Is it safe to travel to Japan in 2020?
All you need to know about staying safe in one of the favourite destinations for Australians.
Important Read: Coronavirus (COVID-19)
From 25 March 2020, the Australian government placed a travel ban on all overseas travel to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. At this time, it's not safe to be travelling overseas.
- If you buy a policy today, you're unlikely to be covered for any claims.
- If you purchased your policy before this became a "known event", check directly with your insurer to see if you're affected.
- Go to Smartraveller for more information on Japan.
Japan is known for being one of the safest countries on earth for locals and tourists alike. Its major cities such as Tokyo and Osaka regularly find their way onto the top 10 of The Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual Global Liveability Index.
However, no country or city is perfect, which is why it always pays to do your research before going anywhere.
Safety considerations for Japan
Even though Japan is a safe country, having a slip-up can happen anywhere and winding up in a hospital overseas can be expensive, so make sure you've got a policy that provides cover for overseas medical treatment.
If you're hitting the slopes, it also pays to have a travel insurance with a ski extension.
Is Japan safe now?
Yes, as of December 2018, travelling to Japan is almost universally safe with Japan having an “Exercise normal safety precautions” advisory from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) smartraveller website.
Crime in Japan
Japan is experiencing record lows in regard to crime and has the second-lowest homicides rate out of OECD countries. As far as serious crimes such as murder and robbery, there was a decrease in 2017 compared to the previous year. The number of thefts is also on the decline.
Radiation in Japan
While the majority of the country including Tokyo has radiation levels within the normal range, you should avoid areas surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The March 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami caused a nuclear disaster, which still affects the area surrounding the plant.
Exclusion areas remain in place and are classed between Areas 1 and 3. For Areas 1 and 2, the Australian government advises that you “Exercise a high degree of caution” and if you’re forced to stay in these areas, to seek the advice from local authorities to minimise your health risks. Area 3 is completely off limits and is listed as “Do not travel”. If you head into an area with a “Do not travel advisory” not only will you not have cover from your travel insurer but you’re also unlikely to receive assistance from the Australian consulate.
Areas still listed on the evacuation map as Areas 1–3 include:
- Date City
- Iitate Village
- Kawamata Town
- Minamisoma City
- Katsurao Village
- Namie Town
- Tamura City
- Futaba Town
- Okuma Town
- Tomioka Town
- Kawauchi Village
- Naraha Town
Eating and drinking in Japan?
Is it safe to eat in Japan?
Yes, the food is generally safe to eat in Japan. While there were major concerns following the Fukushima meltdown, recent reports found that fish and seafood near the coast tested below targeted radiation levels.
However, no trip to Japan is complete without the eating of some form of sashimi but you should be wary of consuming uncooked meat and fish. This applies even more if you’re game enough to try chicken sashimi.
Is the water safe to drink?
Yes, the water in Japan is perfectly safe to drink from the tap. In some provinces the water may smell of chlorine, which you can remedy by boiling the water. This won’t be a problem if you’re staying in a hotel in a major city, as most have filtered options or provide boiled water. If you’re still not convinced, you can always opt for bottled water.
Is Japan safe to travel alone?
The OECD study also found that 71% of people in Japan say that they feel safe walking alone at night, which is slightly higher than the OECD average (69%) and fairly unison for both men and women surveyed. As such, Japan is fairly safe for both male and female travellers travelling alone. Drink spiking has been known to happen in some areas, so keep an eye on your drink.
Is it safe to take the whole family?
Yes, Japan is a safe place for the whole family and offers a range of family-friendly experiences, such as the ski fields and the Tokyo Disney Resort. The only thing that may be “unsafe” is your wallet, as taking the whole fam to Japan is exxy.
Is it safe to travel to Japan while pregnant?
If you’re making the trip to Japan while pregnant, you may have some concerns about the safety of your unborn child in the wake of Fukushima. As with every other traveller, as long as you stay out of the exclusion zones, you should be fine. Plus, you won’t be indulging in any of the raw fish, so that removes one of the major areas of concern.
If you are travelling while pregnant, you should check with your doctor before you depart to make sure there won’t be any complications. You should also check that your travel insurance policies covers you, as some insurers won’t cover you past your 18th week of pregnancy.
Do you need vaccinations before going to Japan?
Before you depart, make sure you check with your doctor to make sure you’re up-to-date on your vaccinations. Before heading to Japan, you specifically want to ask your doctor about:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Japanese Encephalitis
While you may not need all of these shots, it never hurts to consult your doctor about your specific risks.
Not getting all the advisable travel vaccinations is not only potentially bad for your health, but it could also end up costing you a bunch. If you’re advised to get a vaccination, but don’t get it and wind up sick in the hospital, your travel insurer won’t cover your medical costs.
Is it safe to drive in Japan?
Yes, driving in Japan is relatively safe. A few tips before hitting the road in Japan include:
- Japan has zero tolerance for drink driving. This means a BAC of 0.00.
- Driving is on the left side of the road.
- You will need an International Driver’s Permit in addition to your Aussie licence.
If you’re planning to drive or ride a motorcycle while in Japan, you’ll need to check your travel insurance first. For motorbikes, you’ll need to check the maximum CC covered by your insurer.
For both cars and motorcycles, it’s also worth pointing out that your travel insurance won’t cover damage to the vehicle, as this type of coverage is offered through the car rental company. However, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got car rental excess cover, which covers the excess charged by the car rental company if you’re involved in an accident.
Is the public transport safe?
You betcha. Japan is at the forefront of public transport with the likes of the Shinkansen (bullet train). While the subways are crowded and cramped, they are well policed and supervised. Taxis and ridesharing companies operate in major cities as well if you’re not fond of being squished into a crowded train carriage.
Other issues to consider
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