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Japan

If you’re travelling to Japan, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Overview

Security status

We advise you to take normal precautions.

We advise you not to travel within the exclusion zones and radiation hotspots established by the Japanese Government in the area of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

Latest Alert

An earthquake of approximately 6.9 on the Richter scale occurred on 22 November 2016 in Fukushima prefecture. All tsunami advisories have been lifted, though aftershocks continue in the region.

If planning to visit Japan, you should familiarise yourself with what to do in an earthquake, remain on alert, particularly in the event of aftershocks,  and follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local news and websites for updates.

The Japan National Tourism Organisation is posting information online in English for visitors to the Kumamoto area following earthquakes there in April 2016.

The following may also be useful sources of information for visitors to Japan:
NHK News media outlet (in English)
NHK’s life & disaster prevention Twitter account provides information for residents in affected areas in English

Emergency assistance
The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.
You can contact the emergency services in Japan by dialling 110.

Our tips for safe travels

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a family emergency
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates
  • Read our Topical ‘Know Before You Go’ guide

Safety and security

Crime

Crime remains low in Japan but you should take sensible precautions.

Personal Safety

You should be aware that there have been numerous reported instances of drinks being spiked in certain districts in Tokyo, in particular in Roppongi and Kabuki-cho. Late at night, Western tourists in these areas may be approached on the street and brought to bars or clubs, served strong or spiked drinks, and then either robbed or asked under duress to pay large sums of money. We recommend you exercise vigilance late at night in these areas.

Personal attacks, including sexual assault and rape, are rare, but do happen. Japanese law places a high burden of proof on the victim to demonstrate that the sexual relations were not consensual and committed through assault, intimidation or force.

Reporting crime

If you’re a victim of a crime while in Japan, report it to the local police immediately. Note that the police may initially refuse to issue you with any document which proves a report has been made. Please contact the Irish Embassy in Tokyo if you need assistance.

Counselling Services

Should you require professional counselling services we advise you to contact TELL Japan who offer free, anonymous telephone counselling and support across Japan.

Driving

Like Ireland, driving in Japan is on the left hand side of the road.  If you’re planning to drive in Japan, the roads are well maintained and the rules of the road are broadly similar to Ireland.

If you want to drive:

  • Bring your international driving licence and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
  • There are severe penalties against drink-driving or allowing someone else to drink and drive by, for example, being a passenger in a vehicle driven by a drunk driver.
  • Longer-term residents who wish to drive in Japan will need to obtain a domestic driving licence within their first year in the country. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police website provides useful information about obtaining a Japanese licence.

Vehicle hire

If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Local laws and customs

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal.

Illegal drugs

Illegal drug use is a serious crime in Japan and can lead to long prison terms, stiff penalties or deportation. We advise against purchasing medicines or other substances from overseas via the internet which can be a crime in Japan leading to prosecution.

Alcohol

Customs and laws concerning the consumption of alcohol in Japan are broadly similar to those in Ireland.  There are severe penalties against drink-driving or allowing someone else to drink and drive by, for example, being a passenger in a vehicle driven by a drunk driver.

You should also be aware that there have been several reported instances of drinks being spiked in certain districts in Tokyo.

Natural disasters and climate

Earthquakes and tsunamis

Japan is in a very active earthquake zone and earthquakes of various sizes occur frequently throughout the country. Irish citizens travelling to or resident in Japan should familiarise themselves with the measures to take in the event of an earthquake.

A useful smartphone app for earthquake alerts is “Yurekuru”.

Tsunami warnings are issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

Restrictions around the Fukushima nuclear power plant

The earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 also severely damaged the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima Prefecture (240km from Tokyo) resulting in significant releases of radiation into the air and ocean. 

The Japanese authorities have implemented an exclusion zone encompassing a radius of 20km around the Plant and illegally entering this zone is a punishable offence. There are further non-mandatory exclusion areas outside this 20-km zone, where smaller radiation hot-spots have been detected. The Irish government advises against non-essential travel to these areas, which can be seen on the Japanese government map.  You can also check for up-to-date Japanese government information on the radiation levels around the Fukushima Plant. The Japanese authorities are carrying out comprehensive monitoring of possible contamination of water and food and are imposing strict controls where necessary. The situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has stabilised, although it will take decades to decommission and decontaminate the plant.

Elsewhere in the north-east of Japan, the situation has largely returned to normal and there is no reason to avoid or postpone travel to this region, provided one exercises due caution. 

Typhoons

The Japanese typhoon season runs from June to October, with the period between August and September seeing the most typhoon activity. Typhoons that hit Japan are often accompanied by high tides and landslides that can occur anywhere during continuous periods of heavy rain.

Travellers to Japan (particularly southern regions) should pay attention to local travel information and consult the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), which provides information in English. You should also check with your airline or transport operator before travelling.

Volcanoes

Japan has several active volcanoes. You should follow advice given by the Japanese authorities about travelling in volcanic areas. Please check latest volcano warnings on the website of the Japanese Meteorological Agency.

Additional information

Entry requirements (visa/passport)

If you are unsure of what the entry requirements for Japan are, including visa and other immigration information, ask your travel agent or contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Japan.

If you have an Irish passport, you can enter Japan as a visitor for up to 90 days without a visa. You may need to provide evidence of a return or onward ticket. Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. We recommend you take a number of photocopies of your passport with you. During your stay you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times.

Entry and immigration procedures

In relation to entry procedures from November 2007, in accordance with a partial amendment to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, all foreign visitors entering Japan will be fingerprinted and digitally photographed during entry procedures.

Those refusing to be fingerprinted or photographed will be denied entry to Japan. Persons under the age of 16, special status permanent residents and those performing actions which would be performed by those with a status of residence, "diplomat" or "official government business" will be exempt from these procedures. Full information may be found on the website of the Immigration Bureau, Ministry of Justice.

Health

Check with your doctor well in advance of travelling to see if you need any vaccinations for Japan.

Medication

There are restrictions on the importation of some over-the-counter and prescription medicines and this may include certain types of allergy and sinus medication. If a visit to a doctor is required, there are a number of clinics with English-speaking personnel who widely advertise their services. However, it may not be possible to obtain the same brand-name medication that is available in Ireland. 

Language schools

There are numerous English language schools in Japan recruiting teachers from overseas. The Department strongly advises job applicants to scrutinise the details of the terms and conditions of their prospective contracts and of their prospective agency/ employer, in order to ensure that they are fully satisfied of the good standing of those agencies/employers and that their conditions of employment will be met.

Cash and banking

We advise you to contact your financial institution in advance of travelling to Japan and check that your cards will be valid upon arrival as some visitors experience difficulties accessing funds using cash cards issued in Ireland. It is advisable for visitors to have an alternative means with which to access funds should such situations arise (e.g. a credit card with a cash advance facility or travellers' cheques).