Australian Government advice for Japan
When travelling to Japan, you should always get travel insurance in case the worst happens. To help you ensure you travel safely, we have included the travel advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for Japan.
This Advice was last issued on Tuesday, 03 September 2013. It contains updated information under Summary and Local travel (a new leak of radioactive water at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant facility has prompted Japanese regulators to issue an INES Level 3 rating). The overall level of advice for Japan has not changed.
Areas 1 and 2 near the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant
Area 3 near the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant
- 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.
- The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) assesses that the radiation levels in most parts of Japan, including Tokyo, are within the normal range of variation of background radiation. See under Local travel for more information.
- You should exercise a high degree of caution in Areas 1 and 2 near the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant as specified by the Japanese Government in the following map .
- You should not travel to Area 3 near the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant as specified by the Japanese Government in the following map .
- On 19 August 2013, a new leak of around 300 tons of radioactive water was reported at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant facility, causing Japanese regulators to issue an INES Level 3 rating .
- 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 Immigration Bureau of Japan .
Visas are not normally required for Australians entering Japan for tourism for less than 90 days. 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, Residence Cards replaced Alien Registration identity cards. The new system also included changes to: maximum validity of certain visas, the re-entry permit system, and 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
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, you should exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.
You should be aware of drink spiking and check prices before entering or ordering in a bar, restaurant or other venue. Foreigners are sometimes victims of drink spiking, often resulting in credit card theft and assault. If possible, avoid carrying credit cards or large amounts of cash to parties, bars, clubs or entertainment districts. Do not leave your drink unattended. Think about your personal safety, take appropriate precautions and refer to our information for travellers partying overseas for further advice.
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.
The Japan National Tourism Organisation provides emergency information in English as well as other essential advice to travellers on how to have a safe and hassle-free visit to Japan.
Fukushima and surrounding areas
After damage to the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant following the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011, the situation in almost all parts of Japan, including Tokyo, has now returned to normal.
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) provides information 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.
The best source of advice on the local situation within Japan is the Japanese authorities. Details of Japanese response measures and monitoring programs are available from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry . You should ensure you are aware of, and follow, the advice of local authorities.
On 19 August 2013, a new leak of around 300 tons of radioactive water was reported at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant facility, causing Japanese regulators to issue an INES Level 3 rating .
Areas 1 and 2 near the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant as specified by the Japanese Government: You should exercise a high degree of caution in Areas 1 and 2 as specified by the Japanese Government in the following map because of low levels of radionuclide contamination in these areas. Should an overnight stay be planned, Australians should seek advice from local authorities.
Area 3 near the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant as specified by the Japanese Government: Australians are advised not to travel to Area 3 as specified by the Japanese Government in the following map because of elevated levels of radionuclide contamination in this area.
Japanese Government restrictions are outlined in detail in the following table
The islands of Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan and Habomai
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.
Heavy snowfalls and ice in the winter can make driving dangerous. See our road travel page for further information on overseas road safety.
Please refer to our air travel page 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. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is not yet in force 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. If you are concerned that your child has been wrongfully removed or detained in Japan, you should immediately contact the Attorney-General’s Department in Australia. See our Travelling with children page for further information.
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 page.
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 residence 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.
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.
It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.
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.
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.
Where to get help
Emergency contact numbers in Japan are as follows: Police 110; Fire and Ambulance 119. The Tokyo English Lifeline TELL (81 3) 5774 0992 provides advice and counselling in English.
Australians residing in Japan can obtain information on living in Japan, in English, from the Japanese Cabinet Office , the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations , and the Tokyo International Communications Committee . In Tokyo, the Foreign Residents’ Advisory Centre (81 3) 5320 7744 can provide assistance and advice 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
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. 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. Taking responsibility for your own and your family’s preparedness to deal with emergencies, natural disasters or any form of crisis is even more important when you are travelling overseas. You should familiarise yourself with the advice from local authorities on preparing for a natural disaster and follow their advice if a natural disaster does occur. In an emergency, the Australian Government’s ability to provide consular assistance may be severely limited. You should have a basic emergency supply kit available at all times. Also, carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo identification etc) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. Radio stations in the Tokyo area that broadcast emergency information in English include the US Armed Forces station at 810AM and Inter FM (76.1FM).
The Japan National Tourism Organisation provides disaster preparedness safety tips for visitors to Japan and other useful emergency information.
Earthquakes and Tsunamis
There is constant risk of earthquakes and tsunamis throughout Japan. See our earthquakes bulletin for advice on travelling to and living in an earthquake-prone region. Information in English about earthquakes and tsunamis 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 or prefectural government offices. After a major earthquake, follow the advice of the local authorities and emergency services. Local authorities bear primary responsibility for providing assistance during a crisis to people living or travelling within their jurisdictions.
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 for more information.
Typhoons and severe weather
The typhoon season is from May to November. Local authorities broadcast current typhoon information through the local media and the Japan Meteorological Agency website. The precise path and strength of a typhoon are difficult to predict and can change quickly. Closely monitor the local media for weather updates and information about preparations being made and follow the advice of local authorities. You can also check the latest typhoon information from the World Meteorological Organization Severe Weather Information Centre . Read our information for travellers on severe weather so that you can prepare in the event of a typhoon.
Mount Kirishima in Miyazaki/Kagoshima Prefectures in Kyushu, and Mount Sakurajima in Kagoshima Prefecture also in Kyushu, are currently at alert level 3 (don’t approach the volcano). Check latest volcano warnings on the website of the Japan Meteorological Agency .
Every year, a number of people are injured or killed during the winter months in snow-related accidents, including motor vehicle accidents, avalanches, heavy snow, ice falls from roofs and prolonged exposure to extreme cold. Snow conditions can change quickly, walking alone or under the effects of alcohol, and veering off marked trails can be fatal. Avalanches are common and heavy snowfalls can create hazardously deep powder snow drifts. 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.
Trekking and mountaineering can be dangerous. Every year, a number of people are killed while attempting to climb Japan’s highest peak, Mount Fuji. Japanese Emergency Services warn against climbing during the off-season (September-June) which is considered especially dangerous. You should keep in mind that standard travel insurance policies generally excude ‘dangerous’ or ‘extreme’ activities such as climbing.
For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.
See under Laws for further information on family law issues.