- We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Japan.
- Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.
- Japan is subject to earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and volcanic activity. The Japan Meteorological Agency provides up to date information in English on these issues. Also see Additional information: Natural disasters, severe weather and climate for information.
- This travel advice should be read in conjunction with information provided by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) on radiation in Japan.
- ARPANSA assesses that the radiation levels in most parts of Japan, including Tokyo, are within the normal range of variation of background radiation.
- You should exercise a high degree of caution in the Deliberate Evacuation Area, as specified by the Japanese Government in the attached map.
- You should not travel within 20km of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear site, nor to Areas 2 and 3 as designated by the Japanese Government (see the ‘Restricted areas and areas to which evacuation orders have been issued’ map published by the Japanese Government).
- Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
Entry and exit
Visa conditions are subject to change. For up-to-date visa information and passport validity requirements, Australians should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Japan well in advance of travel.
All foreign nationals, including permanent residents of Japan, are required to have their fingerprints electronically scanned and are photographed upon arrival in Japan. Refusal to provide fingerprints or be photographed is grounds for refusal of entry into Japan. People under 16 years of age and holders of diplomatic or official visas are exempt. More information is available from the Japanese Immigration Bureau at www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/index.html
Visas are not normally required for Australians entering Japan for tourism for less than 90 days. For up-to-date visa information, Australians should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Japan. Japan's Visa Waiver Program is strict and entry may be refused if the applicant cannot provide evidence of sufficient funds, an onward/return ticket or confirmed accommodation arrangements, or if immigration authorities believe the traveller intends to seek employment. If entry is denied, the decision cannot be appealed and travellers may be denied entry into Japan for up to five years.
On 9 July 2012, a new system of Residence Cards replaced Alien Registration identity cards. The new system also included changes to maximum validity of certain visas, a new re-entry permit system, and updated requirements for foreigners to report to the Japanese Immigration Bureau and relevant city office in their place of residence. In addition, the procedures incorporated changes to penalties for those who are unable to maintain legal status in Japan or fail to comply with reporting regulations. Further information is available from the Immigration Bureau of Japan and Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication.
Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.
Safety and security
Earthquake and Tsunami of 11 March 2011
This travel advice should be read in conjunction with information provided by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) on radiation in Japan.
Since the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011, the situation in almost all parts of Japan, including Tokyo, has returned to normal. ARPANSA assesses that the radiation levels in most parts of Japan, including Tokyo, are now within the normal range of variation of background radiation.
In December 2011, the Japanese Government announced that all reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site were in cold shutdown. Clean-up operations and reconstruction continue in some coastal areas of northern Honshu.
Radio stations in the Tokyo area that have emergency information in English include the US Armed Forces station at 810AM and Inter FM (76.1FM).
Deliberate Evacuation Area
ARPANSA advises Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in the Deliberate Evacuation Area, as specified by the Japanese Government in the attached map, because of low levels of radionuclide contamination in these areas Should a long term stay be planned, ARPANSA recommends Australians seek advice from local authorities.
Within 20km of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear site, and Areas 2 and 3 as designated by the Japanese Government
ARPANSA recommends Australians do not travel within 20km of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear site, nor to Areas 2 and 3 as designated by the Japanese Government due to elevated levels of radionuclide contamination in these areas. See the ‘Restricted areas and areas to which evacuation orders have been issued’ map published by the Japanese Government.
According to Japanese authorities, people who enter the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Restricted zone (including the ocean) can be fined of up to 100,000 yen or face possible detention.
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General Advice to Australian Travellers.
Japanese government authorities cannot rule out the threat of terrorism in Japan. As a counter-terrorism precaution, the Japanese government has, since July 2005, implemented heightened security measures at key facilities including on public transport and at ports of entry.
Japan generally has a low rate of crime. However, foreigners are sometimes victims of drink spiking at bars and other entertainment venues, often resulting in credit card theft and assault. If possible, you should avoid carrying your credit cards when you are visiting nightclubs in entertainment districts. You should not leave your drink unattended.
Sporadic incidents of bag snatching and pickpocketing of foreigners in crowded shopping areas, on trains and at airports have occurred. Credit card and ATM fraud can occur in Japan. If you are suspicious of any items that are stuck to ATMs or look unusual, do not use the machine. Exercise normal safety precautions and take care with your valuables.
Money and valuables
Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Cash is preferred in Japan. Although major credit cards are accepted at most hotels, many shops and service providers do not accept payment by card and credit card facilities are not widely available, especially outside Tokyo. ATMs that accept foreign cards are not widely available within Tokyo or other Japanese cities, and many ATMs operate only during business hours. Check with your bank as to whether your ATM card will work in Japan and also check with your bank for information and the location of ATM services for your card in Japan. Banks that exchange travellers' cheques may also be limited in some areas of Japan.
Make two photocopies of valuables such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.
While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.
As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.
Heavy snowfalls and ice in the winter can make driving dangerous. See our bulletin on Overseas Road Safety.
Due to a dispute between Japan and Russia over the sovereignty of the southern Kurile Islands (the islands of Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan and Habomai), Australians who have visited these islands may subsequently be denied entry to ports in Japan.
Please refer to our travel bulletin for information about Aviation Safety and Security.
When you are in Japan, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.
Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.
The minimum age for purchasing and consuming alcohol in Japan is 20. Japan has a national zero per cent blood-alcohol level standard for driving. Drink-driving offences can attract a heavy fine or imprisonment. There are also heavy penalties for allowing someone else to drink and drive (for example if you are a passenger in a vehicle being driven by a drunk driver).
If you are arrested, even for minor offences such as petty theft or possession of very small quantities of illegal drugs, you may be held in detention for weeks or months during the investigation and legal proceedings. If you are detained by police for questioning, the initial interview may last several hours. The interview may be recorded in writing rather than electronically and the translator’s standard of English may be of a variable standard. Under local law, a suspect can be held for up to 23 days without being formally charged with a crime and bail is seldom granted to foreigners.
Penalties for drug offences are severe and may include heavy fines, lengthy imprisonment and deportation. Under Japanese law you can be convicted of drug use based on positive blood or urine tests alone.
Penalties for serious crimes, such as murder, include the death penalty.
Japan has strict laws governing the importation and possession of firearms and other weapons. Penalties for carrying prohibited items range from confiscation of the items to deportation or a jail sentence.
Japanese police are authorised to undertake random searches on the street at any time. If you are found carrying a knife (including a Swiss army knife) with a blade longer than 5.5 cm then you may be detained.
Japanese family law is different to Australian law. Child custody and divorce decisions are based on Japanese family law. Japan is not a signatory to The Hague Convention and Australian or other foreign court custody decisions are not enforceable in Japan. If you are involved in custody and other family disputes you should ensure you consult a lawyer for advice before you leave Australia on how Japanese family law may impact your family circumstances.
Some unscrupulous employment agents entice foreigners to work in Japan without the correct visa, or with financial arrangements which could leave the foreigner vulnerable to exploitation. Australians have been arrested for working in the 'entertainment industry' while in Japan on a tourist visa. If you are considering travel to Japan for work, you should verify the true nature of the work being offered and make sure you have the correct visa before arriving in Japan. You may also wish to seek professional legal advice before signing any contract. For general information and tips see our Living and working overseas brochure for more information.
Local police are authorised to request identification at any time. Travellers visiting for less than 90 days are required to carry their passport at all times. Foreigners with resident status must carry their alien registration identity card at all times.
In some parts of Tokyo and other Japanese cities, smoking on the streets is prohibited. Those caught are liable for an on-the-spot fine.
The use of UHF-CB radios ("walkie talkies") which do not meet Japanese specifications (i.e. purchased outside of Japan) is prohibited. There are heavy fines and a possible jail sentence for those in breach of this law.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 17 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in sexual activity with children under 16 while outside of Australia.
This travel advice should be read in conjunction with information provided by ARPANSA on radiation in Japan.
Following the Fukushima nuclear incident in March 2011, Japanese authorities are restricting food from sale in a manner consistent with international practice. The best source of advice on the local situation within Japan remains the Japanese authorities. You should ensure you are aware of, and follow, any official recommendations as to the safety of food for consumption. Details of the Japanese monitoring program are provided by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
Medical facilities across Japan are of a high standard. Medical facilities with English-speaking staff can be found in most major cities. Medical care in Japan can be expensive. Payment in full or a guarantee that costs will be met is usually required at the time of treatment. A list of medical institutions throughout Japan is available on the Embassy’s website.
The Australian Embassy and Consulates in Japan have no in-house medical facilities. We cannot provide medical treatment (including anti-viral medication).
Japan has a number of hospitals equipped with decompression chambers, located in regions where diving is popular.
We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.
Some prescription and over-the-counter medications cannot be imported into Japan. Japanese Customs may detain travellers possessing prohibited items which include products containing pseudoephedrine, found in cold and flu tablets, and codeine. You can obtain further information from the Japanese Embassy in Australia.
There have been a significant number of cases of measles in Japan in recent years. The mosquito-borne disease Japanese encephalitis occurs in rural areas of Japan.
Your doctor or travel clinic is the best source of information about preventive measures, immunisations (including booster doses of childhood vaccinations) and disease outbreaks overseas. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our 'Travelling Well' brochure also provides useful tips for travelling with medicines and staying healthy while travelling overseas.
Where to get help
Emergency contact numbers in Japan are as follows: Police 110; Fire and Ambulance 119. The Tokyo English Lifeline (Tel: +813 5774 0992) provides advice and counselling in English.
In Japan, you can obtain consular assistance from the following:
Australian Embassy Tokyo
Australian Consulate-General Osaka
16th floor, Twin 21MID Tower
2-1-61 Shiromi, Chuo-ku
OSAKA 540 6116
Telephone (81 6) 6941 9271 or (81 6) 6941 9448
Facsimile (81 6) 6920 4543
Australian Consulate-General Fukuoka
7th Floor, Tenjin Twin Building
1-6-8 Tenjin, Chuo-ku
FUKUOKA 810 0001
Telephone (81 92) 734 5055
Facsimile (81 92) 734 5058
Australian Consulate Sapporo
17th floor, Sapporo Centre Building
North 5, West 6 2-2 Chuo-ku
SAPPORO 060 0005
Telephone (81 11) 242 4381
Facsimile (81 11) 242 4383
The Australian Consulate in Nagoya closed on 31 August 2009.
If you are travelling to Japan, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate or online. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency – whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.
In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.
Natural disasters, severe weather and climate
Japan is subject to volcanic activity, earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons. You should take precautions and be prepared for a major emergency, including by maintaining a functional emergency kit with food, water, clothing and essential medical supplies.
The typhoon season is from May to November. Local authorities broadcast current typhoon information through the local media. The direction and strength of typhoons can change with little warning. You can check the latest typhoon information from the World Meteorological Organisation Severe Weather Information Centre.
Information in English about typhoons and other severe weather conditions can be obtained from the Japan Meteorological Agency.
In the event of an approaching typhoon, you should identify your local shelter. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. You should contact your airline for the latest flight information. The typhoon could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe typhoon may not be available to all who may choose to stay. You should familiarise yourself with hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. You should carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. Passport, picture ID's, etc.) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see our Travel Bulletin: Severe Weather – Cyclones, Hurricanes and Typhoons
Information in English about earthquakes can be obtained from the Japan Meteorological Agency. You should familiarise yourself with emergency evacuation plans in your region and identify your local shelter, which is often a local school or other public facility. Information on emergency plans in your area can be obtained from local government offices. If an earthquake should occur, you should follow the advice of local authorities and monitor the media for updates. You can also check for information on earthquakes (and tsunamis) in the Pacific on the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center website.
All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.
In recent years, a number of people have been killed during the winter months in snow-related accidents, including motor vehicle accidents, avalanches and heavy snow and ice falls from roofs. Avalanches are common outside the marked runs in ski areas and the number of deaths among off-piste enthusiasts is increasing with the rising popularity of back country and off-piste skiing and boarding. Snow conditions can change quickly, and veering off marked trails can be dangerous. Australians who are considering visiting areas where it snows should make themselves aware of the potential dangers by checking websites that provide regular updates on snow conditions. You should also consult local information sources, including tourism centres and your hotel or ski resort where appropriate.
If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.
Australians are advised to respect wildlife laws and to maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife, including marine animals and birds. You should only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators and closely follow park regulations and wardens' advice.
For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with Children brochure.
If you are planning on placing your children in schools or childcare facilities overseas we encourage you to research the standards of security, care and staff training within those establishments. You should exercise the same precautions you would take before placing children into schools or childcare facilities in Australia.
See "Laws" for further information on family law issues.