Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Consulate General Osaka does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The 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 Osaka as being a low-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government officials.
Please review OSAC’s Japan webpage proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
With a crime rate well below the U.S. national average, Osaka is generally a safe place to live and visit. Though relatively infrequent, 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 Kansai International Airport (KIX).
Violent crime is rare but does occur, often in connection with a dispute.
Cybercrime is an emerging concern in Japan. Visitors should always make an effort to protect their personally identifiable information (PII). Advance-fee fraud scams perpetrated via email have been reported. Discretion is encouraged when connecting to wireless networks in Internet cafés, hotel business centers, or Wi-Fi “hotspots,” like those offered by coffee shops, as such networks may not be secure.
Other Areas of Concern
Caution is recommended in all entertainment and nightlife districts throughout Japan. Some of Osaka’s entertainment and nightlife districts – in particular, the Umeda, Kitashinchi, Namba, and Tobita areas – have a higher level of crime than other parts of the city. Some businesses in these districts may have connections to organized crime. Crimes of robberies or assaults committed after a victim has been drugged from a spiked drink appear to be increasing and may be underreported. Visitors should be aware that 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. It is a good practice to verify up front that there is no added charge apart from food and drinks.
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.
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, traffic is commonly blocked or partially blocked illegal parking.
Traffic enforcement includes extensive use of cameras. Turning on red is generally not permitted. All passengers are required to 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; if found guilty of "drunken, speeding, or blatantly careless driving resulting in injury," individuals are subject to up to 15 years in prison.
Japanese law provides that all drivers are held liable in the event of an accident and assesses fault on all parties. Japanese Compulsory Insurance (JCI) is mandatory for all automobile owners and drivers. 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 drive. Travelers must obtain an IDP issued in their country of residence prior to arrival. 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. Most short-term visitors choose not to drive.
Public Transportation Conditions
Overall, 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. Trains are noteworthy for their safety, cleanliness, and punctuality. Although generally safe, incidents of sexual assault (groping) on crowded trains have received considerable levels of public attention of late. 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 being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation standards for oversight of Japan’s air carrier operations.
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Osaka 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 no known indigenous terrorist organizations, and Japan is not a known base of support/sympathy for terrorists. In recent years, there has been a modest but rising number of ISIS-related sympathizers among Japanese nationals. Media has reported on Japanese nationals who travelled 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.
Visitors should be familiar with the contents of the Department of State’s Worldwide Caution, which expresses the Department’s concern about continued threat of attacks, demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and American interests abroad.
The U.S. Embassy is routinely the site of peaceful demonstrations, often protesting the U.S. military presence on Japanese soil. The Regional Security Office maintains frequent contact with Japanese law enforcement regarding such protests.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Osaka as being a LOW-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
Violence along economic and ethnic lines is very uncommon. Violence perpetrated by left-wing groups or religious cults has occurred; however, it is extremely rare.
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, the Japanese Red Army, and others – 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.
Political protests are common and are peaceful in the vast majority of cases. A culturally-rooted respect for authority 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.
Japan is in an active seismic region, known as the “Ring of Fire,” making it prone to earthquakes and, potentially, tsunamis. Japan frequently experiences earthquakes of varying intensities and has made great advances in building, railway, and road construction that minimizes 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 earthquake off the northeast coast caused a tsunami that is estimated to have killed over 15,000 people.
Typhoons are another threat, most commonly occurring in August-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. These plans should include contingencies for communications and evacuations.
The government of Japan continues to closely monitor the conditions at/around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
Economic espionage/intellectual property theft is a concern. U.S. personnel are advised to 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.
Crimes based on sexual orientation are exceptionally rare although same-sex couples may experience harassment for outward displays of intense physical affection.
Illegal drugs (methamphetamines, marijuana, cocaine, synthetic drugs) are present, but drug-related violence is rare. The possession and/or use of illegal drugs, including marijuana and some medications that are legal in the U.S., are serious crimes and result in lengthy prison sentences.
Japanese police officers are well trained and can be counted on to provide assistance. Police substations, called kobans, are located throughout cities in Japan and are generally staffed by one or more officers on a 24/7 basis. They are the most typical point of interaction for visitors with the Japanese police. The majority of Japanese police officers have a very limited ability to communicate in English and there may be a delay before an English-speaking officer can be dispatched. The quality of interpreting from Japanese to English can vary, and for some U.S. citizen victims, this has caused problems.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
U.S. Consulate General Osaka-Kobe’s American Citizen Services provides assistance to American citizens in the Kinki, Shikoku, Chugoku, and Hokuriku regions of Japan. The telephone number is +81 (0) 6-6315-5900. U.S. Consulate General Osaka-Kobe is located at 2-11-5 Nishitenma, Kita-ku, Osaka 530-8543.
Americans with a serious emergency in Japan after normal business hours (08:30 – 17:30 Monday through Friday), call the U.S. Embassy Tokyo at, +81 (0)3-3224-5000 to be directed to the appropriate Officer on Duty.
Crime Victim Assistance
Countrywide, the 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 appear to 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. 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. Few victim’s assistance resource centers/battered women’s shelters exist in major urban centers; they are generally unavailable in rural areas.
The National Police Agency, Prefectural Police Department, City Police, and Police kobans (substations) comprise Japan’s police system.
The National Police Agency is responsible for the administration of police services.
Prefectural Police Departments maintain a regional responsibility.
The City Police provide police services at a more local level.
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 always be available.
Some medications that are available in the U.S. are illegal in Japan. Pseudoephedrine is illegal in Japan. Prescription medications containing amphetamine or other stimulants (Adderall, Ritalin) are also illegal. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.”
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
Consult the U.S. Consulate General Osaka’s American Citizen Services webpage for information on English-speaking medical facilities.
Available Air Ambulance Services
There are many air ambulance services available.
Travelers should verify that their 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 foreigner 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. 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.
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, Japan 530-8543
Hours: Mon-Fri, 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 Officer (Osaka-Kobe): +81 6315-5940
Embassy Tokyo: http://japan.usembassy.gov
Consulate Naha/Okinawa: http://naha.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Sapporo: http://sapporo.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Fukuoka: http://fukuoka.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Nagoya: http://nagoya.usconsulate.gov/
Japan Country Information Sheet