Japan

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Saturday, 11 October 2014.   We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Japan overall.

Japan overall

Areas 1 and 2 near the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant

Area 3 near the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Japan.
  • Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.
  • 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 section.
  • 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 the Laws section.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
click on image to expand

Entry and exit

Visa conditions are subject to change. For up-to-date visa information and passport validity requirements, Australians should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Japan well in advance of travel.

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.

Visas are not normally required for Australians entering Japan for tourism for less than 90 days. Japan's Visa Waiver Program is strict and entry may be refused if the applicant cannot 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 denied entry into Japan for up to five years.

In July 2012, a new residency management system was introduced and Residence Cards replaced Alien Registration identity cards. 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.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Japanese government authorities cannot rule out the threat of terrorism in Japan. As a counter-terrorism precaution, the Japanese government has, since July 2005, implemented heightened security measures at key facilities including on public transport and at ports of entry.

Crime

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.

You should be aware of drink spiking and check prices before entering or ordering in a bar, restaurant or other venue. Foreigners are sometimes victims of drink spiking, often resulting in credit card theft and assault. If possible, avoid carrying credit cards or large amounts of cash to parties, bars, clubs or entertainment districts. Do not leave your drink unattended. 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 and pickpocketing of foreigners in crowded shopping areas, on trains and at airports have occurred. Credit card and ATM fraud can occur in Japan. If you are suspicious of any items that are stuck to ATMs or look unusual, do not use the machine. Exercise normal safety precautions and take care with your valuables.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. 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.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

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. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

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

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 Radiation Authority. You should ensure you are aware of, and follow, the advice of local authorities.

On 19 August 2013, a new 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 the following 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.

Road travel

Heavy snowfalls and ice in the winter can make driving dangerous. See our road travel page for further information on overseas road safety.

Airline safety

Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Japan, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Police Powers

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’s website.

Local laws

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.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 17 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in sexual activity with children under 16 while outside of Australia.

Health

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’s 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.

Some prescription and over-the-counter medications cannot be imported into Japan. Japanese Customs may detain travellers possessing prohibited items which include products containing pseudoephedrine (found in some cold and flu tablets) and codeine. You can obtain further information from the Japanese Embassy in Australia.

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

Emergency contact numbers in Japan are as follows:

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.

In Japan, you can obtain consular assistance from the following:

Australian Embassy Tokyo

2-1-14 Mita, Minato-ku
TOKYO 108 8361
Telephone (81 3) 5232 4111
Facsimile (81 3) 5232 4057
Web: http://www.australia.or.jp/en/consular/
Email address: consular.tokyo@dfat.gov.au

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: http://australia.or.jp/en/consular/osaka/

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: http://australia.or.jp/en/consular/fukuoka/

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: http://australia.or.jp/en/consular/sapporo

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.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

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. 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.

Volcanoes

There are 110 active volcanoes in Japan. Before hiking or visiting these areas you should check the latest volcano warnings on the website of the Japan Meteorological Agency. Mount Sakurajima, Mount Ontake and Mount Kuchinoerabujima are at alert level 3 (do not approach the volcano).

Winter weather

Every year, a number of people are injured or killed during the winter months in snow-related accidents, including motor vehicle accidents, avalanches, heavy snow, ice falls from roofs and prolonged exposure to extreme cold. Snow conditions can change quickly, walking alone or under the effects of alcohol, and veering off marked trails can be fatal. Avalanches are common and heavy snowfalls can create hazardously deep powder snow drifts. Australians who are considering visiting areas where it snows should make themselves aware of the potential dangers by checking websites that provide regular updates on snow conditions. You should also consult local information sources, including tourism centres and your hotel or ski resort where appropriate.

Mountain climbing

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.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.

See under Laws for further information on family law issues.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.