The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Japan at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Consulate General in Osaka does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizen Services (ACS) unit cannot recommend a particular individual or establishment and assumes no responsibility for the quality of services provided.
Consulate General Osaka assists U.S. citizens in the prefectures of Shimane, Hiroshima, Tottori, Okayama, Ehime, Kochi, Kagawa, Tokushima, Hyogo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Wakayama, Mie, Shiga, Fukui, Ishikawa, Toyama, Gifu, and Aichi.
Review OSAC’s Japan webpage proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
There is minimal risk from crime in Osaka. With a crime rate well below the U.S. national average, Osaka (like all of Japan) is generally a safe place to live, work, and visit. Though relatively uncommon, crimes against U.S. citizens typically involve personal disputes, petty theft, or vandalism. Non-violent crimes, especially financial crimes that include the use of stolen credit cards and credit card numbers, have been reported. Pickpocketing and other petty crimes may occur in crowded shopping areas, bars/nightclubs, train stations, and airports. Every year, a number of U.S. citizens report their passports lost or stolen from Kansai International Airport (KIX).
Exercise caution in entertainment and nightlife districts throughout Japan. Some of Osaka’s entertainment and nightlife districts – in particular, the Umeda, Kitashinchi, Namba, and Tobita areas – experience a higher level of crime than other parts of the city. Some businesses in these districts may have connections to organized crime. Robberies or assaults committed after a victim has been drugged from a spiked drink appear to be increasing, and may be underreported. Some drinking establishments have a set charge as part of the bill that does not include food or beverages. These charges range from a few U.S. dollars to several hundred. Confusion about this practice can result in a confrontation with employees when the customer asks to close out the bill. Verify up front that there is no (or an acceptable) added charge apart from food and drinks.
Violent crime is rare, but does occur, often in connection with disputes. Japan has strict laws regarding the possession and use of dangerous weapons. Firearms are illegal without a proper license. Carrying a pocket knife (including a Swiss Army-style knife), craft/hunting knife, or a box cutter in public is illegal. Violators may be subject to arrest.
Cybercrime is growing concern in Japan. Make an effort to protect personally identifiable information. Advance-fee fraud scams perpetrated via email and text messages have occurred. Use discretion when connecting to wireless networks in Internet cafés, hotel business centers, or Wi-Fi hotspots, like those offered by coffee shops; networks may not be secure.
Other Areas of Concern
Avoid personal travel to the Fukushima Exclusion Zone. The zone is divided into three color-coded areas, each with different travel restrictions. For more details, reference Fukushima Prefecture’s official website or the Japan National Tourism website, which provides information on radiation dosage throughout the country.
While roadways are generally well-maintained, visitors often find driving to be complicated and expensive. Traffic moves on the left side. Roads in Japan are much narrower than those in the U.S. Vehicle accidents, including those involving pedestrians, are common. Visitors who cannot read Japanese may have trouble understanding road signs. Highway tolls can be costly. City traffic is often very congested. There is virtually no legal roadside or curbside parking; however, illegally parked vehicles often block or partially block traffic.
Traffic enforcement includes the extensive use of cameras. Turning on red is generally not permitted. All passengers are must use seat belts.
Japan has a national zero percent blood alcohol content (BAC) standard for driving. Drivers stopped for driving under the influence of intoxicants will have their licenses confiscated; drivers found guilty of "drunken, speeding, or blatantly careless driving resulting in injury" are subject to up to 15 years in prison.
Japanese law provides that all drivers are liable in the event of an accident. Japanese Compulsory Insurance is mandatory for all automobile owners and drivers. Most short-term visitors choose not to drive; those who do must have an International Driving Permit (IDP) issued in the U.S. by the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) issued prior to arrival. U.S. diplomatic facilities do not issue IDPs. Internet-issued IDPs or those issued by other organizations are not valid. Residents in Japan must obtain a valid Japanese license.
Public Transportation Conditions
Japan’s public transportation system is safe and efficient. The country’s railway system is extensive and among the best in the world. It is a major means of public transit, especially for high-speed travel between cities, as well as commuter transport within metropolitan areas. Trains are noteworthy for their safety, cleanliness, and punctuality. Although generally safe, incidents of sexual assault (e.g., groping) on crowded trains have lately received a considerable amount of public attention. The exact extent of this problem is hard to assess, as many incidents are believed to go unreported. In response, a number of railway companies offer female-only cars, especially during rush hours.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Japan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) as compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation standards for oversight of Japan’s air carrier operations.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
There is minimal threat from terrorism in Osaka. There are no known indigenous terrorist organizations. Japan is not a known base of support for transnational terrorists. Japan has a limited number of ISIS-related sympathizers. A small number of Japanese nationals have reportedly traveled or attempted to travel to Syria in order to join ISIS. Japanese law enforcement is also concerned about and engaged in monitoring the potential threat of homegrown/lone-wolf actors. With Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games, information regarding transnational terrorist threats to Japan (real or aspirational) may increase.
Although the vast majority of Japanese nationals regard U.S. citizens and other Westerners in a positive light, the topic of U.S. military bases in Japan – especially in Okinawa – continues to be sensitive. Some Japanese object to certain aspects of the U.S.-Japan alliance, but those feelings rarely result in hostility toward individual travelers. The U.S. Consulate General in Osaka is routinely the site of small, peaceful demonstrations. The Regional Security Office maintains frequent contact with Japanese law enforcement regarding such protests.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
There is minimal risk from political violence in Osaka. Violence along economic and ethnic lines is very uncommon. A variety of indigenous right-wing, left-wing, and spiritual groups has taken political positions described as extremist and in some cases anti-U.S. While these groups usually limit their activities to protesting peacefully and raising money, some of them (e.g. Aum Shinrikyo and the Japanese Red Army) have crossed the threshold into committing politically motivated acts of violence. In such cases, authorities have taken strong action and continue close monitoring.
Political protests are common and peaceful in the vast majority of cases. A culturally-rooted respect for authority results in civic action that is passionate, yet overwhelmingly orderly and nonviolent. Japanese law requires protestors to obtain a permit; law enforcement monitors demonstrations closely.
Japan is in an active seismic region, known as the “Ring of Fire,” making it prone to earthquakes and tsunamis. Japan frequently experiences earthquakes of varying intensity, and has made great advances in building, railway, and road construction that minimize collateral damage in metropolitan areas. Coastal cities remain susceptible to tsunamis, which stem from earthquake epicenters in the ocean and can arrive on shore within minutes. These tidal waves cause destruction of property and can lead to loss of life. In 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake off the northeast coast of Japan caused a tsunami estimated to have killed over 15,000 people.
Typhoons are another natural disaster concern, particularly in August and September. For more information, see the Japan Meteorological Service’s Typhoon tracker and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.
All travelers should have a personal emergency plan for natural disasters including contingencies for communications and evacuation.
The Government of Japan continues to monitor the conditions at/around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant closely.
Economic espionage/intellectual property theft remains a concern. Take prudent steps to safeguard computer systems, networks, and personal electronics.
Japan has very strict privacy laws that govern the release of personal information.
Personal Identity Concerns
Hate-related crimes rarely occur, though some U.S. citizens have reported being the target of discrimination based on their nationality or race. Although crimes based on sexual orientation are exceptionally rare, same-sex couples may experience harassment for outward displays of affection.
Illegal drugs (e.g., methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine, and synthetic drugs) are present, but drug-related violence is rare. The possession and use of illegal drugs, including marijuana and some medications that are legal in the U.S., are serious crimes and can result in lengthy prison sentences.
Japanese police officers are well trained and reliably provide assistance. Police substations, called kobans, are located throughout Japanese cities, and generally feature one or more officers on a 24/7 basis. The majority of Japanese police officers have a very limited ability to communicate in English; there may be a delay before an English-speaking officer arrives. The quality of interpretation between Japanese and English can vary; this has sometimes caused problems for U.S. victims.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
U.S. Consulate General Osaka-Kobe’s American Citizen Services (ACS) unit assists U.S. citizens during normal business hours. U.S. citizens with a serious emergency after normal business hours, contact the U.S. Embassy Tokyo at +81 (0) 3-3224-5000.
Crime Victim Assistance
The nationwide police emergency number is 110. Police response is generally dependable; however, English-speaking emergency dispatchers are not always immediately available.
Some U.S. citizens have reported that police procedures can be less sensitive and responsive to victims’ concerns when compared to those of the U.S., particularly in cases of domestic violence and sexual assault. Male officers sometimes conduct investigations of sexual assault without the presence of female officers. Officers may ask about the victim’s sexual history and previous relationships. Few victim’s assistance resource centers/battered women’s shelters exist in major urban centers; they are generally unavailable in rural areas.
Prefectural police departments provide policing in Japan, under the oversight of the National Police Agency (NPA). Prefectural police departments are subdivided into police stations/districts that are further divided into substations, or kobans. Police patrol via a combination of foot, bicycle, and motorized units. In cities, seeking out the nearest koban is generally the quickest and most effective way of obtaining police assistance.
The nationwide emergency number for fire and ambulance service is 119. This number may not work from cell phones. English-speaking dispatchers may not always be available.
Some medications available in the U.S. are illegal in Japan. Pseudoephedrine is illegal in Japan. Prescription medications containing amphetamine or other stimulants including Adderall and Ritalin are also illegal. For more information, refer to OSAC’s Report, Traveling with Medications.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
For a non-exhaustive list of available medical facilities in Japan, consult the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Japan’s Medical Assistance website.
Available Air Ambulance Services
For a non-exhaustive list of available air ambulance services in Japan, consult the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Japan’s Medical Assistance website.
Verify that your health insurance provides coverage overseas. Medical caregivers often require full payment at the time of treatment or proof of the ability to pay before treating a foreign national who is not a member of the Japanese National Health Insurance system.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Japan.
OSAC Country Council Information
There is not an active OSAC Country Council in Osaka; however, the OSAC Tokyo Country Council is active and generally meets on a monthly basis. Contact OSAC’s East Asia Pacific team if you are interested in private-sector engagement in Tokyo or have questions about OSAC’s Country Council programs.
U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information
Consulate Address and Hours of Operation
U.S. Consulate General Osaka-Kobe, 2-11-5 Nishitenma, Kita-ku, Osaka 530-8543
Hours: Monday-Friday, 0830-1730 (except U.S. and Japanese holidays)
Consulate Contact Numbers
Telephone: +81 (0) 6-6315-5900
Emergency after-hours telephone: +81 (0) 3-3224-5000
Regional Security Office (Osaka-Kobe): +81 (0) 6-6315-5940
Embassy Tokyo, Consulate General Naha, Consulate General Sapporo, Consulate Fukuoka, Consulate Nagoya
Japan Country Information Sheet