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Japan 2017 Crime & Safety Report: Fukuoka

East Asia & Pacific > Japan; East Asia & Pacific > Japan > Fukuoka

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Consulate Fukuoka 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.

The U.S. Department of State has assessed FUKUOKA as being a low-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government officials.

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

Consulate Fukuoka provides assistance to Americans in Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Nagasaki, Oita, Saga and Yamaguchi.

Crime Threats

With a crime rate well below the U.S. national average, Fukuoka (like all of Japan) is generally a safe place to live and visit. When they do occur, crimes against U.S. citizens typically involve personal disputes, 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 occasionally take place in crowded shopping areas, bars/nightclubs, train stations, and airports. Every year, a number of U.S. citizens report their passports lost or stolen at Fukuoka Airport.

Violent crime is rare but does occur, often in connection with a dispute. 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 and incarceration.

Visitors are discouraged from telling strangers about their travel plans. Criminals target visitors who are departing Japan within 24-72 hours, as they are less likely to report the crime to police.

Cybersecurity Issues

Cybercrime is an emerging concern in Japan. Advance-fee fraud scams perpetrated via email have been reported.

Other Areas of Concern

Some of Fukuoka’s entertainment and nightlife districts have a higher level of crime compared to other parts of the city. Some businesses within these districts may have connections to organized crime. Caution is recommended in all entertainment and nightlife districts. Robberies or assaults committed after a victim has been drugged from a spiked drink appear to be increasing and may be underreported. Visitors should also be aware that some bars and nightlife establishments have a set charge as part of the bill that does not include food or beverages. These charges range from a few dollars to several hundred. Confusion about this practice can result in a confrontation with employees when the customer asks to close out the bill. It is a good practice to verify up front that there is no added charge apart from food and drinks. 

If visitors plan on going out to bars or nightclubs, they should consider leaving their credit/debit cards in the hotel safe. Criminals focus on people who are paying with cards. Cash should be carried securely, and travelers should take only as much cash as they are planning to spend.

Visitors should not enter bars or clubs that employ a street hawker to draw in customers. Some establishments, especially in entertainment areas that cater to foreign clientele, put touts on the street to drum up business. These touts can be very aggressive, and many incidents reported to the Consulate General have taken place in establishments that use them. If one of these individuals is encountered, it is best to move on.

Transportation-Safety Situation

While roadways are generally well-maintained, U.S. personnel often find driving complicated and expensive. Traffic moves on the left side of the road. Those who cannot read Japanese will 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, traffic is commonly blocked or partially blocked by illegal parking. Roads are much narrower than those in the U.S. In mountainous areas, roads are often closed during the winter, and cars should be equipped with tire chains. Turning on red lights is generally not permitted. All passengers are required to use seat belts. Japanese law provides that all drivers are held 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. Most short-term visitors choose not to drive. 

An International Driving Permit (IDP) issued in the U.S. by the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) is required of short-term visitors who wish to drive. You must obtain an IDP in your country of residence prior to arriving. U.S. diplomatic facilities do not issue IDPs. IDPs issued via the Internet and/or by other organizations are not valid. Residents in Japan are required to obtain a valid Japanese license. Residents who do not use an IDP may be fined or arrested. 

Japan has a national zero percent blood alcohol content (BAC) standard for driving. Drivers stopped for driving under the influence of alcohol or other 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.

Public Transportation Conditions

Japan’s public transportation system is safe and efficient. The country’s railway system is extensive and is considered among the best in the world. It is a major means of public transit, especially mass and high-speed travel between cities and commuter transport within metropolitan areas. Japanese trains are noteworthy for their safety, cleanliness, and punctuality. 

Incidents of sexual assault (groping) on crowded trains have received considerable levels of public attention in Japan. 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 the morning and evening rush hours.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Japan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation standards for oversight of Japan’s air carrier operations. 

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Fukuoka as being a low-threat location for terrorist activity directed at or affecting official government interests.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There are a variety of indigenous right-wing, left-wing, and spiritual groups that have taken political positions that can be described as extremist and in some cases anti-American. While these groups usually limit their activities to protesting peacefully and raising money, some of them (Aum Shinrikyo, Japanese Red Army) have crossed the threshold into committing politically-motivated acts of violence. Japanese law enforcement has taken strong action in these cases and remains highly vigilant. The current terrorist threat posed by indigenous extremist groups is considered low. 

Japan has seen a rise in sympathy for international terrorist groups (ISIS) amongst Japanese and foreign nationals. The threat posed by a potential lone-wolf actor is one that Japanese law enforcement is concerned about and is engaged in monitoring. 

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment:

The topic of U.S. military bases, especially in Okinawa, continues to be sensitive. U.S. diplomatic facilities are regularly targeted for peaceful protests, frequently about the U.S. military presence in Japan. The RSO maintains contact with Japanese law enforcement regarding such protests.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Fukuoka as being a LOW-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Civil Unrest

Political protests are common and are peaceful in the vast majority of cases. There exists a culturally-rooted respect for authority that results in civic action that is passionate yet overwhelmingly orderly and peaceful. Japanese law requires protestors to obtain a permit, and law enforcement closely monitors demonstrations. 

Violence along economic and ethnic lines is virtually unheard of. Violence perpetrated by left-wing groups or religious cults has occurred; however, it is extremely rare. 

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Japan is located in an active seismic region, known as the “Ring of Fire,” making it prone to earthquakes and, potentially, tsunamis. Japan experiences frequent earthquakes of varying intensities. 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 April 2016, Kumamoto, an hour and a half drive south of Fukuoka, experienced two of the region’s most devastating earthquakes in the last few decades. No U.S. personnel or private citizens were hurt, but many had to evacuate their homes near the epicenter for an extended period. 
  • In 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the northeast coast of Japan caused a tsunami that is estimated to have killed over 15,000 people.

The country has made great advances in building, railway, and road construction that minimizes collateral damage from environmental hazards in metropolitan areas.

Typhoons are another threat, most commonly occurring in August and September. For more information, see the Japan Meteorological Service’s Typhoon tracker and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

All U.S. personnel should have a personal emergency plan for natural disasters.

Critical Infrastructure

The government of Japan continues to monitor the conditions at/around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. U.S. personnel should 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.

Economic Concerns

Economic espionage/intellectual property theft is a topic of concern in Japan. U.S. personnel are advised to take prudent steps to safeguard computer systems, networks, and other electronics. 

Privacy Concerns:

Japan has very strict privacy laws that govern the release of personal information.

Personal Identity Concerns

While hate-related crimes rarely occur, some U.S. citizens have reported being the target of negative comments or actions because of their nationality or race.

Drug Crime

Illegal drugs (methamphetamines, marijuana, cocaine, synthetic drugs) are present, but drug-related violence is rare. The possession and/or use of illegal drugs are serious crimes and result in lengthy prison sentences. 

Some medications that are available in the U.S. are illegal in Japan. Pseudoephedrine, an over the counter medication in the U.S., is illegal. Prescription medications containing amphetamine or other stimulants (Adderall, Ritalin) are illegal. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.”

Police Response

Police officers are well trained and can be counted on to provide assistance. Police substations, kobans, are located throughout cities in Japan and are staffed by one or more officers on a 24/7 basis. The majority of police officers have a very limited ability to communicate in English. There may be a delay before an English-speaking officer can be dispatched. 

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

U.S. Consulate Fukuoka’s American Citizen Services (ACS) unit provides assistance to American citizens. If you are an American citizen with a serious emergency after normal business hours, contact the U.S. Embassy Tokyo to be directed to the appropriate Duty Officer.  

Crime Victim Assistance

The police emergency number is 110. Police response is generally dependable. 

Some U.S. citizens have reported that police procedures can appear to be less sensitive and responsive to a victim’s concerns, when compared to those of the U.S., particularly in cases of domestic violence and sexual assault. Investigations of sexual assault are sometimes conducted without the presence of female officers, and officers typically ask about the victim’s sexual history and previous relationships.

A few victim’s assistance resource centers/battered women’s shelters exist in major urban centers; they are generally unavailable in rural areas.

Police/Security Agencies

Policing services is provided by prefectural police departments, under the oversight of the National Police Agency (NPA). Prefectural police departments are subdivided into police precincts/districts that are further divided into substations, or kobans. Precincts/districts are patrolled by a combination of foot, bicycle, and motorized units. In cities, seeking out the nearest koban is generally the quickest way of obtaining police assistance.      

Medical Emergencies

The countrywide emergency number for fire and ambulance service is 119. This number may not work from cell phones, and English-speaking dispatchers may not be available.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

Consult the U.S. Embassy Tokyo’s American Citizen Services webpage for information on English-speaking medical facilities.

Insurance Guidance

Travelers should verify their health insurance provides coverage overseas.

Medical caregivers 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 Fukuoka. The OSAC Tokyo Country Council is active and generally meets on a monthly basis. Please 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. The Regional Security Officer in Tokyo can be reached at 03-3224-5000 (within Japan) and at +81-3-3224-5000 (outside Japan) or by email.

U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information

Consulate Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Consulate Fukuoka
2-5-26 Ohori 2-Chome, Chuo-ku
Fukuoka, Japan 810-0052

Hours: Mon- Fri, 0900-1200 and 1300-1600 (except U.S. and Japanese holidays)
American Citizens Services (ACS) offers services by appointment only.

Consulate Contact Numbers

Telephone: +81 (0) 9-2751-9331
Emergency after-hours telephone: +81 (0)3-3224-5000 (for all of Japan)
PSO Dominic So: SoDK@state.gov
The Regional Security Officer for Fukuoka is resident in Osaka-Kobe.
            RSO Scott Williams: WilliamsSD2@state.gov
Website: https://jp.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/nagoya/

Nearby Posts

U.S. Embassy Tokyo: http://japan.usembassy.gov

Consulate Naha/Okinawa: http://naha.usconsulate.gov/ 

Consulate Osaka-Kobe: http://osaka.usconsulate.gov/ 

Consulate Sapporo: http://sapporo.usconsulate.gov/  

Consulate Fukuoka: http://fukuoka.usconsulate.gov/ 

Consulate Nagoya: http://nagoya.usconsulate.gov/ 

Additional Resources

Japan Country Information Sheet