Traveling Luck for Japan

Japan is located in Eastern Asia, island chain between the North Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan, east of the Korean Peninsula.

Land in Japan is mostly rugged and mountainous.

Japanese land covers an area of 377835 square kilometers which is slightly smaller than California

As for the Japanese climate; varies from tropical in south to cool temperate in north.

Japanese (singular and plural) speak Japanese.

Japanese National Map

Japanese Map

Regions of Japan

In 1603, a Tokugawa shogunate (military dictatorship) ushered in a long period of isolation from foreign influence in order to secure its power. For 250 years this policy enabled Japan to enjoy stability and a flowering of its indigenous culture. Following the Treaty of Kanagawa with the US in 1854, Japan opened its ports and began to intensively modernize and industrialize. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Japan became a regional power that was able to defeat the forces of both China and Russia. It occupied Korea, Formosa (Taiwan), and southern Sakhalin Island. In 1931-32 Japan occupied Manchuria, and in 1937 it launched a full-scale invasion of China. Japan attacked US forces in 1941 - triggering America's entry into World War II - and soon occupied much of East and Southeast Asia. After its defeat in World War II, Japan recovered to become an economic power and a staunch ally of the US. While the emperor retains his throne as a symbol of national unity, actual power rests in networks of powerful politicians, bureaucrats, and business executives. The economy experienced a major slowdown starting in the 1990s following three decades of unprecedented growth, but Japan still remains a major economic power, both in Asia and globally. In 2005, Japan began a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.


Japan Country Profile

Government-industry cooperation, a strong work ethic, mastery of high technology, and a comparatively small defense allocation (1% of GDP) helped Japan advance with extraordinary rapidity to the rank of second most technologically powerful economy in the world after the US and the third-largest economy in the world after the US and China, measured on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis. One notable characteristic of the economy is how manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors work together in closely-knit groups called keiretsu. A second basic feature has been the guarantee of lifetime employment for a substantial portion of the urban labor force. Both features are now eroding. Japan's industrial sector is heavily dependent on imported raw materials and fuels. The tiny agricultural sector is highly subsidized and protected, with crop yields among the highest in the world. Usually self sufficient in rice, Japan must import about 60% of its food on a caloric basis. Japan maintains one of the world's largest fishing fleets and accounts for nearly 15% of the global catch. For three decades, overall real economic growth had been spectacular - a 10% average in the 1960s, a 5% average in the 1970s, and a 4% average in the 1980s. Growth slowed markedly in the 1990s, averaging just 1.7%, largely because of the after effects of overinvestment during the late 1980s and contractionary domestic policies intended to wring speculative excesses from the stock and real estate markets and to force a restructuring of the economy. From 2000 to 2003, government efforts to revive economic growth met with little success and were further hampered by the slowing of the US, European, and Asian economies. In 2004 and 2005, growth improved and the lingering fears of deflation in prices and economic activity lessened. Japan's huge government debt, which totals 170% of GDP, and the aging of the population are two major long-run problems. Some fear that a rise in taxes could endanger the current economic recovery. Internal conflict over the proper way to reform the financial system will continue as Japan Post's banking, insurance, and delivery services undergo privatization between 2007 and 2017.

Japanese natural resources include negligible mineral resources, fish

strategic location in northeast Asia

Japanese religion is observe both Shinto and Buddhist 84%, other 16% (including Christian 0.7%).

Natural hazards in Japan include many dormant and some active volcanoes; about 1,500 seismic occurrences (mostly tremors) every year; tsunamis; typhoons.

Travel Advice on Japan

Japan

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Health section (Avian Influenza).  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

SUMMARY

  • Japan is a stable, highly developed, and modern country.  You should, however, take sensible precautions and be vigilant about your personal safety and belongings, as you would normally.

  • The threat from terrorism is low.  But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be in public targets, including places frequented by foreigners.

  • Do not become involved with drugs.  Possession of small amounts will lead to detention and prosecution.  Possession of large amounts will lead to a long prison sentence and a very heavy fine.

  • Japan has strict immigration laws.  You should not overstay your entry permission.  Do not take unauthorised employment.

  • The typhoon season in Japan normally runs from June to October.  Please see the Natural Disasters section of this Travel Advice and Hurricanes for more information.

  • Around 20,000 British Nationals are resident in Japan with a further 300,000 visitors each year.  The main type of incident for which British nationals require consular assistance in Japan is for visiting those arrested for drug and public disorder offences and medical (including psychiatric) emergencies where there are no means to pay for hospital and repatriation costs.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see: Travel Insurance.


SAFETY AND SECURITY

Crime

Japan is generally trouble-free and has relatively low levels of common crime such as theft, mugging, burglary etc.  Nevertheless, you should still maintain your usual levels of vigilance and take sensible precautions.

Political Situation

Japan is a stable democracy.  Civil disturbances and violent demonstrations are infrequent.  There is little or no overt prejudice towards foreigners.

Background on the political situation is available on the FCO Website.  Japan Country Profile.

Local Travel

Travel throughout Japan is relatively easy.  Taxis are generally safe and use a fixed meter system for fares.

In winter months, from late December to March, much of western Honshu and all Hokkaido experience snow storms.  Some are heavy.  You should check the weather forecast and with your tour/transport operator before travelling out of Tokyo.

Road Safety

Roads in Japan are well maintained.  Traffic travels on the left-hand side of the road, as in the UK.  Road rules are, for the most part, the same as in the UK but drivers should pay particular attention to: pedestrians crossing roads at green lights, especially at junctions; cyclists travelling on the pavements, or on the wrong side of the road and without lights at night; and taxi drivers stopping suddenly.  Traffic congestion is often significantly worse than in the UK.  Many road signs are written in English and Japanese in urban areas but this is less common in rural areas.

To drive in Japan, you will require an International Driving Licence (IDL) and insurance.  There are two types of insurance:

Compulsory insurance (jibaisekihoken) which may be insufficient in cases of personal liability.

Voluntary insurance (nin’i no jidoshahoken).  We strongly recommend that you buy both types.  It is compulsory to carry your driving licence with you at all times.  UK residents of Japan must obtain a Japanese licence within one year of arrival, and will need both parts of the UK licence when applying (photocard and counterpart paper).

Rail Safety

The Japanese national rail network is generally efficient, reliable, safe and affordable (though bullet trains are considerably more expensive than ordinary trains).


LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

There are few major differences between the laws and customs of Japan and the UK of relevance to most visitors to Japan.  In regard to sexual conduct in private between consenting adults, Japan is a tolerant society.  However, you should be sensitive to the different culture and people around you and not engage in behaviour which may cause offence.  Japanese people are very friendly and welcoming but can be reserved.  Loud, boisterous behaviour is not as acceptable as it is in the UK.

Japanese family law is very different from UK law and particular caution is needed when, for example, child custody becomes an issue – see also child abduction

Detention for minor offences can be longer than in the UK, and prison regimes in Japan are very strict.  Japan has a strict zero tolerance policy towards drug crime and there are severe penalties for drug offences, however minor.  Detection facilities at airports and post offices are extremely effective.  There have been a number of cases recently of small quantities of cannabis being sent through the mail to Britons living in Japan, which have resulted in the arrest and detention of the recipients.  Japanese Police have been known to require customers of bars to give samples for drug trace testing.  Tests proving positive lead to arrest and prosecution, even if the drug was taken before arrival in Japan.

There are severe penalties against drink-driving, including allowing someone else to drink and drive (for example if you are a passenger in a vehicle being driven by a drunk driver).

The use or possession of Vicks inhalers and some other common prescription and over-the-counter medicines (e.g.  for allergies and sinus problems) are banned under Japan’s strictly enforced anti-stimulant drugs law.  Customs officials may not be sympathetic if you claim ignorance about these medicines.  If in doubt, check with the nearest Japanese Embassy.

Drinks and meals are paid for at the end of your visit to a Japanese bar.  Be aware that prices are high.

In general, penalties for most offences are more severe than in the UK.  If you are arrested in Japan, even for a minor offence, expect as much as 23 days police detention while your case is investigated.  Bail is not granted to foreigners.  Police interviews can last many hours and you will not have access to a lawyer while under questioning.  You are advised not to sign any document you cannot understand, since it is very hard to amend once signed.  Police interviews are not recorded.  If you are indicted, you can expect up to a year for the completion of your case.  Time spent in detention while on remand or making an appeal does not automatically count towards completion of the sentence.

Japan has signed the Council of Europe Convention of the Transfer of Sentenced Persons.  Japan has, however, recently decided that applicants for transfer must serve at least one third of the sentence before a return to the home country can take place.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

You must have a valid passport and an onward/return ticket.  British nationals wishing to visit Japan for three months or less for business, tourism or family purposes etc (but not to work for a local employer) may do so without a visa.
However, if you wish to visit Japan for other purposes (e.g. long-term stay, study, settlement, employment), you should approach your nearest Japanese Embassy or Consulate (Japanese representation in the UK) for advice before travelling as visas are not issued after arrival in Japan. It is illegal to work in Japan without the correct visa, however informal or temporary the work.  Do not overstay your permission to be in the country.  Failure to leave, or to renew your residence permit, leaves you open to arrest, detention and very heavy fines.  There is now a zero tolerance policy, even in cases of genuine oversight.  Full details of entry requirements can be found on the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs visa website:  http://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/index.html.
The Japanese authorities stipulate no minimum period of validity on your passport.  However, before departure you should check that your passport remains valid and acceptable to the immigration authorities of the country to which you are travelling.


HEALTH

We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see:  Travel Insurance.

Medical facilities are good, but the cost of treatment is expensive.  Hospitals and clinics are well equipped and staff highly trained.  There are a few British doctors practising in Japan and some Japanese doctors will have had experience abroad and may speak English.  You are expected to pay the whole cost of any treatment you receive.

You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date.  For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website:  www.dh.gov.uk.  (Also see ‘Local Laws and Customs’ for information on Japanese law covering prescription/over the counter medicines).

Avian Influenza

An outbreak of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) at a farm in Miyazaki prefecture, Kyushu has been reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health in January 2007.  The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture has confirmed that this is H5N1.  No human infection or deaths have been reported.

The risk to humans from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low.  As a precaution, you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.

You should read this advice in conjunction with the:  Avian and Pandemic Influenza Factsheet, on the FCO website.

NATURAL DISASTERS

Japan is in a major earthquake zone, and earthquakes of varying sizes occur very frequently.

You should familiarise yourself with safety procedures in the event of an earthquake, and take note of earthquake-related instructions eg in hotel rooms.  To enable the Embassy or Consulate-General to help British visitors and respond to enquiries from relatives after an earthquake, we strongly recommended that you register with the British Embassy in Tokyo (Consular Section) for those in Eastern Japan, and with the Consulate-General in Osaka for those in Western Japan.  Japan also has several active volcanoes.  You should heed advice given by the Japanese authorities about travelling in volcanic areas.  Miyakejima Island near Tokyo is currently closed to visitors because of volcanic activity.

The typhoon season in Japan normally runs from June to October.  You should monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation. You can also access http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/ for updates.  Please also see Hurricanes for more detailed information about what to do if you are caught up in a typhoon.

Typhoon Shanshan struck south-west Japan on 17 September 2006, as a result nine people were killed and more than 300 injured.


GENERAL

If things go wrong when overseas please see:  What We Can Do To Help.

Most Japanese people will have studied English at school, but few can speak it well or understand what is said to them.  However, many can understand clear and simple English in written form and may be able to write a reply more easily than they can speak.  But you should be prepared for situations in which English is not understood at all eg by taxi drivers, restaurant staff, police, doctors.  A pen and notebook and a simple phrase book may prove useful.
You should take out comprehensive insurance before visiting Japan, including insurance against medical costs, loss of belongings, theft, cancellation of your journey etc.  Keep belongings, especially your passport, safe.  Enter next of kin details into the back of your passport.
You should check what sort of weather you can expect in Japan before you travel.  May – August can be very hot and humid and you should take sensible precautions (eg drink plenty of water, limit time spent in the sun).
Japan is mainly a cash society.  The Japanese currency is the Yen.  Some credit cards and Cirrus, Maestro, Link and Delta cash cards are NOT widely accepted, and few banks or cash machines will provide cash drawn on such cards.  Japanese post offices do have cash machines, which will accept Visa, Delta and Cirrus cards during hours of business.  Cash machines do not operate 24 hours a day.  They generally close at 21:00 hours or earlier and may not operate at the weekends.  You should check with your bank before travelling and take sufficient alternative sources of money for the duration of your stay. Western Union Money Transfer has recently become available in Japan.
Many UK mobile phones will not work in Japan, even in roaming mode.  You should check with your service provider if you wish to use it in Japan.
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.
If resident in Japan or staying for more than three months, register with the Consular Section of the British Embassy in Tokyo (for those in Eastern Japan) or the British Consulate-General in Osaka (for those in Western Japan).
British nationals visiting Japan for up to three months must carry their passports at all times.  If you have permission to stay longer in Japan, you must register with the ward office or city office of the district in which you reside.  You will then receive an alien’s registration card, which must be carried at all times. 
The Consular Section of the British Embassy provides a passport renewal service.  Replacement passports are normally issued within 10 working days.