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Japan

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Summary

  • Exercise normal safety precautions in Japan. Use common sense. Look out for suspicious behaviour. Monitor the media and other sources for changes to local conditions and regional security threats.
  • Exercise a high degree of caution in restricted areas near the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant and do not travel to exclusion zones near the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant, as directed by the Japanese Government. See Health
  • Japan experiences earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and volcanic activity. The Japan Meteorological Agency provides up-to-date information in English on these issues. See Natural disasters
  • Provocations by North Korea directed at neighbouring countries, including Japan, are possible. The situation could escalate with little warning. See Safety and security
  • Some medication including the stimulant dexamphetamine (used to treat ADHD) and pseudoephedrine (found in some cold and flu tablets) is banned. See Health
  • Japanese family law is very different to Australian law, including in relation to child custody and divorce. Child abduction issues between Australia and Japan are governed by international law. See Laws
  • The drinking age in Japan is 20. The blood-alcohol limit for drivers is zero. See Laws and Local travel
  • If you're arrested, you can be detained for up to 23 days without charge. Even if you think the alleged offence could be minor, you may be held for weeks or months during the investigation and legal proceedings. See Laws
  • If you’re visiting for less than 90 days, carry your 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 Natural disasters

Entry and exit

Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Australian Government can’t intervene on your behalf if you don’t meet your destination's entry or exit requirements.

Visas

If you're visiting for less than 90 days as a tourist, for a business trip or conference, or to visit friends and family, you don't need a visa. To qualify, you need to show evidence of sufficient funds and an onward/return ticket or confirmed accommodation arrangements.

If immigration authorities believe you intend to seek work, they can refuse you entry for up to five years. You can't appeal the decision.

On arrival, you must declare if you have a criminal record. If you have a criminal record, immigration may refuse you entry. Before travelling, contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Japan to check if you need a visa.

Some employment agents misleadingly entice foreigners to work in Japan without the correct visa. If you work while 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 have their fingerprints scanned on arrival. If you refuse, you could be denied entry. People under 16 and holders of diplomatic or official visas are exempt.

If you stay in Japan long term, you must register your details with the Immigration Bureau of Japan before arriving. Once you present the correct landing permission, you’ll receive a residence card, which you must carry with you at all times. See Where to get help for services providing information on living in Japan.

There are strict rules on the import of medication, and what can be brought into the country for personal use. See Health.

More information:

Passport

Check the expiry date of your Australian passport before you travel. Some countries won’t let you enter unless your passport is valid for six months from when you plan to leave that country.

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 access your passport by deception. If you’re forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

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 outside major cities.

ATMs at banks or in convenience stores may not accept all foreign cards, although many Australian credit cards can be used at 7-Eleven ATMs. Check with your bank and card provider if, and where, your cards will work in Japan.

Safety and security

Regional threats

Tensions in the region, including in relation to North Korea, could escalate with little warning.

  • Be alert to developments.
  • Read the advice on preparing for emergencies by the Japanese Cabinet Secretariat for National Security Affairs and Crisis Management.
  • Follow local authorities' instructions.

Crime

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

Bars and night clubs (particularly in the Roppongi and Kabuki-cho entertainment areas of Tokyo) may target foreigners with:

  • overcharging
  • fraudulent credit card charges
  • drink spiking
  • illegal drugs
  • in some cases, assault.

Some venues use street touts to entice foreigners into their premises. Drinks may be served with a higher percentage of alcohol than would normally be expected. In some cases, victims have woken up in unknown locations and/or discovered high credit card charges. Victims have experienced difficulties in getting police reports to submit to their banks and travel insurers.

  • Avoid street touts.
  • Avoid carrying credit cards or large amounts of cash to parties, bars, clubs or entertainment districts.

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, at public events and at ports of entry.

More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Local travel

The Japan National Tourism Organization 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. A voice translation smartphone app, ‘VoiceTra’ translates English into Japanese, and vice versa.

Fukushima and surrounding areas

There are some exclusion zones around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant following an earthquake in 2011 that resulted in radiation being released.

  • Do not travel​ to exclusion areas near the Fukushima Dai-ichi Power Plant, as specified by the Japanese Government, because of elevated levels of radionuclide contamination in this area.
  • Exercise a high degree of caution in restricted areas near the Fukushima Dai-ichi Power Plant, as specified by the Japanese Government, because of low levels of radionuclide contamination in these areas.
  • If you must stay overnight in restricted areas, seek advice from local authorities on how to minimise risks to your health.
  • Monitor and follow local authorities' advice.

More information:

Mountain climbing and trekking

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

There have been bear sightings in some areas of Northern Japan.

If you plan to trek in the Japanese Alps:

  • Read and follow local safety advice, such as advice from the Nagano Prefectural Government.
  • Pay attention to warning notices on hiking trails.
  • Follow local authorities' advice.
  • Make sure your travel insurance covers all your activities. Check any limitations on your cover.

Road travel

Roads and vehicles in Japan are generally well maintained, and traffic is orderly. Vehicles travel on the left hand side of the road. Heavy snowfalls and ice in the winter can make driving dangerous.

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

More information: Road safety and driving

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, you must get a Japanese licence.

More information: 

Motorcycles

Check if your travel insurance covers you when riding a motorcycle. Always wear a helmet.

Taxis

Taxis are generally a safe mode of transport. Taxi drivers usually open and shut the rear passenger doors remotely.

Public transport

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

Air travel

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade doesn't 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 – some may 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

Authorities can charge you if trace amounts of illegal drugs are found in your blood or urine.

More information:

Family laws

Japanese family law is very different to Australian law. Child custody and access and divorce decisions are based on Japanese family law. After divorce, only one parent can legally have parental rights in relation to a child. 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 affect your family circumstances.

Australia and Japan are both parties to The Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. If you're concerned 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 employment agents misleadingly 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're considering travel for work, verify the true nature of the work being offered and make sure you have the correct visa before arriving. Get legal advice before signing any contract.

More information: Living and working overseas

Police powers

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
  • any item they can reasonably suspect was stolen or unlawfully obtained

If any of these items are found in your possession, it’s likely that you’ll be detained.

If you're arrested, you can be detained for up to 23 days without charge. Even for something you consider minor. Authorities could hold you 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 website.

Other laws

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

The following activities are illegal in Japan:

  • purchasing or consuming alcohol if you're under 20
  • driving with any alcohol in your bloodstream
  • allowing someone under the influence of alcohol to drive a vehicle in which you're 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 leave 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 won't pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm what circumstances and activities are and aren't covered under your policy, and 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. Get vaccinated.

At least eight weeks before you leave, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up. Discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.

Different environments, unfamiliar customs and language barriers may worsen existing mental health conditions and possibly trigger mental health issues. Mental health treatment and facilities can differ significantly to those in Australia.

If you need counselling services while in Japan, call:

More information:

Medication

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

Strict rules govern medication importation, and what can be brought in for personal use. Medication is classified into five categories (general, narcotic, psychotropic, stimulant or a medical device). Depending on the classification, name and quantity, you may need permission/certification to take that medication into Japan.

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

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

More information:

Health risks

Radiation

There are some exclusion zones around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant following the 2011 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.

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
  • use insect repellent and wear long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing
  • get vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis before you travel.

More information: Infectious diseases

Measles and Rubella

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

More information:

Medical facilities

Medical facilities are of a high standard. Medical facilities with English-speaking staff are in most major cities.

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

The Japan National Tourism Organization maintains a list of hospitals by location with English/other foreign language-speaking staff. Further information is on the Medical Information page of the Australian Embassy, Tokyo website.

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

Natural disasters

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 Organization 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 (810AM) and Inter FM (76.1FM).

Japanese public broadcaster NHK provides a free smartphone app, which can be set to receive emergency notifications in English. This includes earthquake, tsunami, volcanic eruption and typhoon warnings. More information: NHK World-Japan free apps

  • 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.
  • Familiarise yourself with local authorities' advice on preparing for a natural disaster or other emergency.

If there's 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

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.

  • Monitor the local media for weather updates and information about preparations in the face of severe weather.
  • Check the latest typhoon information from the World Meteorological Organization Severe Weather Information Centre.
  • Read Severe weather for advice on what to do if there’s a typhoon.
  • Follow local authorities' advice.
  • Be aware of areas at risk of landslides.
  • If torrential rain hits:
    • Stay indoors and keep away from areas with rivers, steep hills at risk of landslides and flooded streets.
    • If necessary, evacuate to a place on the second floor or higher. Evacuation shelters may be in operation in the local area.
    • Be careful of fallen electrical lines.

Earthquakes and tsunamis

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

Get information on emergency plans in your area from local or prefectural government offices such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Disaster Prevention website. 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're in a coastal region after a major earthquake, move to higher ground immediately.

More information: Earthquakes

Volcanoes

There are 110 active volcanoes in Japan. A complete list of the latest volcano warnings is on the website of the Japan Meteorological Agency website.

  • If you plan to visit the area of a volcano, stay informed of local alert levels, which can change at short notice.  
  • Follow the advice of local authorities. 

Winter weather

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

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

Each ski region has rules that 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

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:

In Tokyo, the Foreign Residents' Advisory Centre (81 3) 5320 7744 can provide assistance and advice in English.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Police: 110 or contact the local police at the nearest police station
  • Fire and ambulance: 119
  • Tokyo English-Speaking Police: (81 3) 3501 0110 (Mon- Fri 8:30am-5:15pm)
  • 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

Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO)’s Tourist Information Center accepts telephone enquiries 24 hr/day: (81 3) 3201 3331.

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly or contact the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan’s Consumer Hotline for Tourists: (81 3) 5449 0906 (Mon-Fri, 10:00am-4:00pm, excluding national holidays).

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
Phone: (81 3) 5232 4111
Fax: (81 3) 5232 4057
Website: japan.embassy.gov.au
Email: consular.tokyo@dfat.gov.au
Facebook: Australian Embassy Japan
Twitter: @AustraliaInJPN

Check the Australian 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
Phone: (81 6) 6941 9271 or (81 6) 6941 9448
Fax: (81 6) 6920 4543
Website: 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
Phone: (81 92) 734 5055
Fax: (81 92) 734 5058
Website: 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
Phone: (81 11) 242 4381
Fax: (81 11) 242 4383
Website: japan.embassy.gov.au/tkyo/location_sapporo.html

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

Additional information

Additional resources