Is Japan Safe? Practical Tips for all Travelers in 2019

The land of cherry blossoms and Shinto shrines, clean cities and videogames, Japan is a cultural force to be reckoned with.

Japan is RIFE with earthquakes, and Mount Fuji is actually a volcano. Typhoons batter the islands. Tsunamis can wash away whole villages. There’s a lot to worry about. So, you ask, “Is Japan safe?”

It is a valid question and the reason we have created this truly epic insider’s guide into staying safe in Japan. We believe that everybody should be able to travel smart anywhere in the world, even “safe” countries, and so we’re here to help.

We are going to be covering a whole lot of ground in our handy guide. We mean it. That means just about everything from how to use a bus in Japan and the safety of public transport in Japan, to dangerous wildlife in Japan and whether it’s even safe to drive in Japan. We’ll definitely cover whatever your concern is.

safety japan

You’ll get safety advice and loads of other tips in this epic guide!

 

How Safe is Japan? (Our take)

Japan is an AMAZING place if you want a unique destination to explore. A LITERAL wealth of culture awaits you in this incredible country. Not only that: ancient paths to hike, tropical seas to bathe in, and mountains to ski. Japan has it all.

But all this natural beauty comes at a price.

We’re talking earthquakes. And A LOT of them. With earthquakes comes the threat of tsunamis. These can be devastating.

Heavy rains can bring flooding and landslides. Oh and typhoons as well, which are often pretty brutal.

AND… Then there’s wildlife. Japan is home to bears which can be an issue when hiking in warmer months. There are snakes as well: a few thousand people are bitten each year by mamushi or pit vipers. “Beach season” in Japan, around July and August, tends to also be jellyfish season.

There IS crime. But honestly, not a lot of it. 

And maybe there’s a threat from the North-South situation on the Korean Peninsula. MAYBE…

Aside from seismic activity… The fact remains that Japan really is one of the safest countries in the world.

 

Is Japan Safe to Visit? (The facts.)

japan safe to visit

There will never be a dull moment on the streets of Japan.

Absolutely, Japan IS safe to visit.

And a whole LOAD of people use this to their advantage and travel to Japan, naturally. There were over 28 million visitors to Japan in 2017.

By 2020 Japan want to receive around 40 million visitors. Because of the Olympics and all.

It’s basically fine to visit.

There’s pretty much ALWAYS a risk of earthquakes.

But Japan is ridiculously safe to visit. Ridiculously. Leave your bag in a restaurant. Walk around and night. It’s pretty much all good. No hassle. You’ll even see YOUNG children travelling home by themselves on trains.

It’s so safe that often Japanese people are just… asleep on trains. You’ll see that a lot. It’s a sign that people have nothing to worry about – at least in terms of safety.

The Global Peace Index (2018) ranked Japan 9th out of 191 countries. That’s just below Singapore. But honestly? We’d say that it’s safer than a lot of the countries ranked above it.

 

Is it Safe to Visit Japan Right Now?

It totally IS safe to visit Japan right now. In fact, it’s a GREAT time.

The Japanese government wants you to visit!

For example, English-speaking staff in restaurants and hotels has generally been low, but now (in touristed areas) the number of English speakers is growing. 

There are a whole lot of reasons to visit Japan in the near future, like the 2020 Olympics!

However, the Japanese government is taking measures to ensure that foreign visitors know what to do in the event of a big earthquake. One of these is expected to hit the Tokyo area, but whether it will come next year or in the next decade… No one knows.

At the end of the day, Japan is a stable democracy and there’s nothing you should worry about.

 

Japan Travel Insurance

Get insurance! Even if you are only going on a short trip, you should always travel with insurance. Have fun while visiting Japan but take it from someone who has racked up thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it.

As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you shouldn’t be traveling – so be sure to get your backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure! We highly recommend World Nomads.

 

To find out why we recommend World Nomads, check out our World Nomads Insurance review.

If you want to shop around a little, then read up on competing companies and what they can offer. There are lots of insurances out there, so don’t feel limited.

 

21 Top Safety Tips for Traveling to Japan

safety tips for traveling in japan

Yes, you TOO can get this Insta pic!

Seriously: Japan is SUPER safe. Like, there’s so much about this country that makes it so stress-free to travel around. All you’ll be worried about is doing the wrong thing or maybe making too much noise. You won’t really have to worry about crime. However, it DOES exist. And alongside what little crime there is, the natural world can be a scary place in Japan. Along with our general safety tips for travelers, here are some Japan-specific safety tips!

  1. Be sensible – even though Japan is SUPER safe, you might want to avoid areas that seem sketchy. Things can still happen.
  2. Stay prepared – like you would in any other country. Don’t let your guard down completely because Japan is usually safe. Taking precautions like separating your money in different caches (like in a money belt) keeps you from getting screwed by petty crime or just being forgetful.
  3. Take care in ‘seedy’ areas – bar areas in the Tokyo sectors of Kabukicho and Roppongi, for example, are known for scams, drink spiking, and sexual assault.
  4. DON’T DO DRUGS – VERY illegal here. And hard to get. Buying some will likely put you in contact with some shady types.
  5. Don’t follow touts to bars – most likely you’ll be led to the sort of place we warned against in the last tip.
  6. Cover tattoos up – especially if you want to go to an onsen (Japanese hot spring). You won’t be allowed in. Basically, tattoos = you’re a gangster. It’s becoming less taboo, but slowly.
  7. Watch out crossing railway lines – you’ll have to cross lines in towns and cities. Make sure you aren’t caught between the barriers.
  8. Be careful at pedestrian crossings – cars OFTEN run red lights for the first second or so. Wait until other people start crossing.
  9. Learn some Japanese – numbers, greetings, please, thank you.
  10. Get a translation app – Google Translate can be a lifesaver.
  11. And use Google Maps for trains – very good way to navigate all the different private and public train lines lacing Japan.
  12. Be respectful – especially to older people. Bowing is where it’s at. And take your shoes off if you’re going in someone’s house.
  13. Don’t get carried away in big events, like Halloween – a Western sense of fun is definitely rowdier than a Japanese one. Being sensitive to how society works here is a good way to go.
  14. Don’t travel in rush hour – in pretty much any city in Japan it can be crazy busy in morning and evening rush hours.
  15. Prepare for the weather – it can be FREEZING in winter (double figures sub-zero), and absolutely sweltering and humid in summer.
  16. Try to blend in – though wearing whatever you want is fine in Japan, you might want to take a look at what other people are wearing and follow suit. This helps you feel less like a tourist.
  17. Watch out for bears when hiking – in spring, summer, and autumn.
  18. And watch where you step – snakes are worth worrying about. A bite from the major type, mamushi, typically results in hospitalization.
  19. Stick to marked trails when hiking – same as you’d do anywhere. Going ‘off piste’ can lead to getting lost, injury, or worse.
  20. Know what to do in the event of an earthquake – REALLY important. Download an earthquake app and keep an eye on the news.
  21. Watch out for the weather – when typhoons hit they can be STRONG. It’s key to stay inside.

What can we say? Japan is pretty safe. There obviously is crime but it’s rare. Your concerns will most likely consist of things like “Am I lining up correctly?”, “How do I ask for two beers again…?” and “Should I be bowing right now?” It’s more the society of Japan that will stress you out – if anything at all. Don’t stress about it too much though. Japan is super cool.

 

Keeping your money safe in Japan

Anywhere in the world, the most common thing that’s going to happen to your actual person is petty theft. Yep. Having your money stolen is a whole lot of headache that you really don’t need.

And Japan is super safe. BUT… That doesn’t mean that criminals don’t exist. And even though petty crime may be very, very low, there’s always the chance YOU might lose your stuff. Either way, you should keep it safe and sound in a money belt.

The best way to keep your money safe is with an awesome security belt

Money belts literally come in all shapes and sizes. There is a whole world of choice out there. But for us the only one that’s going to cut it is the Active Roots Security Belt.

We love this one. A lot. It’s affordable. It’s sturdy as hell. AND it looks like a belt. All the better to fit in and not look like a complete tourist in Japan.

You probably won’t have to be looking out for your stuff too much in Japan, but it’s handy to have your money within easy reach. And let’s face it: having a few thousand yen stashed in your money belt is a lot more comfortable than having a bulky wallet dragging your pocket down. And at the end of the day, it’s better to be safe than sorry. That’s just true facts.

 

Is Japan safe to travel alone?

japan safe to travel alone

There are few countries so solo-travel friendly. Photo: tripzilla.ph

Solo travel is something that we are always going to recommend here at The Broke Backpacker. There are cons, like getting lonely, getting bored and losing touch, but there are way more pros. It’s AWESOME. Do what you want, learn about the world, challenge yourself!

When it comes to Japan… Seriously, Japan is safe to travel alone. Super, super safe. You’re going to be able to wander around at night feeling like you’re the last person on Earth. It’s honestly FINE. Still, it pays to be knowledgable, so here are a few solo travel tips for Japan.

  • Know when to call it quits when it comes to drinking. It can be really strong, much cheaper than at home – and alcohol is everywhere. Be especially careful in touristy bars, where drink spiking CAN happen. Also… There are cans of strong, sweet alcohol called chu-hi in convenience stores; easy to drink, but after one or two you WILL be feeling it. So take it easy!
  • Make sure you can get home at night. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re out and about. Missing the last train in a city means walking, which is LONG, or getting a taxi, which is expensive.
  • When you’re out hiking, know your limits. The climbs here can be steep and relentless. The best thing to do? Plan ahead. Do your research. Plenty of people have hiked all over Japan and written extensively about the experience – often complete with photos of the route. Read up and know which mountain hikes are for you and which ones aren’t.
  • Meet up with other people. Japan can be a lonely experience. The other backpackers making the rounds here get lost in the crowd, so when you can, stay in a social hostel. Or you could meet people at gigs, get chatting to locals in a bar (people will be happy to practice their English after a few drinks). People are pretty safe here. Chatting to strangers isn’t the NORM, but common interests will break down barriers.
  • Don’t be afraid to eat out or even DRINK by yourself. In Japan, this is totally normal. You will see people eating and drinking alone. It’s not a weird thing or even a sad thing. It’s just what people do, most likely on the way home from work.
  • Keep in touch with people. Your family and friends back home will most likely think you’re doing something pretty cool, so don’t leave them in the dark and go off grid completely. It’s a good way to keep sane as well because traveling around Japan can feel like a very insular experience.
  • Take a tour! A walking tour, a whiskey tour, anything. This will open up the country a little more – since MANY things you go to see won’t be adequately explained in English. A good way to learn, definitely. And a good way to meet some other travelers, too.
  • Figure out a route from the train station, or bus stop, to your hotel ahead of time. Weirdly, wi-fi isn’t always easy to come by, so head to a convenience store like 7-11 or Family Mart to connect.
  • With that in mind, think about picking up a data sim at the airport. Like we said, Japan’s wi-fi game is NOT strong. You’ll want to be able to do simple stuff, like use translation apps, maps and generally be able to get online to keep in contact with people.
  • Book accommodation and bullet train tickets in advance. This ISN’T a country where you can just rock up and make a reservation. You will have to book before you arrive. Plan ahead. In Golden Week (early May), summer holidays (July and August), Chinese New Year and shogatsu (Japanese New Year), things tend to get booked up QUICKLY.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. People will literally draw a map on a napkin for you if you’re lost and write down the connections you need to make if you’re not sure about the train.

Japan is one of the safest countries in the world, so it goes without saying that it’s going to be pretty safe for solo travelers, too. And something that’s actually great for people traveling alone: it’s not WEIRD to travel, eat or drink by yourself in Japan. It’s a safe, solo-friendly place. That said, Japan can be isolating. There aren’t many other backpackers, so make sure you keep in touch with people!

 

Is Japan safe for solo female travelers?

japan safe solo female traveler

Not only safe, we definitely recommend Japan for first-time solo travelers. Photo: hisgo.com

Japan being Japan, OF COURSE it’s safe for solo female travelers. There’s not a lot here that is going to keep you as a woman from having an AWESOME time discovering what this incredible country has to offer. However, it’s not always perfect.

Being a woman anywhere in the world comes with its own risks, and that applies to Japan too. In fact, in the World Economic Forum’s global gender equality rankings, Japan ranked 110th out of 149 countries. That’s not great, though it doesn’t mean Japan isn’t safe.

Women in Japan have traditional roles, but it’s changing. In fact, single women are very FREE in Japan. You’ll often see women eating, drinking, catching the train, walking home at night – ALONE. Yes, Japan is safe for women. But here are some tips to make it even safer.

  • Dress appropriately and try to blend in. You’re NOT going to get catcalls, not at all, but revealing your midriff or having cleavage on show is going to make you stand out. Just take a look at what other women are wearing around you and try to follow suit. Plus you’ll be able to pick up some pretty cool clothes (often tax-free as well).
  • Japan has women-only carriages on its urban train networks. It’s called a “cultural phenomenon,” but chikan is basically just groping and inappropriate touching on busy trains. It is pretty common. That’s why the carriages exist. Avoid riding in mixed carriages if you travel in rush hour. Otherwise, you should be fine on trains.
  • Know that if someone is bothering you, physically or being weird, shout at them! Make yourself heard! Tell another passenger to call the police. This will definitely spook the harasser.
  • With that in mind, stay in a hostel with good reviews and female-only dorms. Not only will you get a better night’s sleep – sometimes mixed dorms can be a bit overwhelming. Often in Japan older men stay at hostels, too. It might feel a bit uncomfortable. So opt for a female-only dorm where possible. This also means being able to get chatting to some other travelers, too.
  • And on that note, find yourself some travel buddies! Japan can be a lonely experience. So whether you do this via the hostel you’re staying out, messaging other women via Instagram who are traveling around Japan, or any other trustworthy method, it’s going to be great for making Japan more fun. You might even make a properly good friend out of it, too.
  • Don’t be scared to try an onsen. These are traditional public baths, often using naturally hot mineral water… But everyone’s naked. That’s right, completely naked. But the baths are gender segregated, and it’s an amazing experience. All sorts of women, from teenagers to older ladies, and even mothers with babies, come in to use the baths, relax and socialize. You might even get chatting to someone yourself. The whole naked thing? No one cares!

It’s safe to say that traveling alone as a woman in Japan is safe. Like, REALLY safe. Everything from outright harassment to just unwanted attention in bars is pretty rare. Even walking around pretty much anywhere in the country at night is basically totally fine.

But just because it IS really safe, doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be weirdos. So if a situation ever seems like it’s just turning a little bit TOO weird, or someone is really making you think twice about standing near them, or talking to them, move on.

At the end of the day, Japan is safe for solo female travelers. This is a country where women travel around by themselves anyway. Join them, stay in female-only dorms, make friends, and have the best time ever!

 

Is Japan safe to travel for families?

japan safe for family

Cherry blossom picnics are the standard order. Image Source: farleyfamily.net

Being as developed as it is, Japan is actually an AMAZING place to travel with children.

And if your children are videogame or anime fans, they’re going to absolutely love it! We’re talking everything from the Pokemon Centre to arcades galore.

When it comes to history… there’s Kyoto with all its ancient temples. You can feed the deer in amongst the shrines of Nara. You can visit actual former samurai residences in Kakunodate.

And then there are the many museums and theme parks of Osaka and Tokyo.

In February there are the beautiful tiny igloos of the Kamakura Festival, the ice festival of Sapporo and Asahikawa, and skiing.

There’s literally a TON of stuff to do.

Can I travel to Japan with Children?

Everything in Japan is very easy to do with children. Childhood in Japan is idyllic. It’s one of the safest places for children. You’ll often see them walking around by themselves, playing in parks, and taking themselves to and from school.

In terms of food, don’t worry: it’s not all ramen and sushi. Restaurants often have children’s meals, featuring very kid-friendly dishes like naporitan and omuraisu – both ketchup-heavy.

You can even bring SMALL children to Japan. Easily. Baby changing facilities and public toilets are pretty much everywhere. Things like this are well catered for in Japan.

One thing you might find is that hotels can be a bit of a letdown. The facilities aren’t really for kids. For example, say you book a room as a family of 3 – you might not actually get an extra bed. It might be a futon on the floor. Or nothing. So be wary of so-called “family rooms” and do your research.

Hostels actually often have the option to hire out a whole dorm. So you could get yourself a four-bed hostel dorm with its own bathroom.

But at the end of the day, Japan is safe for families to travel. 100%.

 

Is it safe to drive in Japan?

japan safe to drive road

It’s safe to drive. It’s not safe to be on your phone in the crosswalk like this gentleman.

Yes, it sure is.

But if you’re looking for prime road trips… You may want to look elsewhere. Whilst there ARE some lovely little coastal routes, around the Kii Peninsula for example, or driving around Okinawa, many of the highways aren’t all that much.

They have barriers on each side which means you won’t actually be able to see the beautiful scenery on offer. Long-distance, trains are your best bet.

If you DO end up driving… it’s safe in Japan.

There’s parking everywhere, though it can be pricey. Nobody drives really crazily or too fast (mostly). They drive on the left – great news for British drivers.

City driving can be hazardous. Pedestrians are one hazard: if it’s green for you to turn left at a junction, it’s also green for pedestrians to cross. Why? We don’t know. But that’s how it is. So be careful.

Bicycles are everywhere. Sometimes they behave like pedestrians, sometimes like cars. Keep your eyes peeled.

You might want to learn some Japanese road signs. A few basic signs doesn’t mean actually reading Japanese, just recognizing the characters.

That’s city driving for you – pretty stressful all over the world. And we didn’t even mention the traffic, which can be awful.

That said, there are some AWESOME places to drive. We’ve already mentioned two. Hokkaido is another one. Japan’s wilderness is an incredible spot for driving. We’d advise prior winter driving experience, because ice, snow, and tire chains here is the norm when it gets cold.

Basically, it’s like driving in any developed country. It ranks very low in terms of deaths due to road traffic accidents – in the top ten safest countries for driving, in fact, along with Iceland, the UK and others.

So, yes. It’s safe to drive in Japan.

 

Is Uber safe in Japan?

Definitely.

Uber is safe in Japan.

But, for some reason, it’s more expensive than taxis. 

That might be because Uber is more convenient than a taxi. So you pay for the privilege. That might not be it, though. Either way: it IS pretty pricey.

All the usual perks of Uber apply here. That’s everything from being able to see in advance WHO your driver is, all the way to being able to not have to use any Japanese to book a car.

 

Are taxis safe in Japan?

japan safe taxi

The only scary thing about the taxi might be the fare. Photo: businesstraveller.com

Unlike in other countries, where you have to negotiate with drivers, worry about drivers not turning the meter on or driving too fast, or other odd stuff happening in the car – taxis are REALLY safe in Japan.

There’s this stereotype that Japanese taxis are ultra clean. That’s NOT a myth: they really, really are.

And another legend: Japanese taxi drivers wear white gloves. Also true. Well, 9/10 your driver will be impeccably dressed, gloves included. Sometimes even a spiffy HAT.

Doors open by themselves and close by themselves – Magic.

Quality may vary between companies. There are many different companies. And taxis are generally more likely to be super swish in major cities than in tiny fishing villages.

You’ll know one INSTANTLY. They look like taxis.

And what can we say? Taxis are SAFE in Japan. You can trust them to get you anywhere, any time of night.

Taxi prices are indicated on Google Maps. You can even order through this, via JapanTaxi, or DiDi. They tell you the wait time and the fare.

English-speaking taxi drivers aren’t widespread. But this is likely to change – at least a little bit – for the Tokyo Olympics. You still might want to learn some basics.

That said, taxis are super expensive. We’re talking MORE EXPENSIVE than London prices. Very steep.

Our verdict? Use public transport.

 

Is public transportation in Japan safe?

japan safe public transportation

Oh yes, the bullet train. Photo: bjet-japanlanguage.com

Japan is famous for its punctual public transport (and a billion other things – do they do everything perfect here?). The trains are well known for being on time, all the time.

Getting Around the Cities

Each city will have some level of train system. Whether that’s a few stations crossing a small city, or an entire metro system like connecting the larger metropolises of Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka. It’s VERY comprehensive.

And whilst public transport in Japan IS safe, there is one thing to worry about: chikan. This is basically sexual assault, from inappropriate touching to groping. Either way, it’s not ok.

It usually happens in packed train carriages. Many cities feature women-only carriages, in operation during rush hour so women aren’t pressed up against men in a crowd. If you’re a female traveler, remember these carriages during the designated (i.e. most busy) times.

Other than metro systems, some cities have a tram network. Hiroshima and Hakodate are examples. Tokyo even has a couple of lines. This, too, is safe.

Cities, towns and villages have bus systems, too. These are easy to use, generally. In more rural areas everything will be in Japanese. In cities, a mix of Japanese and English. Anything in between depends on how well-trodden it is by English-speaking tourists.

The way to use a bus can vary. Sometimes you get on the FRONT DOOR can just tap your travelcard, sit down, and tap again when you get off the MIDDLE DOOR. Easy.

In other places, usually smaller urban areas, you get on the MIDDLE DOOR, take a ticket, sit, and then you watch the screen at the front. Where you got on will have a price. This number goes up the more stops you travel. When you want to get off, walk to the front, drop your ticket into the machine along with the exact change. You can change a 1,000 yen note in the machine for change, too. Get off via the FRONT DOOR.

Confusing, right? You’ll get used to it. Using buses in Japan is easy when you know how.

 

Getting Around Japan

Then there’s getting around the country itself. The rail system is AMAZING. Local trains here go into almost every single nook and cranny of Japan. It can be confusing, though: these are often a mix of private lines, Japan Rail lines, and a whole load of different trains from local to reserved and un-reserved limited or semi-limited expresses. Yep. More confusion.

Use Hyperdia to find the cheapest and easiest train routes.

There’s also the famous shinkansen or bullet train. This is SUPER fast. Super clean, super nice… And super expensive.

The cheapest way to get around is by highway buses. These ply Japan’s roads often at a snip of the price you’d pay via rail. Best of all: no having to change at random train stations.

Even cheaper are night buses. Ranging from two pairs of seats, 4-across to all out individual, 3-across luxury (both complete with blanket). These vary in quality. Some companies are amazing, come with toilets and wi-fi, as well as footrests. Others only just about have a reclining seat. But these are the cheapest way to travel between Japan’s major cities. Night buses in Japan are (of course) safe, too.

Put simply, public transport in Japan is amazing. Like MOST things about the whole damn country.

 

Is the food in Japan safe? 

japan safety food

ENOKI MUSHROOMS!!! Photo: shershegoes.com

Hell YES the food in Japan is safe. And there are so many things that AREN’T bowls of ramen. There’s tempura (deep fried stuff), yakisoba (fried noodles), udon (thick noodles), okonomiyaki (savory cabbage pancake), mochi (glutinous rice)… and A LOT, LOT more.

But whilst hygiene conditions are meticulous, there are still things you can do to ensure that you stay as healthy and as safe as possible when you’re eating your way around Japan. So here are some of our top tips when it comes to food safety in Japan.

  • Raw food in Japan isn’t JUST about fish. You can get raw slices almost any meat. We’re talking beef and raw slices of horse (uma), even chicken sashimi. If you have a delicate stomach at all, you may want to avoid these raw meats as much as possible. And to avoid getting ill completely, if you come up against raw chicken, do not try it. This is the most likely thing to put you out of commission during your trip.
  • Another raw thing: fugu. This is super famous. You must have heard of it. It’s pufferfish. And if not prepared correctly, the poison can literally kill you. We’re serious. The chefs who prepare this HAVE to train for years and obtain a specific license. If you want to try it… It’s not for the faint-hearted. We would say go to a place that serves fugu as a specialty; the cities of Shimonoseki or Kitakyushu, for example. Better yet: do some research.
  • If you want a good food experience, go somewhere busy. A lot of places in Japan are just outright tasty. But if you really, really want a good meal that WON’T make you ill, head for somewhere that looks very popular.
  • Avoid places that look like flashy tourist traps or if a tout is trying to get you in. Most likely this won’t be very good quality food and you might end up paying A LOT of money for the privilege.
  • It can be tricky being a vegetarian in Japan. Even something advertised as a “cheese sandwich” will usually come with a slice of ham. Potato salad? Bits of bacon in it. It seems nothing can be wholly vegetarian. Even most of the soup broth is fish based. If you’re willing to skimp on your values, you’ll be able to eat at least a BIT more without actively eating meat or fish. Ask for things with niku nashi at the end of the sentence – that means “without meat.” For vegans, though, it’s going to be difficult.
  • Last but not least, wash your hands. Always. This can save you from getting ill in Japan, at home, and everywhere else.
  • Traveling with an allergy? Research ahead of time how to explain your allergy. Keep in mind that store owners and restaurant staff might not know all the foods that contain allergens, so it’s helpful to know the names of some of these too. If you’re gluten-free, pick up a handy Gluten-Free Translation Card with descriptions of Celiac disease, cross-contamination risk, and local Japanese ingredients in Japanese.

Japanese food is basically really safe and really tasty. That’s about it. The only times you may come up against anything unsafe is if you have an allergy to seafood. There’s a lot of seafood in Japan. Avoid places that serve it, as we doubt there would be any contaminant-free surfaces at all.

But when it comes to being able to make sure you get what you want in Japanese restaurants, learn a few basic phrases in Japanese. A bit of research will help you get to know the characters for food you like, too. But safety wise, you’re going to be fine!

 

Can you drink the water in Japan?

Yes.

In cities it’s chlorine-y.

Outside of these, in rural areas, it’s pretty nice-tasting. Mineralesque. In either places, bring along your water bottle to tote it around with you so you never have to buy those evil single-use bottles!

Watch out in remote areas after heavy rains, winds, and/or landslides. This can put dirt and other contaminants into the water. In these instances, treat or filter your own water. It should clear up after a day or two.

But in general? The water in Japan is safe to drink.

Want to save the world? Single-use plastic bottles are a huge threat to Marine Life – Be a part of the solution and travel with a filter water bottle.

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Is Japan safe to live?

japan safe to live

As we all know, Japan is the master of Zen.

Yes. Yes it is.

But one thing. The longer you live in Japan, the more likely it is that you are going to experience an earthquake. 

That’s just GOING to happen.

To really make Japan safe for you to live in, you’re going to have to know what to do in the event of a big earthquake. Having earthquake apps downloaded on your phone, and watching the news if you even feel a small wobble, will help you out.

Then there are typhoons. These happen every September to October. Typhoon season. They can be nothing more than a storm. But they CAN also be truly terrifying and very dangerous.

They can cause flooding, landslides, and massive infrastructure damage.

Knowing where you should evacuate to in the event of a tsunami if you live near the coast, is VERY helpful too.

Natural disasters are par for the course in Japan.

Connecting in Japan

Aside from that, as we’ve said over and over, Japan is safe. On a human level, it’s REALLY safe. But you should honestly learn some Japanese. English is not very widespread. Some people have a basic understanding but really: you SHOULD be speaking the language of the country you’re living in, at least to some degree.

Knowing how to order food, ask for directions, and say basic stuff will really open up the country for you.

Reading hiragana and katakana (TWO phonetic scripts) as well as some basic kanji (Chinese characters) will open it up even more.

It can be hard to integrate. Find some friends online via Facebook groups, do your research, and try to meet up based on common interests. It’s all about perseverance.

It’s easy to get lonely too, so keep in touch with people back home. Post your pics of Japanese castles and what you’re eating for dinner.

Japan is safe to live in, but it can be tough sometimes. Especially if you’re by yourself.

 

How is healthcare in Japan?

The healthcare in Japan is up there with the world’s best.

As for how it works, it’s basically three tiers.

If you’re very poor and receiving government subsidies, it’s completely free.

For everybody else, you HAVE to pay health insurance. It’s mandatory. This goes to the government. It’s basically like a National Health Service-type deal, except it’s not free.

Any kind of consultation, injection, operation – anything – you pay a certain percentage of it. The Japanese government pays the rest. It’s income dependent, so you’ll either end up paying 10, 20 or 30% of whatever the doctor’s bill is.

Then there’s private healthcare. This is obviously NOT subsidized and is expensive but very good. Though you probably won’t even need to use it, given how GOOD the healthcare is in Japan.

You’ll never be too far from a hospital or any sort of medical facility, even in a small village.

 

Helpful Japanese Travel Phrases

Japanese is not an easy language to learn, but knowing a few phrases will go a long way! Many Japanese people do not speak English well, or feel embarrassed to, so knowing these travel phrases will help you connect with the locals!

Hello – Konnichiwa

Thank you – Arigatoo gozaimasu

Please – onegai shimasu

Yes – hai

No – iie

Excuse me – Sumimasen

Where is the __? -__ wa doko desu ka?

I don’t understand – Wakarimasen

I don’t speak Japanese – Nihongo ga wakarimasen

How are you? – Ogenki desu ka?

Do you speak English? – Eigo o hanashimasu ka?

Where is the subway? – Chikatetsu wa doko desu ka? 

No plastic bag – bin?ru-bukuro nashi

No straw please – Waranaide kudasai

No plastic cutlery please – Katorar? wa arimasen

Is the tip included? – Chippu wa fukumarete imasu ka?

How much does that cost? – Kore wa ikura desu ka?

Can you help me? – Tetsudatte itadakemasu ka?

Where is the bathroom?> – Ofuro wa doko desu ka?

Cheers/ Bottoms up – Kanwai

Fool/ Idiot/ Moron – aho, baka, bakayaro

Eat shit – Kuso Kurae

Pervert – Hentai

 

Final thoughts on the safety of Japan

japan final thoughts

Are you as stoked as we are for your trip?

To conclude: Japan is basically just a really safe country. Everybody minds everybody else’s business here, people literally save seats and tables in cafes with their handbags and coats (a TOTAL no-no in so many other countries), and public transport is safe after dark. It’s quiet, humble and totally safe. But it’s also zany, proud and completely reckless – watch a mikoshi procession and see the madness.

Anywhere in the world, there are shades of gray. And shades of weird. Not just weird, where people can get too close for comfort, or just plain freak you out, but dangerous. People DO still get murdered in Japan. Tourists will probably escape that sort of thing altogether but you’ll have to watch out in touristy bar areas for scams and the rare harassment.

And then, of course, away from all the human things: NATURE. Earthquakes are unpredictable. Japanese people live with this threat every day and still have fun. So should you.

Because of that and any of the other things that can go wrong with traveling in general, definitely get travel insurance.

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Disclaimer: Safety conditions change all over the world on a daily basis. We do our best to advise but this info may already be out of date. Do your own research. Enjoy your travels! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which means we earn a small commission if you purchase your insurance through this page. This costs you nothing extra and helps us keep the site going.


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