Tips to stay safe while travelling in Japan

Image of the Matsumoto Castle and its red bridge
Japan is a very safe country for travellers. It’s a country obsessed with cleanliness, the tap water is safe to drink and food hygiene standards are very high. Your biggest risk is the natural disasters that sometimes hit Japan like typhoons, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and earthquakes.
Subways in major cities can become packed during peak hour. There are even ‘pushers’ at some train stations whose job it is to make sure you are in the carriage and clear of the doors. Personal space during this time does not exist and pickpocketing can become more frequent. Also be aware of the Chikan, a Japanese word for a person who gropes women on crowded trains.
Recreational drugs are highly illegal in Japan and the consequences are very serious. Do not use or carry any drugs in Japan and make sure you carry a prescription for your medication. Japan also takes downloading pirated material seriously — it is now punishable by a prison sentence and a large fine.
Typhoons are similar to the tropical cyclones that Canada experiences. In Japan, the typhoon season runs from approximately May to November. If you are travelling when a typhoon hits, you should take a few precautions. Have plenty of water available (fill a bathtub if you are caught without bottled water), cover windows or speak to your accommodation provider about taping them, tie down loose objects outdoors and follow all instructions by local authorities. Move to a safer location if you are asked to do so.

Japan lies on the edge of several continental and oceanic tectonic plates, which makes the area a hotbed of high seismic and volcanic activity. If an earthquake hits, it’s safer to stay indoors. Seek shelter under a table as the immediate danger will be falling objects and furniture.

Small earthquakes in Japan are not particularly newsworthy as they happen so often, so the only notification may be a simple text warning on TV. More serious quakes and tsunami warnings will be highly publicised. If you are asked to leave a building, make sure you take your important documents (like your passport) with you as you may not be able to re-enter depending on the damage.

Japan is home to approximately 110 active volcanoes. Before visiting an area where a volcano is located, it is best to check the latest volcano warnings on http://www.jma.go.jp/en/volcano/.
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Natural disasters can quickly upset your travel plans. Consider travel insurance that covers delays or cancellations to your trip.

After the Fukushima power plant disaster, many travellers are concerned about radiation levels in Japan. Japanese authorities have placed restrictions, including travel and overnight stay bans, on the plant’s surrounding area due to the risk of exposure to radiation. Always follow the instructions of local authorities.
Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances. Drugs and copious amounts of alcohol have been mixed into drinks of unsuspecting patrons by staff or other customers at bars and nightclubs. These incidents are usually intended to defraud, overcharge, rob or assault primarily male victims.
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Stomach bugs and respiratory infections may not seem severe, but you may still require medical assistance or a ride in an ambulance. Japanese medical care can be expensive and hospitals may ask for your travel insurance details before providing treatment, so make sure you have adequate travel insurance coverage for your trip.
While Japan is a country obsessed with cleanliness, it is still important to practise good health habits. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or use hand sanitiser. Places such as Tokyo or Osaka are very busy meaning that almost everything you touch will likely have been touched by thousands of other people. If you fail to regularly wash your hands, you may be more susceptible to common illnesses and infections.
A popular destination for ski holidays, every year a number of tourists are injured in Japan in snow-related accidents. While the most common injuries are caused by crashes or collisions on the ski field, avalanches, heavy snow and prolonged exposure to the extreme cold can also result in harm. Snow conditions can change quickly so walking alone, intoxicated or veering off marked trails can be very dangerous. Make yourself aware of the potential dangers by checking websites that provide updates on snow conditions and follow the rules and regulations of the ski resort where you are staying.
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Consider whether your travel insurance offers coverage for ski activities, including injuries, and reimbursement for certain out of pocket expenses.

NOTICE: While the Information is considered to be true and accurate at the date of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of the information. We strongly recommend verifying the travel advisory of your destination prior to departure.

DISCLAIMER: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of all information as at the date of publishing, Allianz Global Assistance does not accept liability for any errors or omissions. Allianz Global Assistance strongly recommends seeking the guidance of a professional travel agent/agency for further information on a specific destination. On your next trip, whether to another province or country, ensure you have travel insurance as it may assist you in cases of unforeseen medical emergencies and other types of mishaps that can happen while you travel. Travel insurance does not cover everything, please always refer to the policy document for full terms and conditions, including limitations and exclusions. Allianz Global Assistance is a registered business name of AZGA Service Canada Inc. and AZGA Insurance Agency Canada Ltd. Photography Credits: Neale Cousland, Aleksandar Todorovic and antb, Shuterstock.com.

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