Safety and security
Crime levels are low. It is generally safe to walk about at night and to travel on public transport, but you should maintain the same level of vigilance as you would at home and take sensible precautions.
The Roppongi entertainment district of Tokyo is considered a higher risk area for crime. British nationals have been arrested following disputes with bar staff and doormen. There have also been reports of drink spiking with drugs like Rohypnol. Victims have described loss of consciousness for several hours, during which time large amounts have been fraudulently billed to their credit card.
If your passport is lost or stolen, you should report this at a police station and get a police report.
In cases of emergency, dial 110 for the police and 119 for the fire or ambulance services. Calls are free of charge from any phone, including pay phones.
Based on guidance from UK Government scientists, the FCO advise against all travel to the exclusion zones around the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant identified by the Japanese authorities. These exclusion zones are kept under review. Even areas where evacuation orders are ready to be lifted (marked green on the map) are still subject to some restrictions - for instance visitors are not allowed to stay overnight.
The Japanese authorities are carrying out comprehensive checks to monitor radiation in the area surrounding Fukushima and to monitor possible contamination of water, and food and produce. They impose strict controls where necessary. There continue to be reports about leaks of contaminated water. These reports are being monitored by UK government scientists. Any significant change in the current situation will be reported on this page.
Although the situation at Fukushima will remain of concern for some time, the risks are gradually declining.
To drive in Japan, you must hold an International Driving Permit (IDP), a current UK licence and insurance. An IDP is only valid for use in Japan for one year regardless of its date of expiry. Check the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department website for further details. You must carry your driving license with you at all times. Penalties for driving in Japan without the correct documents are severe.
If you intend to stay in Japan for longer than one year, you should apply for a Japanese driving licence. For more information and details of offices where you can apply for a Japanese licence, visit the Japanese Automobile Federation website.
There are two types of driving insurance available in Japan:
Compulsory insurance (jibaisekihoken) and voluntary insurance (nin’i no jidoshahoken). The compulsory insurance on its own may be insufficient in cases of personal liability.
Roads are well maintained. Driving is on the left, as in the UK. Road rules are mostly 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.
There are severe penalties to deter 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). Offences can attract a heavy fine or imprisonment.
In 2012 there were 5,237 road deaths in Japan (source Dft). This equates to 4.1 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 3.0 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2012.
Japan is a stable democracy. Civil disturbances and violent demonstrations are rare. Occasionally, demonstrations of a pro-nationalist kind can involve hostility to foreign countries. Keep yourself informed of developments and if you become aware of any protests, leave the area immediately.
Mobile phone networks
Only 3G and 4G capable UK handsets will work in Japan. GSM-only UK phones don’t work, as there’s no GSM network. If you plan to make lots of calls or use mobile data in Japan, SIM cards are available to hire online or in-store. WiFi zones are also increasingly available in coffee shops, hotels and other public spaces.
Foreign Travel Advice by The Harver Group - Your Health Insurance Counter Fraud Services Tokyo