Travel

Is it safe to travel to Japan?

A question I read / hear again and again is: “Is it safe to travel to Japan?” or “Isn’t it too dangerous to go to Japan?”

I’m sure that those of us who live in Japan or travel to Japan regularly are already tired of this question! However, I understand that people are still worried, especially people who haven’t had to do with Japan until now.
So, what I want to discuss with you today is: Is it safe to travel to Japan or not?

 

Japan is one of the safest countries in the world!

Well, at least if we’re talking about crime!
For example, in no other country in the world it’s more unlikely that you’ll get hit by a bullet!
The crime rate is extremely low compared to most other countries.
Left your wallet somewhere? Don’t worry, somebody might just run after you to give it back!

I’m a female foreigner in Japan and I’ve lived in Japan for several years. I’ve travelled to all Japanese prefectures and I’ve never felt uncomfortable being outside alone at night (e.g. walking to my hotel).

BUT …..

Of course Japan is not a crimeless paradise! Bad things happen even here, especially in bigger cities such as Osaka and Tokyo.
Yes, some pervert men take upskirt photos or try groping women on the train.
And yes, there was this beautiful British English teacher who got murdered by her Japanese private student.
However, all of these things are very rare and usually don’t concern tourists!

Nevertheless, I recommend not to let your guard down. Here’s a good article about “Safety in Japan for foreign girls“.

 

Japan’s natural disasters are scary!

Unfortunately there’s no doubt that Japan is a coutry with a lot of natural disasters. The major ones are:

Earthquakes:

There’s no doubt that Japan gets a lot of earthquakes – as well as the occasional tsunami, typhoon and volcanic eruptions.
One thing that many people seem to forget, however, is that Japan is a very long country, geographically speaking.
When you read about yet another earthquake in Japan, keep in mind that there are only a few regions that are prone to quakes recently.
Among them are the Tohoku (North-East Japan) and the Kanto (around Tokyo) areas.

Other regions in Japan do get earthquakes, but not as often.
Chugoku and Shikoku rarely get any earthquakes. I used to live in one of those regions and in 5 years I’ve never felt even one!
That includes the big earthquake on March 3rd in 2011! Nothing happened where I lived.
The Kansai region is also rather safe when it comes to earthquakes. However, I guess nobody can forget the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995.

is it safe to travel to japan tsunami

Tsunami:

There are tsunami alerts every now and then, but usually nothing happens.
It’s not very likely that you’ll run into a huge tsunami like the one in 2011.
Furthermore the tsunami alert system as well as the emergency facilities have improved a lot since then.

 

Typhoon:

Typhoons aren’t such a big threat compared to earthquakes.
More than about safety you should worry about your travel plan!
Don’t even ask how often it happened to me that a ferry was cancelled or trains stopped running because of shitty weather!
While earthquakes and tsunami can happen anytime, there’s a proper season for typhoons!
August and September are the months where typhoons are most likely to hit, but the season goes from May to October.
If you’re worried about them, just don’t come during that time of the year!
However, recently more and more typhoons occurred outside of the regular season (I was hit by one in April and in early May in 2012).
On top of that there have been tornadoes as well!

Regions that are especially prone to typhoons are Okinawa, Kyushu and Shikoku.

 

Volcanoes:

Japan has a lot of volcanoes. Many of them are still active.
Even the most famous volcano in Japan, Mt. Fuji might erupt by 2015 according to experts. (*That didn’t happen luckily!)
Mt. Unzen, an active volcano in Shimabara (Nagasaki Prefecture), last erupted several times between 1990 and 1995. Parts of Shimabara were destroyed and several people died.

On the other hand, volcanoes in Japan created a beautiful and interesting landscape and often have a breathtaking crater lake.
A good example is Mt. Shirane in Kusatsu, Gunma Prefecture.
Unfortunately it also recently erupted (Jan 2018).

 

What about radiation?

I think that’s an issue most people are worried about when they want to travel to Japan.
“Is it safe to travel to Japan when we are exposed to radiation?”

I’m not an expert, but radiation has a lot to do with the intensity and duration.
If you’re only visiting for a short period of time, there’s really nothing you should worry about!
You can check radiation maps if you want to make sure.
If you feel uncomfortable, just don’t go near the evacuation zone in Fukushima, but it would be a shame to skip Tohoku. It’s a beautiful area!
You could visit other parts of Japan instead that are far away from Fukushima – and also offer breathtaking landscapes, famous temples and shrines as well as awesome castles!
In that case Kyushu, Shikoku and Okinawa are good options!

If you live in Japan it might be another story, but we won’t discuss this today.

 

Anything else you should know?

If we want to discuss the question “Is it safe to travel to Japan?”, then there are a few more things I feel you should know about.

Japan has a few nasty insects and animals, but most of them are not dangerous!
However, there are two fellows you should know about!

The first one is an insect known as “Japanese killer hornet“. In Japanese people call it “suzumebachi” (スズメバチ).
A sting can kill you, even if you’re not allergic. I wrote a blog post about Japanese insects, so you can find more information about them and how to protect yourself there!

The other one is a snake. Japan has some pretty scary snakes. The most dangerous one you’ll only find in Okinawa, so if you don’t intend to travel there, you’re safe! ;)
It’s the “Habu snake“. The poison can kill even an adult.

A few foreigners (and also Japanese people) die every year while hiking in Japan. Please prepare accordingly when you intend to go hiking or want to climb Mt. Fuji!

 

Conclusion:

“Is it safe to travel to Japan?”
In my opinion Japan is a comparatively safe country.
Yes, there are natural disasters and nobody knows when the next big one will hit!
But you know what? That can happen in so many other countries as well! If you’re afraid of these things, then just lock yourself in your house and never go out again.
Maybe that was a little harsh, but what I want to say is that there’s really nothing you should be utterly worried about!
Come and visit this beautiful and interesting country if you have a chance to! japanese flag

 

Please note that what you just read is my opinion based on my personal experience here in Japan. You are more than welcome to disagree or share your own opinion and experience. Feel free to also ask questions or let me know if you’re still concerned after reading this blog post! smilie

Is it safe to travel to Japan? – What do you think?

34 Comments

  • Nicely put. I’ve been traveling through Japan for more than 10 years now and the only unpleasant experience I had was a run-in with the Yakuza.

    I witnessed typhoons and earth-quakes and though it was exiting when it happened, there was really no danger if you did nothing stupid.

    I even visited a volcanic eruption at Sakura-jima in Kyushu! The volcano there erupts regularly and there’s a big city right next to it!

    I’ve never had any problems with the insects either. Or the snakes (not even the highly poisonous sea snake that is abundant in Okinawa).

    As single female traveler, there is no country that I would feel saver traveling in.

  • Especially if you’re female and on your own, Japan is rather safe. I’m sure horrible things happen to women all the time, but the constant feeling of dread when you’re outside at night on your own just isn’t there as much as in, let’s say, Berlin. If Japanese men come on to you, they will mostly disappear with a wave of your hand.

    Most earthquakes (of course not the big one in 2011, that’s an entirely different story) are more nuisances than real dangers.

    Come to Japan! It’s awesome!

    • Thank you! I totally agree.
      I’ve never been to Berlin, but I know I would feel VERY uncomfortable taking the subway there (because of all the horrible things that have happened there in the past already).
      I can’t recall feeling afraid in a Japanese subway or train.
      I did have some drunken old men around me who were annoying, but I just stood up and sat down somewhere else. No problem at all.

  • I can just about repeat what Silvia said above, though my run-ins with Yakuza has been limited to books and movies. The main problem with Sakura-jima was that it rained ashes on Kyushu, so it was more agreeable to stay close to the hotel for dinner that to go exploring in town.

    Every country has dangers, especially big cities. But I feel infinitely safer in the Tokyo subway late at night than I would in a big city anywhere else.

    Snakes are just about everywhere, we have several kinds in the US, plus a large venomous lizard. so I wouldn’t worry about them in Japan any more than I do here. Just watch where you put your feet when hiking. [Lol]

    In Japan, I appreciate very much that I don’t feel I have to be on guard against pickpockets all the time, like in European and other Asian cities. Other travelers have recovered forgotten property that would have disappeared within minutes elsewhere.

    • I agree with both of you, Simone and Silvia.

      Luckily I never ran into a Yakuza thus far.
      I also think that every country has dangers – and I also feel much safer here in Japan (in general) than I did back home in Germany.
      When I was back to visit my home country in 2011 I ran into one or two situations where I felt a bit of danger and very uncomfortable.
      A feeling that I almost completely forgot since living here in Japan!

      While it’s true that things are rarely stolen in Japan, it DOES happen.
      I have to admit that I don’t know anybody who became a victim of pickpockets, but you never know.
      Japanese people are usually utterly careful and tell you to be careful even when there’s nothing to be afraid of. I quite like that!

  • People always say not to worry about street crime in Japan, and it’s true, it’s a very safe country in general.

    But when I was therein 2004, I lost a valuable package in a train station in Kagoshima. Nobody turned it in, so I believe it was stolen. It was a gift of satsuma-yaki (pottery with finely crackled glaze, particular to southern Kyushu) that I was going to send to my mother. It was my own fault; I had it all packed up nicely and to drop in the mail, but hadn’t yet put any address or anything on it. Then I left it sitting somewhere, either on top of a trash can or in a busy restroom, as I boarded a train to Miyazaki. After I realized what had happened, railroad personnel bent over backwards to help me. They called the station while hanging off the side of the train car to get better cell phone reception in the mountains. People at the station searched for the box, but it was nowhere to be found, not even in the trash. I checked the next day, and still no one had turned anything in.

    I’m sure the proud Japanese would blame foreigners at the station for taking my stuff, but I’m inclined to think there’s a bit of denial of the actual level of street crime that happens, and who’s responsible for it. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but someone who’s not my mother is enjoying a beautiful, $200, hand-made tea set. Oh well, I guess it’s just stuff…

    • I’m sorry to hear you had this bad experience, but I doubt it was stolen.
      Maybe somebody took it to bring it to a “Lost and Found” place without the station officers knowing and as you didn’t have any personal information on the package it was impossible to find out that it was yours?

      Of course, it’s possible that it was stolen, too.
      Just stuff, but still a shame! :(

  • Japan has been one of the safest countries I have visited in all my travels, and apart from one run in with the local bosouzoku (a story for another day) I have had no problems at all. Japan doesn’t have the dangeropus wildlife (snakes, spiders, sharks, crocodiles) as Australia, so I feel quite safe here :)

    • Thank you very much for your honest opinion!
      I guess for somebody who is originally from Australia, Japan’s wildlife is a joke!
      For me as a German I still tend to freak out every now and then! ;)

  • I’ve just read your blog for the first time, and I absolutely LOVE it!!!! The design is so awesome, and your posts are great. I like this one in particular because it’s honest and amusing! I’ve just got back from my first visit to Japan and loved it! I’ll be reading your blog avidly from now on. So jealous you are actually living in Japan – :) Emily xx :fan:

    • Hi Emily! ^___^
      I’m happy that you like my blog and I’m looking foward to hearing from you again!
      I know how you feel because I was once at the same point as you are now! Just don’t give up your dream! :3

  • Well, it looks like you’re going to have to add “Being Bombed by North Korea” to the list, since they’ve mobilized missiles and threatened to target Japan. So although the risk of getting mugged is low, the possibility of being blown to pieces is relatively high. Jeez, just when I thought it was safe to go outside again.

  • I did not know your blog until today and now I really love it! Congratulations. On my 2012 trip to Japan, my boyfriend accidentally left our backpack outside Ghibli museum. The backpack had all our documents and all our money :whyohwhy: . When we realized that we didn´t have the backpack, we had been at least 20 minutes inside the museum. We tried to explain our problem in English, Japanese and the language of fear. The museum staff was very friendly and let us go to find the backpack. As we are from Mexico (a country known for its high crime), we thought that the backpack was lost forever. However, we find the backpack just as we had left it (perhaps better-off!) and that it had all our belongings. We were so happy. Japan really is the safest and more honest country in the world! We loved Japan so much that in July 2014 we will go back and I will take your blog as a guide.

    • Thank you, MASU! ^__^

      I’m glad to hear you had such a great experience and that you plan to come back.
      I’ve experienced similar things here in Japan many times. Never has anything be stolen or taken away. Qutie the contrary, people ran after me to bring me stuff I dropped or forgot. ^^;

  • I found your blog by chance and I really enjoy reading it. I want to ask about the place you lived in. You mentioned you were living in the countryside and it was pretty safe as for earthquakes and the other things, I want to know what’s the best place and area for a young single girl to live alone? specially in countrysides? and one more thing, how japanese people accept people with completely diffrent religion cultures? I mean the way you wear regarding to your religion orders or something like that, do they care about such things?

    • Hi Zara! :)

      Japan is a pretty safe place not matter where you live. It all depends on your preferences.
      Most of the Chugoku region and Kyushu doesn’t get that many strong quakes. If you’re worried about volcano eruptions and tsunami, then just choose a place that isn’t close to the ocean or a volcano. The Kanto and Tohoku region often gets strong earthquakes. Hokkaido gets super cold and a lot of snow and ice in the winter.
      Okinawa has the worst typhoons (and nasty bugs all year round).

      It’s really up to what you prefer. ;)
      I’ve travelled so much in Japan and I felt safe everywhere I went – even at night time.

      Japanese people aren’t strict about religion like we are in the West. They won’t judge you. Just keep in mind that in Japan Shinto and Buddhism is big, only 1-2% are Christian, other religions are even rarer. But they will leave you alone. Nothing to worry about. ;)

      Hope that was helpful.

  • Great blog. I’ve been reading a lot of the posts and they’re very well-written and informative.

    I’m really interested in going to Japan, but I’m also a really hesitant guy. I’m also Canadian, so I find myself really worried about dangerous wildlife because I’ve lived my whole life in one of the least *naturally* dangerous places in the world (or so I’ve heard). I try to remember that the dangerous wildlife of Japan can all be avoided so long as I’m not stupid and actually think about taking precautions, but I can’t help but be a bit worried. In particular I’m worried about the hornets. I’d be much happier finding myself face-to-face with a bear than getting attacked by a hornet. At least bears have brains and you can understand how they view an encounter with a human, then respond appropriately. How do you deal with hornets except by running away? You can’t communicate with them at all. Same goes for the other dangerous creatures of Japan. That’s what makes me worry the most. I also hadn’t even considered the effects of radiation

    I’ll always remember the Australian exchange student who came, for a year, to the university I attended. She didn’t make a big deal out of the many dangerous creatures of Australia, but was actually scared of going hiking in Canada because she thought she’d get mauled by a bear or something.

    • Hi Aidan,
      Trust me I’m usually frightened by small European wasps already and I somehow survived “encountering” the huge killer hornets in Japan MANY times!
      I do admit that I was VERY frightened and hated it, but luckily never anything happened. Make sure to read about how to behave when you see one. (^-^”) …

      For a short-term stay you really shouldn’t worry about radiation. :)

      Other countries, other customs (and fears). *g*

      Anyway, that really shouldn’t stop you from visiting Japan! ^___^

  • We are due to visit Osaka, Kyoto and Okinawa next month and After the recent large earthquakes, I find myself very anxious now, especially of a Tsunami possibility in Okinawa. Am I just being over anxious about these or are they a real possibility?

    • There’s always a possibility of an earthquake (and tsunami) in Japan. That hasn’t changed.
      It was like that before 2011, it is like that now. If you’re so worried, then you will never ever be able to visit Japan. :)

      I wouldn’t travel to Kumamoto at the moment as I’m not sure all the roads are accessible, but other than that, I don’t see a problem at all.

  • Hi, we are booked to visit Mayazaki this July 2016. Given the earthquake earlier this month, is it still ok to visit Mayazaki?

    • I don’t know Mayazaki.
      Do you mean Miyazaki?
      Sure, it’s still ok to visit. Earthquakes are nothing new in Japan. They happen all the time. If one is worried about quakes, then they could never ever visit Japan. ;)

      I would just make sure that you can get into Miyazaki just fine. I’m not sure from where you’re travelling, but I think all trains are running again. Some roads might be blocked, so make sure in case you go by car.

      Enjoy your vacation. :)

  • Hi, I’m traveling from Tokyo to Hiroshima in a weeks time, I’ll be spending around 2 weeks in Hiroshima, is their anything I should know about Hiroshima? Is the radiation bad still after the bombings?

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