This is an
annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the
U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Japan. For
more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Japan country page for original
OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may
be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.
current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Japan at
Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to due to
an outbreak of COVID-19. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan’s Travel
Advisory was assessed as a Level 1. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and Safety
Department of State has assessed all cities with U.S. diplomatic posts in Japan
as being LOW-threat locations for
crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. The crime
rate in Japan is generally well below the U.S. national average. Crimes targeting
foreigners are seldom, especially as Tokyo has touted itself as “the world’s
safest big city” in preparation for the now-postponed 2020 Olympic Games. The Economist Intelligence
Unit ranked Tokyo and Osaka as the world’s number one and
number three safest cities for 2019.
Pickpocketing and other petty
crimes do sometimes take place in crowded shopping areas, bars and nightclubs,
and public transportation hubs. However, reports of these crimes victimizing
diplomats, tourists, and business travelers have declined considerably over the
past year. Review OSAC’s report, All
That You Should Leave Behind.
narcotics trade and prostitution occur throughout many of Japan’s after-hours
bar districts, but these activities are largely discreet in nature. Japanese
society considers these “victimless crimes.”
In some bar
districts popular with foreigners and tourists, bar touts may sometimes try to
lure foreign customers into their establishments with unusually inexpensive
drink prices. In many of these establishments, once the customer enters the
bar, management charges exorbitant prices, especially when using credit cards. On
occasion, drink spiking has incapacitated customers to run up large purchases
on credit cards (especially in areas such as Roppongi and Kabuki-cho, near
Shinjuku in Tokyo). Order drinks in cans or bottles that servers open in front
of you, and maintain control of drinks at all times. Use caution in all
entertainment and nightlife districts throughout Japan, especially Roppongi,
Kabuki-cho, Shibuya, and Ikebukuro in Tokyo. Review OSAC’s report, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.
There have been reports of U.S.
citizens being forcibly taken to ATMs and robbed, or made to withdraw funds
after being unable to pay exorbitant bar tabs. When victims report bar-related
crimes to local police, a subsequent investigation and review of surveillance
video may show what appears to be the victim willingly withdrawing money from
an ATM or signing a bar tab. As a result, the victim has little recourse in
recouping lost funds. In instances involving credit card theft or fraud,
Japanese police often provide a report number rather than a police report. You
can provide this report number to your credit card company in order to confirm
the incident with the police. Review
OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.
is an increasing concern throughout Japan. Always take care in protecting
sensitive or proprietary information (including personally identifiable
information). Use discretion when connecting to networks in internet cafés,
hotel business centers, or Wi-Fi “hotspots,” such as those found at coffee
shops. Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity
Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling
with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite
Phones: Critical or Contraband?
Safety and Road Conditions
Japan is complicated and expensive. Traffic moves on the left side of the road.
Those who cannot read the language will have trouble understanding road signs.
Highway tolls can be very high. City traffic is often very congested. A 20-mile
trip in the Tokyo area may take two hours. There is virtually no legal roadside
or curbside parking. Those parked illegally at curbside commonly block traffic.
In mountainous areas, roads often close during the winter, and cars should have
tire chains. Roads in Japan are much narrower in Japan than in the United
moves on the left in Japan and vehicles are right-side drive. Visitors,
especially those from countries where traffic moves on the right, should take
care when walking or driving throughout Japan. Road conditions and road safety
standards generally meet or exceed U.S standards, except in the most remote areas
or islands. Roads are well-maintained, with extensive lighting. Vehicle
accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists are common. Traffic enforcement
includes the extensive use of cameras. Turning on red lights is not legal. All
passengers are required to fasten their seat belts.
a zero-tolerance policy regarding driving under the influence of alcohol and
drugs; penalties can be severe. Once under arest, a subject can expect to
remain in police custody for up to 23 days while the police investigate. There
may also be additional fines or jail time imposed during sentencing.
provides that all drivers in Japan are liable in the event of an accident, and
assesses fault in an accident on all parties. Japanese compulsory insurance
(JCI) is mandatory for all automobile owners and drivers in Japan. Most
short-term visitors choose not to drive in Japan.
Review OSAC’s reports, Road
Safety Abroad, Driving
Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive
Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.
transportation throughout Japan is excellent in terms of efficiency and safety.
The railway system is composed of a combination of subways, local trains, and
high-speed inter-city trains.
victimizing women (Japanese and foreigners alike) on crowded subway trains are
common. Men groping female passengers or taking lewd photos of women,
specifically targeting those wearing skirts or dresses, are the most common
types of such crime. Because of the prevalence of these female-focused crimes,
Japanese authorities have designated certain cars as “women only” during
crowded rush hours.
be aware of their surroundings while riding the subway. In some instances, when
a woman actually catches someone committing a lewd act against her, jostling or
a physical fight may ensue. Should these actions result in injuries to either
party, the police may view those injuries as a greater offense than the sexual
assault. Depending on the injuries, the police could arrest the female for “assaulting”
the male, even though a Westerner would view her actions as purely self-defense.
Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female travelers.
Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
Department of State has assessed all cities with U.S. diplomatic posts in Japan
as being LOW-threat locations for terrorism
directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. There are no widely
prevalent indigenous terrorist organizations in Japan, which is not a known
base of support or sympathy for terrorists.
There have been a limited number of ISIS-related
sympathizers among Japanese nationals. Reportedly, a small number of Japanese
nationals have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria to join ISIS. There
have been no indications that radicalized foreign and/or indigenous terrorist
groups are seeking to target the now-postponed Olympic Games.
While Japan has not experienced any incidents related
to international terrorism in the last decade, travelers should maintain a high
level of vigilance and practice good situational awareness abroad.
Political, Economic, Religious,
and Ethnic Violence
Department of State has assessed all cities with U.S. diplomatic posts in Japan
as being LOW-threat locations for political
violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Violent
demonstrations and acts of civil unrest are very rare in Japan. Most protests
are peaceful and require a government application and an official permit. The
police closely monitor demonstrations and inform the Regional Security Office
at the U.S. Embassy about planned protests and whether they expect disruptions.
The U.S Mission in Japan spanning the Embassy in Tokyo
and five other constituent posts in Naha, Nagoya, Osaka-Kobe, Fukuoka, and
Sapporo frequently experience small-scale demonstrations, usually in response
to historical grievances and/or current U.S. policies. However, these
demonstrations usually occur without incident and prompt close monitoring by
Japan’s law enforcement and security services. Individuals seeking to demonstrate/protest
in Japan must obtain a permit from the police to do so.
Japan frequently natural disasters and extreme weather
events. However, its capabilities in the areas of disaster response are
world-renowned. Japan regularly experiences earthquakes and tremors due to its
location in an active seismic region known as the “Ring of Fire.” Japan has
made great advances in building, railway, and road construction that minimizes
collateral damage in metropolitan areas. Nevertheless, coastal cities remain
susceptible to tsunamis, which stem from earthquake epicenters in the ocean,
and can arrive on shore within minutes. These tidal waves can cause widespread
destruction of property and can lead to loss of life.
Japan’s typhoon season typically lasts from July to
October. Such weather can cause violent winds and heavy flooding, and adversely
affect commercial aviation, rail service, and other public transportation. In October
2019, Super Typhoon Hagibis hit Japan, interrupting the 2019 Rugby World Cup. At
least 98 people died in the storm. Utilities and infrastructure suffered
damage, and the storm disrupted air and land travel.
The Government of Japan continues to closely monitor
the conditions at and around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Comply
with all travel restrictions and cautions for areas surrounding the plant. For
more information, contact the Japan
Nuclear Regulation Authority.
very strict privacy laws governing the release of personal information of
Hate-related crimes rarely occur, though some
U.S. citizens have reported being the target of comments or actions because of
their race, nationality, or ethnicity.
Tokyo is home to a relatively large LGBTI+ population,
and hosts an annual Pride festival in May. Although
crimes based on sexual orientation are exceptionally rare, same-sex couples may
draw unwanted attention for outward displays of physical affection. There
are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of
LGBTI+ events in Japan. While in recent years, open members of Japan's LGBTI+
community have made social strides including winning elections to public
office, LGBTI+ activists warn that Japan remains an unwelcoming place for
sexual minorities. Review the State Department’s webpage
on security for LGBTI+ travelers.
Review OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice, and
the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based travelers.
Although Japan’s accessibility laws
mandate that new construction projects for public use include provisions for
persons with disabilities, older buildings are not likely to have been
retrofitted for accessibility. At major train stations, airports, and hotels,
travelers with disabilities should encounter few accessibility problems. Note
that many smaller stations are inaccessible to those who cannot climb stairs.
Information on travel in Japan for travelers with disabilities is available
at Accessible Japan and
National Tourism Organization. Review the State Department’s webpage on
security for travelers with disabilities.
Illegal drugs, including methamphetamines, marijuana,
cocaine, synthetic drugs, are present in Japan. Marijuana-related arrests increased nearly
20% from 2017 to 2018. Authorities attribute the increased popularity of
marijuana to Japan’s younger generation and foreign nationals.
majority of arrests of U.S. citizens in Japan are for drug-related offenses,
and arrestees often spend months or years in detention. Japanese authorities
aggressively pursue drug smugglers and users, including recreational users with
sophisticated detection equipment, "sniffing" dogs, blood tests,
“stop-and-frisk” tactics, and other methods. Penalties for possessing, using,
or trafficking a drug that is illegal in Japan are severe, and convicted
offenders can expect long jail sentences and fines. Some drugs which are legal
in certain jurisdictions outside of Japan, including marijuana and synthetic
drugs, remain illegal in Japan. This also applies to certain prescription drugs
that doctors in the United States may prescribe. Having a prescription for
medical marijuana does not exempt you from Japanese law, which makes no
distinction between medical and recreational marijuana. Even possession of a
small amount for personal use can result in a long jail sentence and fine.
Japanese customs officials carefully screen incoming packages, and individuals
who receive drugs through the mail can face arrest and prosecution as drug
strict laws regarding the use and possession of dangerous weapons. Carrying a
pocketknife (including Swiss Army-style knives), craft knife, hunting knife, or
box cutter in public is illegal. Authorities have detained U.S. citizens at
international airport ports-of-entry when finding loose ammunition – including
a single bullet – in their luggage. Read
the State Department’s webpage on customs and import restrictions for information on what you cannot take into
or out of other countries.
The emergency line in Japan is 110. Police are generally competent
and provide travelers with assistance. Those in need of emergency services
should be able to describe their address and location in Japanese or find
someone who can do so, since few police officers speak English.
Some victims have reported that police procedures
appear to be less sensitive and less responsive to victims’ concerns than
similar procedures in the U.S., particularly in cases of domestic violence,
sexual assault, and in instances when the victim and the perpetrator are
foreigners. Investigations of sexual assault often occur without a female
police officer present, and the police typically inquire about the victim’s
sexual history and previous relationships.
Few victim assistance resources or shelters for
victims of domestic abuse exist in major urban areas, and such services are
generally unavailable in rural areas. Download the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
Japan’s police system is composed of the National
Police Agency, Prefectural Police Department, City Police, and Police Kobans (substations). The National
Police Agency is responsible for the administration of police services.
Prefectural Police Departments maintain a regional responsibility, conducting
investigations and first response to emergencies. The City Police provide
police services at a more local level.
Kobans (Police Boxes) are
the most typical point of interaction for visitors with the Japanese police.
The Kobans throughout Tokyo feature
one or more police officers 24/7. Koban
police officers are normally very approachable.
The medical emergency line in Japan is 119. While medical care in Japan is
good, English-speaking physicians and medical facilities that cater to U.S. expectations
are expensive and not widespread. Find
contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance
services on the U.S. Embassy website.
Verify the validity of your medical insurance and
confirm coverage in Japan before traveling. Japanese medical providers
typically will not accept foreign medical insurance. Japan has a national health
insurance system available only to those foreigners with long-term visas for
Japan. National health insurance does not pay for medical evacuation (medevac).
Medical caregivers in Japan require payment in full at the time of treatment or
concrete proof of ability to pay before they will treat a foreigner who is not
a member of the national health insurance plan. The U.S. Department of State
strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling
internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance overseas.
and standard psychiatric care can be difficult to locate in major urban centers
in Japan, and generally is not available outside of Japan’s major cities.
Extended psychiatric care for foreigners in Japan is difficult to obtain at any
medications available in the U.S. are illegal in Japan. Pseudoephedrine, an
ingredient in over-the-counter medication in the U.S., is illegal in Japan. Similarly,
prescription medications containing amphetamine or other stimulants, such as
Adderall and Ritalin, are also illegal in Japan.
can bring up to one month’s supply of allowable prescription medicine into
Japan. Travelers should bring a copy of their doctor’s prescription as well as
a letter stating the purpose of the drug. Travelers who must carry more than one month’s supply (except prohibited drugs and controlled drugs),
or who must carry syringes, pumps, or a CPAP machine, must obtain an
import certificate (Yakkan Shoumei)
in advance, and show the document with the prescription medicines to a Japanese
Customs official. When inquiring
to the Kanto-Shinetsu Regional Bureau, do not forget to provide a fax number or
email address. For more information about bringing medicines into Japan,
consult the Importing or Bringing Medication into Japan
for Personal Use page of the U.S. Embassy website. For information
on how to obtain a Yakkan Shoumei certificate,
visit Japan’s Ministry of Health,
Labor, and Welfare.
offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Japan.
Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Traveling with Medication, I’m Drinking What in My Water?, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad.
OSAC Country Council
The OSAC Tokyo Country Council is active and meets
approximately once a month. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Asia-Pacific team for more
information or to join.
U.S. Embassy Contact
1-10-5 Akasaka, Minato-Ku, Tokyo
Hours: 0830 – 1730,
Monday through Friday (except U.S. and Japanese holidays)
Embassy Operator (24hrs): +81 (03)
U.S. Diplomatic Posts in Japan:
- Consulate Osaka/Kobe, 2-11-5 Nishitenma, Kita-ku, Osaka 530-8543, +81-06-6315-5900
- Consulate Sapporo, 3, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0001, Japan, +81-11-641-1115
- Consulate Fukuoka, 2 Chome-5-26 Ohori, Chuo Ward, Fukuoka, 810-0052,
- Consulate Nagoya, 1 Chome-47-1 Nagono, Nakamura Ward, Nagoya, Aichi
450-0001, Japan, +81-52-581-4501
- Consulate Naha/Okinawa, 2-1-1 Toyama, Urasoe City, Okinawa, +81-098-876-4211
travel, consider the following resources: