities cannot rule out the threat of terrorism in Japan. As a counter-terrorism measure, the Japanese government has, since July 2005, implemented heightened security measures at key facilities including on public transport and at ports of entry.
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Worldwide bulletin.
Money and valuables
Cash is preferred in Japan. Major credit cards are accepted at most hotels, however, many shops and service providers do not accept payment by card. Credit card facilities are not widely available, especially outside Tokyo.
ATMs that accept foreign cards are not widely available within Tokyo or other Japanese cities, and many ATMs operate only during business hours. Check with your bank and card provider as to whether your ATM card and credit card will work in Japan and the location of ATM services for your card in Japan. Banks that exchange travellers cheques may also be limited in some areas of Japan.
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
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
After damage to the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant following the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011, the situation in almost all parts of Japan, including Tokyo, has now returned to normal.
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) provides information on radiation in Japan. ARPANSA assesses that the radiation levels in most parts of Japan, including Tokyo, are within the normal range of variation of background radiation.
The best source of advice on the local situation within Japan is the Japanese authorities. Details of Japanese response measures and monitoring programs are available from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Nuclear Regulation Authority. You should ensure you are aware of, and follow, the advice of local authorities.
On 19 August 2013, a leak of around 300 tons of radioactive water was reported at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant facility, causing Japanese regulators to issue an International Nuclear and Radiological Event Level 3 rating.
Areas 1 and 2 near the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant as specified by the Japanese Government: You should exercise a high degree of caution in Areas 1 and 2 as specified by the Japanese Government in the following map because of low levels of radionuclide contamination in these areas. Should an overnight stay be planned, Australians should seek advice from local authorities.
Area 3 near the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant as specified by the Japanese Government: Australians are advised not to travel to Area 3 as specified by the Japanese Government in the following map because of elevated levels of radionuclide contamination in this area.
Japanese Government restrictions are outlined in detail in this table.
The islands of Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan and Habomai
Due to a dispute between Japan and Russia over the sovereignty of the southern Kurile Islands (the islands of Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan and Habomai), Australians who have visited these islands may subsequently be denied entry to ports in Japan.
Heavy snowfalls and ice in the winter can make driving dangerous. See our road travel page for further information on overseas road safety.
The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Japan.
Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.
You are subject to the local laws of Japan, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. 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. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.
Police powers in Japan may be very different to Australia. Police have broad authority to stop, search, seize and detain. Police can stop you on the street, demand identification and search you and your possessions. 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.
If you are 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 are 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 Australian Embassy in Tokyo website.
You should also be aware that some local laws and penalties may be very different to those in Australia. Penalties for serious crimes, such as murder, include the death penalty. Other sentences can include heavy fines, lengthy imprisonment with hard labour and deportation.
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. For more information, see our drugs page.
The minimum age for purchasing and consuming alcohol in Japan is 20.
Japan has a national zero per cent blood-alcohol level standard for driving. It is also an offence for a passenger to allow someone under the influence of alcohol to drive.
It is illegal to import and possess firearms or other weapons without a proper permit.
In some parts of Tokyo and other cities, smoking on the streets is prohibited. Those caught are liable for an on-the-spot fine.
The use of UHF-CB radios (walkie-talkies) which do not meet Japanese specifications (such as those purchased outside Japan), is prohibited.
It is an offence to obstruct the duties of an official, for example by resisting arrest.
Japanese family law is very different to 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 are involved in custody and other family disputes you should ensure you consult a lawyer for advice before you leave Australia on how Japanese family law may impact your family circumstances.
The Hague Convention (Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction) entered into force in Japan on 1 April 2014. If you are concerned that your child has been wrongfully removed or detained in Japan, you should immediately contact the Attorney-General’s Department in Australia. See our Travelling with children page for further information.
Some unscrupulous employment agents entice foreigners to work in Japan without the correct visa, or with financial arrangements which 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, you should verify the true nature of the work being offered and make sure you have the correct visa before arriving in Japan. You may also wish to seek professional legal advice before signing any contract. For general information and tips see our Living and working overseas page.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. 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 a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.
It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.
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 Embassy website.
The Australian Embassy and Consulates in Japan have no in-house medical facilities. We cannot provide medical treatment (including anti-viral medication).
Japan has a number of hospitals equipped with decompression chambers, located in regions where diving is popular.
Bringing Medicine into Japan
Japan has strict rules governing the importation of medication, and what can be carried into the country by travellers for personal use. Some medicines cannot be imported into Japan, including products containing pseudoephedrine (found in some cold and flu tablets) or Dexamphetamine (treats ADHD), while others may require permission or a certificate (Codeine) from the Japanese government. You can obtain further information from the Bringing Medicine into Japan webpage found on the Embassy of Japan website. You can also enquire directly with the Economic Section at the Embassy of Japan at firstname.lastname@example.org or on (02) 6273 3244.
There have been a significant number of cases of measles in Japan in recent years. The mosquito-borne disease Japanese encephalitis occurs in rural areas of Japan.
Where to get help
Depending on your enquiry, 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.
For criminal issues, contact the local police at the nearest police station or on the Police national emergency number. You should always obtain a police report when reporting a crime.
Emergency contact numbers in Japan are as follows:
- Police 110
- Fire and Ambulance 119
- TELL Lifeline services in English (81 3) 5774 0992
- TELL Counselling services in English (81 3) 4550 1146.
Australians residing in Japan can obtain information on living in Japan, 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.
The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below:
Australian Embassy Tokyo
See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.
You may 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
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
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
If you are travelling to Japan, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency – whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.
In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
Natural disasters, severe weather and climate
Japan is subject to volcanic activity, earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons. Taking responsibility for your own and your family’s preparedness to deal with emergencies, natural disasters or any form of crisis is even more important when you are travelling overseas. You should familiarise yourself with the advice from local authorities on preparing for a natural disaster and follow their advice if a natural disaster does occur. In an emergency, the Australian Government’s ability to provide consular assistance may be severely limited.
You should have a basic emergency supply kit available at all times. Also, carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo identification etc.) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. 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).
The Japan National Tourism Organisation provides disaster preparedness safety tips for visitors to Japan and other useful emergency information.
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. Closely monitor the local media for weather updates and information about preparations being made and follow the advice of local authorities. You can also check the latest typhoon information from the World Meteorological Organization Severe Weather Information Centre. Read our information for travellers on severe weather so that you can prepare in the event of a typhoon.
Earthquakes and Tsunamis
There is constant risk of earthquakes and tsunamis throughout Japan. See our earthquakes bulletin for advice on travelling to and living in an earthquake-prone region. Information in English about earthquakes and tsunamis can be obtained from the Japan Meteorological Agency.
Following a large 6.4 earthquake on 14 April, the Prefecture of Kumamoto and neighbouring prefectures on the southern island of Kyushu have continued to experience a series of aftershocks. A second significant 7.1 earthquake occurred in the same area in the early hours of 16 April and further seismic activity is expected. There has been localized damage and some fatalities in Kumamoto and surrounding prefectures. Services have been disrupted but are working. Australians should heed the advice of local authorities and keep informed of local conditions if they intend to remain in or visit the region.
You should familiarise yourself with emergency evacuation plans in your region and identify your local shelter, which is often a local school or other public facility. Information on emergency plans in your area can be obtained from local or prefectural government offices. After a major earthquake, follow the advice of the local authorities and emergency services. Local authorities bear primary responsibility for providing assistance during a crisis to people living or travelling within their jurisdictions.
You can also check for information on earthquakes (and tsunamis) in the Pacific on the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center website.
All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure for more information.
There are 110 active volcanoes in Japan, several of which currently sit at alert level 2 (do not approach the crater). Before hiking or visiting these areas you should check the latest volcano warnings on the website of the Japan Meteorological Agency.
On 29 May 2015, the Meteorological Agency upgraded its warning for Kuchinoerabu Island in Kagoshima prefecture, south-western Japan to Level 5 (Evacuate) following a volcanic eruption. Australians should follow the advice of local authorities and do not travel to Kuchinoerabu Island until local authorities confirm it is safe to do so.
Winter in Japan is known for heavy snowfalls and extremely low temperatures. While most trips to the mountains are without major incident, it is important to understand that conditions can change suddenly. Each year, a number of people are injured or killed during the winter months in snow related incidents – including motor vehicle accidents, avalanches, ice falls from roofs, prolonged exposure to extreme cold and ski collisions.
Walking alone or under the effects of alcohol, or veering off marked trails can be fatal. Each ski region has rules which are governed by the local ski resorts. Take care to follow these rules. You can be arrested and detained for unruly behaviour. See Local laws.
Skiing or snowboarding off-piste, either inside or outside a ski resort’s boundaries, is dangerous. Be sure to only visit areas that are designated as safe by local authorities. You must also pack your helmet and protective gear. Many travellers have suffered serious head injuries that could have been prevented by wearing the right equipment.
Avalanches are common and heavy snow storms can create deep powder snow drifts. You should make yourself aware of the winter weather risks – and consult local information sources such as tourism centres and your hotel and ski resort where appropriate.
It is your responsibility to ensure that your comprehensive travel insurance policy covers all your activities. Some general insurance policies may not cover snow sports. Read the fine print and refer to our guide on choosing insurance.
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. Australians trekking in the Japanese Alps should follow the safety advice of the Nagano Prefectural Government. You should also keep in mind that standard travel insurance policies generally exclude dangerous or extreme activities such as mountain climbing.