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Japan 2019 Crime & Safety Report: Naha (Okinawa)

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 in Naha 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 Naha assists U.S. citizens in Okinawa Prefecture and the southern parts of Kagoshima Prefecture.

Review OSAC’s Japan-specific webpage proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

There is minimal risk from crime in Naha. Japan’s crime rate is well below the U.S. national average. In 2018, property crimes accounted for the majority of total crimes, including burglary, auto-theft, and pickpocketing. Violent crime is rare but does occur, often in connection with an interpersonal dispute. Overall, crime levels across Okinawa decreased from 2017 to 2018.

Naha City, Okinawa City, and Chatan-cho are the areas that report the most crime. Crimes against foreigners are more frequent around Okinawa City and Chatan-cho, given the higher concentration of foreigners living there in connection to the U.S. military presence. Foreigners are occasionally the targets of theft and vandalism. Street crime routinely occurs in nightlife districts, and often involve juvenile organized crime groups. These crimes include alcohol-related incidents, which can turn violent, and the occasional purse snatching via motorcycle.

Cybersecurity Issues

Cybercrime is an emerging problem in Japan, but is not presently of paramount concern. Take care in protecting personal identifiable information, and use discretion when connecting to networks in internet cafés, hotel business centers, or public Wi-Fi hotspots. 

Be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls, visits, or email messages asking personal information. Do not provide personal information to unknown entities.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Traffic in Japan moves on the left; those visiting from countries where traffic moves on the right should take care when walking or driving in Okinawa. Road conditions and road safety standards meet or exceed U.S standards, except in the most remote areas.

Roads are generally well maintained with extensive lighting, but accidents involving pedestrians are common. Traffic enforcement includes the extensive use of cameras.

Side roads are often quite narrow compared to U.S. standards, and often have blind corners. Street names are often not marked, making driving challenging. Drivers should be aware of motor scooters on the roads, as their operators frequently weave in and out of traffic. 

Japan has a national zero-percent blood-alcohol content (BAC) standard for driving. Drivers found to be driving under the influence of intoxicants will have their licenses confiscated; if found guilty of "drunken, speeding, or blatantly careless driving resulting in injury," individuals are subject to up to 15 years in prison. An arrested subject could expect to remain in police custody for up to 22 days. Naha police view DUI as a safety concern and actively enforce DUI laws. 

Public Transportation Conditions

The transportation system is generally safe. The rail system in Okinawa is limited: only one monorail line traverses primarily downtown Naha.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

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. Some major U.S. airlines service Naha Airport (OKA) through codeshare agreements.

Terrorism Threat

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There is minimal risk from terrorism in Naha. There are no known indigenous terrorist organizations in Japan. Japan is not a known base of support or sympathy for terrorists. In recent years, there have been a modest but rising number of ISIS-related sympathizers among Japanese nationals. Media has reported on Japanese nationals who traveled or attempted to travel to Syria to join ISIS.

Japanese law enforcement is concerned about and engaged in monitoring the potential threat of lone-wolf actors.

Japan will host the 2019 Rugby World Cup, 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games, and 2025 World Expo. Japan-related threat information may increase as these events approach.

Anti-U.S./Anti-Western Sentiment

While some in Okinawa object to certain aspects of U.S. military basing in the prefecture, rarely do those feelings result in hostility to U.S. citizens. The U.S. Consulate in Naha is rarely a target of demonstrations, but demonstrations do occur regularly at entrances to U.S. military bases on Okinawa. There are standing protests almost daily at the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan City; the Marine Corps’ Camp Schwab in Nago City; and other military locations. These demonstrations are usually peaceful.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Civil Unrest

There is minimal risk from civil unrest in Naha. Demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience are generally limited and peaceful. Most demonstrations number in size from a few protesters to hundreds. Demonstrators must apply for a permit from the Prefectural Government prior to any protest activity. The police closely monitor these demonstrations.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Japan is in an active seismic region, and often experiences minor tremors and earthquakes. A powerful 2011 earthquake in Tohoku, north of Tokyo, resulted in a tsunami that caused widespread damage to coastal cities and the Fukushima Nuclear Reactor. Coastal cities remain susceptible to tsunamis, which stem from earthquake epicenters in the ocean. As a result, a tsunami can arrive on shore within minutes. These tidal waves can cause widespread destruction of property, and can lead to loss of life. Japan has made great advances in building, railway, and road infrastructure that minimize collateral damage in metropolitan areas.

Okinawa is in a particularly active typhoon region; large typhoons close businesses and cause damage each year. All travelers should have an emergency plan for earthquakes and tsunamis, and familiarize themselves with local public warning procedures. These plans should include contingencies for communications and evacuation.

Privacy Concerns

There are very strict privacy laws governing the release of personal information of Japanese citizens.

Personal Concerns

Hate-related crimes rarely occur, though some U.S. citizens have reported being the target of discrimination based on their nationality or race.

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. Crimes based on sexual orientation are exceptionally rare, although same-sex couples may experience harassment for outward displays of affection. Laws governing rape, sexual commerce, and other activity involving sexual relations do not apply to same-sex sexual activity. This definition leads to lower penalties for perpetrators of male rape and greater legal ambiguity surrounding same-sex prostitution.

Although Japan’s accessibility laws mandate that new construction projects for public use include provisions for persons with disabilities, older buildings are likely not retrofit 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.

Drug-related Crimes

Illegal drugs (e.g. methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine, and synthetic drugs) are present in Japan, but drug-related violence remains rare. Pseudoephedrine, an over-the-counter medication in the U.S., is illegal in Japan; possessing it is a crime.

Travelers may bring up to one month’s supply of allowable prescription medicine (by Japanese law) into Japan. Bring a copy of your doctor’s prescription as well as a letter stating the purpose of the drug. Those who must carry more than one month’s supply (except prohibited drugs and controlled drugs), or are carrying syringes (pumps) or a CPAP machine, must obtain an import certificate (Yakkan Shoumei) in advance, and show it with the prescription medicines to a Japanese Customs official.

When making an inquiry to the Kanto-Shinetsu Regional Bureau, do not forget to provide a fax number or e-mail address. For more information about bringing medicines into Japan and how to obtain a Yakkan Shoumei, visit the website of the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare.

Find other helpful information on the U.S. Embassy website.

Police Response

Police have excellent training, and can be counted on to provide travelers with assistance. The quality of Japanese-English interpretation varies; this has been a problem for some victims. The level of English-language ability among police officers varies.

Japan has strict laws regarding the use and possession of dangerous weapons. Carrying a pocketknife (including Swiss Army-style knife), craft knife, hunting knife, or box cutter in public is illegal.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

The U.S. Consulate in Naha’s American Citizen Services section assists U.S. citizens in Okinawa. The Consulate is located at 2-1-1 Toyama, Urasoe City, Okinawa. Reach it by phone during business hours at (098) 876-4211.

Crime Victim Assistance

The police emergency number is 110. Response is very dependable, although this number may not work from all cell phones.  

Some crime victims report that police procedures appear to be less sensitive and responsive to a victim’s concerns compared to the United States, particularly in cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, or when the victim and the perpetrator are both foreigners. Investigations of sexual assault often proceed 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 battered women’s shelters exist in major urban areas and the services are generally unavailable in rural areas.

Police/Security Agencies

The National Police Agency, Prefectural Police Department, City Police, and Police Kobans (substations) comprise Japan’s police system. These are not separate organizations, as in other countries, but rather exist within a single, unified structure.   

The National Police Agency is responsible for policy and doctrine. Prefectural Police Departments maintain a regional responsibility and the administration of police services within the prefecture. The City Police provide police services at a more local level.

The Koban (Police Boxes) are the most typical point of interaction for visitors with the Japanese police. Kobans staffed by one or more police officers are located throughout Okinawa.

Medical Emergencies

The fire and ambulance emergency number is 119. Response is very dependable. Throughout Japan, anyone may place an emergency phone call free of charge from any phone, including public pay phones. For more guidance on calling emergency services, review the information on the U.S. Embassy Tokyo website.

Medical caregivers require full payment at the time of treatment, or proof of the ability to pay, before treating a foreigner who is not a member of the Japanese national health insurance plan.

Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/Clinics:

Consult with American Citizen Services for more information on English-speaking medical facilities

Recommended Insurance Posture

Verify the validity of medical insurance prior to personal travel.

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Country-specific vaccination and health guidance is available from the CDC.

OSAC Country Council Information

The OSAC Country Council is active in Tokyo, meeting on a monthly basis. Additional or interested members are always welcome, and may obtain further information by emailing OSAC’s Asia Pacific Team. Reach the Embassy’s Regional Security Office at +81(0)3-3224-5000 or DSRSOTKY@state.gov.  

U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information

The U.S. Consulate in Naha is located at: 2-1-1 Toyama, Urasoe City, Okinawa 901-2104

General Business Hours: 0830-1730 Monday-Fridat. (Closed on U.S. and Japanese holidays.)

Embassy and Consulate Contact Information

Central Switchboard: (098)876-4211

Regional Security Office: (03)3224-5000.

Website: https://jp.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/naha/

Nearby Posts: Embassy Tokyo, Consulate General Fukuoka, Consulate General Osaka-Kobe, Consulate Nagoya, Consulate General Sapporo

Embassy Guidance

Travelers should consult the Bureau of Consular Affairs website to obtain the latest information regarding Japan-specific information.

Additional Resource: Japan Country Information Sheet

 

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