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Japan Safety 2024; Is Japan Safe to Visit?

Susan Laurent
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by Susan Laurent

To a firstcomer, Japan may seem like a place from another planet, and unsurprisingly so — they have square watermelons and blue traffic lights.

Japan is also pretty vast — over 3,000 kilometers of land that’s full of contrasts. Up north, you can find floating ice in the seas off Hokkaido. On the south, lush jungles span the islands of Okinawa. In between, tourists flock to neon-bright megacities like Tokyo and Osaka.

Now, when a place is so vast and diverse, it’s totally normal to wonder: is Japan safe to visit? Can I easily navigate my adventures?

Japan is one of the safest places globally. Keep an eye out for possible earthquakes, hurricanes, and the occasional theft — and you’re good to go.

Here are our official and street-smart tips on how to stay safe during your trip to Japan.

ESSENTIAL JAPAN TRAVEL RESOURCES

Are you planning a last minute trip to Japan? We’ve put together all the resources you’ll need for a fun & safe travel:

🛌  Best & Safest Places to Stay in Japan:

👉 The Prince Park Tower Tokyo – Key card access, 9 restaurants, City view
👉 Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo – Pets allowed, Private bathroom, 9 restaurant
👉 Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo – Fitness centre, Spa and wellness centre, Family rooms
👉 The Peninsula Tokyo – City view, Daily housekeeping, Non-smoking rooms

⛱️ Fun Activities & Tours in Japan:

👉 Private Sightseeing to Mount Fuji and Hakone guide photographer
👉 Official Street Go-Kart Tour – Tokyo Bay Shop
👉 Kyoto Samurai Experience

🚗 Best & Safest Japan Transportation Services:

👉 Airport Pickup Service – Welcome Pickups
👉 Rent a Car – DiscoverCars

🙏 Stay Safe While Travelling:

👉 Safetywing (for medical insurance)
👉 VisitorsCoverage (for trip insurance)

Is Japan Safe?

Japan

Yes, Japan is safe. According to the 2023 Global Peace Index, Japan is the 9th safest country globally.

If we focus on specific cities, Tokyo, Japan’s capital, was rated the 5th safest city in the world by the Economist — beating London, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and New York! Osaka, Japan’s food capital, isn’t far behind, claiming the 17th spot for safety, coming before cities such as Los Angeles, Paris, Milan, Rome, and Abu Dhabi.

Here’s our take on safety in Japan:

  • Travel warning: International travel advisories rate Japan as a Level-One safety destination — meaning you only need to practice “Normal Precautions”
  • Crime rate[6] [7] : Very low, 22.88
  • Main crime: Robberies
  • Walking alone during the day: Safe
  • Walking alone at night: Safe
  • High crime areas: Kabukicho, Roppongi, Shibuya, and Ikebukuro (Tokyo), Nakasu (Fukuoka), Susukino (Sapporo), Kamagasaki and Shinsekai (Osaka)
  • Police presence: Kobans (smallest organizational police office units)
  • Public transportation: Safe, but very crowded during rush hours

Travel Advisory for Japan

The United States, Canada, Australia, and United Kingdom travel advisories place Japan in the “Level One” safety category — a category reserved for countries with minimal safety concerns.

The international travel advisories warn tourists to be on guard for pickpockets. Some places might also overchargе or, worse, spike drinks – but this only occurs rarely and only in some areas, which we’ll cover later.

In terms of your finances — the authorities advise tourists to guard their cash and credit cards. When out and about, don’t flaunt large amounts of cash in bars, clubs, or parties, and ensure that your credit card is securely stashed.

Also, keep in mind that there are regional tensions related to North Korea. Keep an eye on the news, follow local authorities’ advice, and check NHK World for the latest updates.

Lastly, the travel advisories warn travelers of the possibility of natural disasters and advise tourists to be earthquake-ready and familiarize themselves with emergency plans.

These are, of course, worst-case scenarios, so take the warnings seriously, but do not interpret them as events that are very likely to happen during your trip to Japan.

A Comprehensive Look at Japan Crime Rates

Japan has a remarkably low crime rating, only 22.88.

In 2020, Japan recorded a minimal homicide rate of 0.2 per 100,000 people — a stark contrast to the United States, which reported 6.4 homicides per 100,000 people the same year.

The most common crime in Japan is robbery, with 1.2 per 100,000 people getting robbed in 2019. To put things in perspective, this figure is practically non-existent when compared to rates in France (43.8), Germany (43.2), and the United States (81.4).

The level of trust and safety in Japan is evident in everyday actions — BBC shares that locals have a habit of reserving tables in cafes by leaving their phones on them unsupervised, or leaving laptops open when taking a restroom break. Even if you happen to drop your wallet, chances are that it will be waiting for you at a koban (police box), with your money and cards untouched.

In 2021, Japan reported only ten gun-related incidents and one death. This seems a world away from the alarming 47,286 gun-related deaths in the United States in the same year.

The difficulty of acquiring a firearm in Japan is a likely factor contributing to these low numbers. The process involves twelve steps, including a written exam, a doctor’s letter, and a police inspection of the facility where the firearms would be stored.

When it comes to serious assaults, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) shares that in 2019, Japan had 15 assaults per 100,000 people. Again, this is much less than figures per 100,000 people in other countries, like France (460), Germany (156), and the United States (278).

Japan Crime Statistics

Safety ConcernsCrime RateStatus
Overall Crime Level19.9Very Low
Increase in Crime (Past 3 Years)44.76Moderate
Home Break-Ins and Thefts20.11Low
Mugging and Robbery19.24Very Low
Car Theft17.12Very Low
Theft from Vehicles19.46Very Low
Personal Attacks21.21Low
Verbal Insults25.40Low
Racial, Ethnic, Gender, or Religious-Based Attacks24.10Low
Drug Use and Dealing22.40Low
Property Crimes (Vandalism and Theft)22.39Low
Violent Crimes (Assault and Armed Robbery)19.69Very Low
Corruption and Bribery28.69Low
Safety Walking Alone in Daylight79.59High
Safety Walking Alone in Nighttime73.57High

Source: Numbeo, 2023 data, based on 964 contributors.

Areas to Avoid

The main areas that you should be cautious of when visiting Japan are the entertainment and nightlife districts. Here, organized crime prevails, and petty crimes like purse snatching may also happen.

In Tokyo, be especially wary of your surroundings in the entertainment areas of Kabukicho, Roppongi, Shibuya, and Ikebukuro. The same goes for the Nakasu district in Fukuoka, and Susukino district in Sapporo, the second-largest red-light district after Kabukicho.

In Osaka, the area of Kamagasaki is flagged as requiring extra caution due to the large population of homeless individuals and day laborers in the area. Additionally, Osaka’s Shinsekai neighborhood, which features the closed Luna Park repurposed as a dining hub with charming restaurants and souvenir shops, is noted for potential pickpocketing risks.

The Yakuza Criminal Group

The Yakuza is an organized crime syndicate of various gangs operating in Japan.

Their operations include honored businesses like restaurants, bars, taxis, and trucking companies. But, their pursuits also delve into the Japanese underground — engaging in activities such as drug smuggling, loan-sharking, gambling, and prostitution.

If you’re worried about the Yakuza endangering your safety in Japan, don’t be. The Yakuza follows a strict internal code of honor, taking pride in their “chivalry” (ninkyou), which keeps them from upsetting public order. Plus, although yakuza membership is not currently illegal in Japan, there are laws, such as the Anti-Boryokudan law, designed to curtail many of their activities and limit their influence.

A unique story from a foreigner who lived in Japan for 30 years sheds light on an unexpected encounter with a Yakuza godfather. Engaging in charity work for the homeless, the foreigner met a mid-60s man who turned out to be an Oyabun, a godfather in the Yakuza. When asked about his involvement in charity work, he shared that it was a way to “pay for his sins.”

Both seemed to enjoy each other’s company during charity work and contrary to popular belief, the godfather seemed very approachable. The Yakuza godfather even told the foreigner that he should mention his name if he ever encountered any problems or needed any kind of service. However, the foreigner wisely decided not to get involved, recognizing the potential complications that could arise from accepting a favor from such individuals — the key point we wanted to emphasize from this story.

So, as tourists, you are unlikely to stumble upon a Yakuza, and even less likely to get affected by their dealings. Still, keep any fascination to yourself, practice normal precautions, and be respectful towards the locals, this group, and the overall Japanese culture.

Japan News Reports Regarding Crime

Let’s take a look at the recent news regarding Japan’s most common crime — robberies.

The New York Post reported on an incident that occurred in May 2023 in Tokyo’s upscale Ginza district. Four masked burglars entered a Rolex and stole more than 100 watches. The police quickly appeared at the scene and found the suspects’ van abandoned on a street 15 minutes later. Subsequently, the police were able to track the bandits to a nearby apartment building, leading to their arrest. The suspected robbers were aged 16 to 19 years old.

The Mainichi Post reported on two incidents that occurred simultaneously in Southern Osaka Prefecture in February 2023, this time involving two youths. The 17 and 19-year-olds were separately taken away in a car, assaulted by as many as 8 individuals, and robbed of their money and belongings.

Japan Today reported another robbery incident in July 2023 outside a pub in Osaka. According to the report, three men assaulted and robbed another man early in the morning around 3:30 a.m., with the incident allegedly stemming from an argument.

These incidents, while rare, should serve as examples for tourists to be aware of the potential of robberies occurring in public spaces. Remain vigilant, particularly during late-night hours!

Police Presence in Japan

One of the key reasons why Japan is considered one of the safest places on Earth is the widespread presence of kobans – small police office units strategically located in city centers and residential areas.

The koban system has been successfully utilized in Japan for over a century. There are currently around 6,600 kobans operating across the country. Each koban is staffed 24/7 by one or two police officers, and there’s typically an officer patrolling the area on a bicycle.

The effectiveness of the koban system is recognized worldwide. São Paulo’s policing system in Brazil, for instance, is modeled after the Japanese koban system, with the officers being trained by the Japanese National Police Agency experts. The results were quickly evident, as there was a significant drop in crime!

So if you ever feel uneasy or need directions, transportation schedules, or emergency assistance, the police officers at kobans are there to help you!

Public Transportation Safety in Japan

Public Transportation in Japan

Japan is renowned for its safe and fast transportation system. Trains are the preferred and most convenient mode of travel. They’re very punctual, with trains in Tokyo arriving every few minutes. Subways, a cost-effective alternative, are also safe and punctual, running underground and thus less affected by weather conditions.

Trains are really full during rush hours, so avoid traveling at that time. The crowds can get overwhelming, and station workers may need to push people into trains. This not only makes for an uncomfortable journey but also creates opportunities for pickpockets.

Taxis are widespread but charge higher prices. Still, they are a safe and convenient option at night when public transport is limited. Recognizing whether a taxi is available is easy, though a bit counterintuitive — a red light on the roof indicates a vacant taxi, while green signals an occupied taxi. You can also reserve a cab using ride-sharing services such as JapanTaxi, DiDi, and Uber.

Medical Care Quality in Japan

Japan has more than 8,000 hospitals, including private and public hospitals, as well as clinics. The country is known for its excellent healthcare facilities equipped with advanced technology.

While it’s not a legal requirement to purchase travel insurance for a trip to Japan, we highly advise you to consider it so that you’ll be fully covered in case you need medical assistance.

Here are some travel insurance options to consider:

And if you are ever in need of a doctor’s visit, here are some hospitals you can visit:

In case of emergencies, you can call for an ambulance in Japan by dialing 119. Ambulances won’t charge you for transportation to hospitals.

Is It Safe to Travel Solo in Japan?

Travel Solo in Japan

Yes, Japan is safe for solo travel. As we already mentioned, it’s a place where trust runs deep — locals leave belongings unattended, lost items come back intact, and kids commute to school with little supervision.

Still, standard measures should be taken! Even if the majority of people in Japan are friendly, the minority may do something that will ruin your visit.

For instance, Canada’s travel advisory provides a note on drink spiking in Japan, emphasizing the following:

“There are reports of incidents where staff or other customers at bars and nightclubs have mixed drugs and copious amounts of alcohol into drinks of unsuspecting clients. These incidents are particularly frequent in the districts of Kabukicho and Roppongi in Tokyo. The intent is usually to defraud, overcharge services, rob, or assault the person.”

As a safety precaution, never leave your drinks unattended or in the care of strangers.

Additionally, unauthorized photography under skirts and non-consensual groping in crowded trains may occur. For this reason, opt to drive in women-only train carriages. They are marked in pink on the platform.

The Numbeo chart showed a high safety score for walking alone during the day and night. Still, if you do explore Japan’s cities alone, make sure you stick to the tourist areas and far away from the outskirts.

If you ever feel uneasy or need help, look out for the koban police boxes. They’re in every neighborhood, and the officers there are quick to respond to distress calls.

Perils of Nature: The Risk of Natural Disasters in Japan

Nestled along the Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates converge, Japan faces the occasional standoff with nature’s forces — earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic stirrings.

The possibility of a natural disaster ruining your vacation to Japan is low, as the government constantly invests in cutting-edge disaster prevention measures — from earthquake alert systems to resilient buildings, and emergency facilities. Each subsequent disaster is less perilous than the previous because the government is eager to learn and protect its citizens better in the future.

Still, it’s wise to remain informed. So let’s learn more.

Earthquakes

Earthquakes are a common occurrence in Japan, with the majority being low on the ‘shindo’ scale and causing minimal damage. The most quake-prone areas in Japan are the Sanriku area (Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi) and prefectures along the Sea of Japan coast (Fukui, Ishikawa, Niigata).

The Great East Japan Earthquake (Tohoku earthquake) in 2011 was the most destructive quake ever recorded in Japan. The resulting damage, including the destruction of many cities and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant meltdowns, led to the loss of over 15,000 lives and over 30 aftershocks with a magnitude of five or higher on the JMA seismic scale throughout that year.

In the unlikely event of a serious earthquake, it is important to follow the directions of local authorities. If you find yourself alone, take cover by dropping to the ground and covering your neck and shoulders. Seek shelter under a sturdy desk if available.

Tsunamis

Tsunamis in Japan are typically triggered by underwater earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or landslides beneath the ocean floor. The primary threat of a tsunami is along the coastline, particularly in areas adjacent to the Pacific Ocean and the Japanese Sea.

The largest tsunami in Japan occurred in 2011, reaching a height of around 9.3 meters. This tsunami was caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake, the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japan.

In response to the 2011 disaster, major sea walls have been constructed in vulnerable seismic areas to mitigate the risk posed by tsunamis. Plus, Japan has a well-developed early tsunami warning system set by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).

If a tsunami is predicted, stay away from beaches, harbors, and coastal zones. Move as far inland as possible and towards higher elevations to ensure your safety.

Hurricanes

Hurricane season officially lasts from July to September but can begin as early as May. During these months, heavy rains and strong winds are common, and there is some potential for flooding.

As of 2023, Japan was hit by a notable hurricane named Khanun, reaching a wind speed of up to 136 mph (220 k/h) and classified as a category 4 typhoon according to the Saffir-Simpson scale.

As severe hurricanes typically move slowly, there is usually sufficient time for you to evacuate and seek shelter. Check the latest hurricane activity in Japan, pack appropriate clothing, and have some indoor activities planned.

Volcanic Eruptions

Japan has around 54 active volcanoes, and some volcanic areas are popular tourist destinations, such as Mount Fuji in Hakone, Mount Aso in Kyushu, and Mount Ontake in the Chubu region.

The most recent significant volcanic eruption in Japan occurred at Mount Aso on Kyushu Island in 2021, leading to the expulsion of ash and smoke. Prior to that, Mount Aso erupted in 2019, with no reports of injuries or casualties. Japan’s worst volcanic disaster took place on Mount Ontake in September 2014, resulting in the tragic loss of 144 lives.

Volcanic eruptions are a natural part of the geological landscape, but Japan has implemented monitoring systems and safety measures to mitigate risks. The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) provides timely information on volcanic activity, including eruption warnings, evacuation advisories, and danger zone designations. These eruption warnings range from Level 1 (normal) to Level 5 (evacuate). Tourists should pay attention to these alerts and follow guidance accordingly.

If you are participating in guided tours or activities near volcanic areas, tour operators will provide guidance and ensure that safety measures are followed. Listen to your guides and follow their instructions.

Beware the Silent Threat: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Japan

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning claims around 2,000-5,000 lives in Japan each year, accounting for more than half of all poisoning deaths.

This odorless and colorless gas is produced by car exhaust, fires, and defective equipment. Is it avoidable? Yes, with the help of CO detectors.

Many authorities around the world, including Japan, advise the use of CO detectors to detect the presence of this gas and alarm you in the case of a leak.

While hotels in Japan likely have CO detectors installed, for added safety, it is advisable for travelers to carry a portable CO detector, especially in cases where the hotel might not have one.

Serenity by the Shore: The Safety of Japan Beaches

Japan Beach

Japan is a long, thin island with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea on the other — an extensive coastline with numerous beaches.

Japan’s beaches prioritize safety. You’ll find lifeguards watching over the beachgoers and warning flags set on every beach indicating how safe it is. Here’s a breakdown of the flag colors and their meanings:

  • Red and white flag: Tsunami approaching
  • Red and yellow flag: Waters are calm, feel free to swim.
  • Yellow: Waters are a bit stirred up, swim with caution.
  • Red: Waters are risky, no swimming allowed.
  • Blue: Waters are clean and safe from dangerous bacteria.

Follow these flags, and you’ll have no problem soaking up the sun on Japan’s beaches.

Japan Weather Patterns: What to Expect

Japan experiences four regular seasons: a rainy season, a dry season, and a typhoon (hurricane) season. Given the significant variation in weather across the Japanese archipelago, let’s focus on the weather in Tokyo.

In Japan’s capital, the summers are short, warm, wet, and mostly cloudy, while winters are very cold and mostly clear. Throughout the year, temperatures may soar up to 87°F (30.5°C) and rarely drop below 31°F (0.5°C).

The warm season spans from the end of June to mid-September, with an average daily high temperature of around 79°F (26°C). August is the hottest month in Tokyo, with temperatures reaching 87°F (30.5°C).

The cool season lasts from December to mid-March. The average daily temperature is around 56°F (13.3°C). January is the coldest month, with temperatures dropping as low as 37°F (2.7°C).

The wet season in Tokyo begins in March and lasts until October, with peak hurricane activity occurring from July to September. September sees the most wet days, with an average rainfall of 7.3 inches (195mm). The dry season spans from October to March, with January having the fewest rainy days, averaging a minimum of 1.9 inches (48mm) of rainfall.

Monthly Average Temperatures in Tokyo

MonthFahrenheit (°F)Celsius (°C)
January425.5
February436.1
March499.4
April5814.4
May6618.8
June7222.2
July7825.5
August8127.2
September7523.8
October6518.3
November5512.7
December478.3

Source: WeatherSpark, 2023 data

When Is the Best Time to Visit Japan?

Weather-wise — spring and autumn are the best months to visit, particularly March to May and September to November. During these periods, Japan is warm, dry, and covered in cherry blossoms or crimson fall foliage.

Still, the best time to visit depends on the type of experience you’re seeking. Here are some suggestions:

Cherry Blossom Season: The blooming timeline for cherry blossoms varies by region. Southern Japan experiences an earlier bloom, while they’re in full bloom in Tokyo in mid-April. Check the cherry blossom forecast via the Japan Meteorological Corporation for specific information.

Off-Season: Mid-January to March sees fewer crowds, providing a more authentic experience, especially in major cities like Tokyo. Airlines and hotels often lower their prices during this time, making it ideal for budget-conscious travelers.

Peak season: Cherry blossom season and Golden Week in early May are the busiest times to visit. If you are traveling during these months, expect higher prices on flight tickets, hotels, and tours.

Hiking season: The summer months of June to August provide ideal conditions for hikers, particularly in the mountains of the Japanese Alps and Hokkaido’s national parks. However, elsewhere, the weather can be hot and humid.

Stay Street Smart: Essential Tips for Staying Safe

  • Visit the West-JR website for train timetables, route maps, and station information
  • The so-called PASMO card is specifically designed for tourists visiting Japan — with it, you can ride trains, buses, and even purchase items from stores
  • Download the SafetyTips app for early warnings about earthquakes, tsunamis, and other weather-related updates
  • The Japanese term for exit is “deguchi” — in times of evacuation
  • The earthquake announcement is “Jishin desu, Jishin desu, Jishin desu”
  • Be cautious with taxi doors, as they open automatically
  • Carry your passport at all times in case of police check
  • Japan has a zero percent blood-alcohol limit for driving
  • Be aware of “no smoking” signs in public places
  • Loud conversations in public transport are perceived as rude and annoying
  • Expect that in some restaurants you may have to take your shoes off
  • Japan’s establishments are more likely to accept cash rather than card payments
  • Ask your hotel receptionist to make reservations at restaurants so you’ll always have a table ready
  • Learn some basic Japanese phrases to get around

Emergency Numbers

  • Police: 110
  • Ambulance and Fire Department: 119

FAQ

What Is the Current Situation in Japan Regarding COVID-19?

Japan has lifted all restrictions regarding COVID-19 — so you don’t need a negative test, proof of vaccination, or quarantine upon entry. In November 2023, Japan reported around 9,679 cases per day, but the positive cases have dropped by 39%, and deaths by 44%.
So, no need to worry much about COVID-19 when traveling to Japan. Still, it’s wise to take basic precautions: maintain a safe distance from others and wash your hands regularly. If you spot locals wearing surgical masks, no need to panic! It’s a common practice in Japan to wear masks when feeling under the weather to prevent the spread of germs.

Does Radiation Exposure in Japan Pose a Risk to Tourists?

Back in January 2015, the Tohoku earthquake contributed to a partial meltdown at a Fukushima power plant. The good news is that the increase of radiation in the area is “low or very low.”
Six United Nations agencies, including the International Air Transport Association (IATA), have given visitors the green light, assuring there’s no health or transportation safety issue around Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant.
If radiation is a worry for you, follow the advice of the Australian, British, and American travel advisories — steer clear of traveling within 12 miles (20 kilometers) of Fukushima.

Sayonara and Happy Travels!

In conclusion, the chances of you encountering any crime in Japan are incredibly low.

The country consistently ranks in the top-ten list of the most peaceful nations, with major cities like Tokyo and Osaka also earning high marks on safety charts.

International travel advisories unanimously support this, placing Japan under the safest “Level One” category and encouraging tourists to rely on nothing more than common sense.

For lone female travelers, taking precautions on crowded trains during rush hours is recommended, as incidents of groping or “chikan” are not unheard of. Opting for the designated women-only carriage, when possible, is a wise choice.

Remember, the friendly officers at kobans are your go-to choice for help, whether you feel threatened or need directions, train schedules, or general information about the area.

With a bit of local know-how, we hope you feel less lost and stressed about your journey to Japan. Wishing you a fantastic time exploring this beautiful and versatile country!


About Susan Laurent
Susan Laurent
I'm passionate about world cultures, travel, and discovering amazing new places. I've spent years traveling the globe, very often alone, so I focus on providing important information about travel safety to travelers that I've gathered from first-hand experience.
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