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).
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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!
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!
Is it safe to travel to Japan? – What do you think?