Japan is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia, attracting over 31 million international visitors in 2019. With its vibrant cities, fascinating culture, delicious cuisine, and natural beauty, it’s easy to see why so many travelers flock to the Land of the Rising Sun each year.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Yes, Japan is overwhelmingly safe for American tourists. It has extremely low crime rates, even in major cities, and tourists are unlikely to encounter any threats to their personal safety.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore in detail what makes Japan so safe, any potential risks American tourists should be aware of, tips for staying safe, and how to handle emergencies if they arise.
Reasons Why Japan is Considered Extremely Safe
Low Crime Rates
Japan has consistently been ranked as one of the safest countries in the world, with impressively low crime rates. According to the Numbeo Crime Index, Japan ranks among the top countries with the lowest crime rates.
This means that American tourists can feel at ease while exploring the vibrant cities and tranquil countryside of Japan.
Strict Gun Control Laws
One of the key factors contributing to the safety in Japan is its strict gun control laws. The possession of firearms is highly regulated, and it is extremely rare for civilians to own guns. This significantly reduces the risk of gun-related crimes and mass shootings, making Japan a safe destination for American tourists who may have concerns about gun violence.
Cultural Emphasis on Order, Discipline, and Non-Violence
The Japanese culture places a strong emphasis on order, discipline, and non-violence. This cultural value permeates all aspects of society and contributes to the overall sense of safety in the country.
The Japanese people are known for their politeness, respect for others, and adherence to rules and regulations, creating a harmonious and safe environment for both locals and tourists.
High Conviction Rates and Harsh Sentencing
Japan has a high conviction rate, which acts as a deterrent to potential criminals. The Japanese criminal justice system is known for its efficiency and thoroughness, resulting in a high rate of successful prosecutions.
Additionally, the country has strict sentencing laws, ensuring that criminals face harsh penalties for their actions. This strong legal framework contributes to a safer society and enhances the overall safety of Japan for American tourists.
Investment in Public Safety and Security
Japan is committed to ensuring the safety and security of its citizens and visitors. The government invests heavily in public safety measures, including surveillance systems, well-trained police forces, and emergency response services.
This proactive approach to public safety helps to maintain a secure environment and provides reassurance to American tourists that they are in good hands during their visit to Japan.
Potential Risks for American Tourists
Petty Crimes in Dense Tourist Areas
While Japan is generally considered a safe country, it is not immune to petty crimes, especially in densely populated tourist areas. Pickpocketing and bag snatching can occasionally occur in crowded places such as train stations, shopping centers, and popular tourist attractions.
To minimize the risk, it is advisable to keep your belongings secure and be vigilant in crowded areas. Using a money belt or keeping your valuables in a secure bag can be a wise precaution.
The language barrier can be a challenge for American tourists in Japan. English is not widely spoken, especially outside major cities and tourist destinations. However, many Japanese people are friendly and willing to help, so don’t hesitate to ask for assistance.
Learning a few basic Japanese phrases and carrying a pocket-sized phrasebook can greatly enhance your communication experience and make your trip more enjoyable.
Japan is prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons, and tsunamis. However, the country has strict building codes and advanced disaster preparedness measures in place. Earthquakes are relatively common in Japan, but most are minor and go unnoticed by visitors.
In the event of a major earthquake or other natural disasters, follow the instructions of local authorities and stay informed through reliable sources such as the Japan Meteorological Agency website (https://www.jma.go.jp/jma/indexe.html).
Japan’s complex transportation system and maze-like streets can make it easy for tourists to get lost, especially in large cities like Tokyo. However, Japan has one of the most efficient and user-friendly transportation systems in the world.
It is recommended to carry a map or use GPS navigation on your smartphone to navigate through unfamiliar areas. Additionally, don’t hesitate to ask for directions from locals or station staff, as they are often very helpful.
Tips for Staying Safe as a Tourist
When traveling to Japan as an American tourist, it is important to prioritize your safety. Japan is generally considered a safe country for tourists, but it is always wise to take precautions and be aware of your surroundings. Here are some helpful tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip:
Research Customs and Etiquette
Before visiting Japan, take the time to familiarize yourself with Japanese customs and etiquette. This will not only show respect to the local culture but also help you avoid any unintentional faux pas.
For example, bowing is a common greeting in Japan, and it is important to remove your shoes when entering someone’s home or certain establishments. Understanding these cultural practices will help you blend in and avoid unintentionally offending anyone.
Use Caution With Alcohol
While Japan has a vibrant nightlife and is known for its sake and beer culture, it is important to drink responsibly. Excessive drinking can make you more vulnerable to accidents, theft, or other safety hazards. Additionally, it is crucial to be aware of your alcohol tolerance and know your limits.
If you plan on drinking, consider staying in groups and arranging for transportation back to your accommodation.
Beware of Scams Targeting Foreigners
Like any tourist destination, Japan is not immune to scams targeting foreigners. Be cautious of individuals who approach you on the street with offers that seem too good to be true, such as discounted tickets or exclusive tours.
It is always best to book activities and tours through reputable travel agencies or directly from the official websites of attractions. If you encounter a suspicious situation, trust your instincts and remove yourself from the situation.
Carry a Card with Your Hotel Address
When exploring Japan’s bustling cities or venturing into more rural areas, it is essential to have a card or written note with your hotel’s address in both English and Japanese. This will come in handy if you ever get lost or need directions.
Japanese addresses can be complex, and having the address written down will make it easier for locals or taxi drivers to assist you in finding your way back to your accommodation.
Get a Pocket WiFi Device
A pocket WiFi device can be a lifesaver for tourists in Japan. These portable devices provide you with a reliable internet connection wherever you go, allowing you to access maps, translation apps, and other helpful tools.
Having a pocket WiFi device ensures that you can navigate the country with ease and stay connected in case of emergencies. Many companies offer pocket WiFi rentals at airports or can be pre-ordered online before your trip.
By following these tips, you can have a safe and enjoyable experience while exploring all that Japan has to offer. Remember to stay vigilant, respect the local customs, and make the most of your time in this amazing country!
What to Do in Case of Emergency
Contact the Nearest Police Box (Koban)
In the event of an emergency in Japan, one of the first steps you should take is to locate the nearest police box, known as a “Koban.” These small police stations are conveniently located throughout the country, including popular tourist areas.
The Koban officers are trained to handle a wide range of situations and can provide immediate assistance or guide you to the appropriate authorities. They can help with lost items, provide directions, and even offer translation services if needed.
Remember, the police officers in Japan are known for their professionalism and dedication to ensuring public safety.
Call the Tourist Police Hotline
For emergencies or if you require immediate assistance, you can also contact the Tourist Police Hotline. This hotline is specifically designed to assist foreign visitors and is available 24/7. The operators speak multiple languages, including English, and can offer guidance or dispatch the necessary help.
The Tourist Police Hotline is a valuable resource for American tourists who may find themselves in unexpected situations while traveling in Japan.
Contact the U.S. Embassy/Consulates
Another important step in case of an emergency is to contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulates in Japan. These diplomatic missions are here to assist American citizens in times of need. They can provide valuable information, advice, and support during emergencies, including natural disasters, medical emergencies, or legal issues.
It is recommended to register your trip with the Embassy or Consulate before traveling to Japan, as this will enable them to reach out to you in case of an emergency.
Use Japan’s Excellent Medical Facilities
Japan is known for its world-class medical facilities and high standard of healthcare. In case of a medical emergency, you can rest assured that you will receive excellent care. The hospitals in Japan are equipped with state-of-the-art technology and staffed by highly skilled doctors and nurses.
If you require immediate medical attention, dialing 119 will connect you to an ambulance service that can transport you to the nearest hospital. It is important to have travel insurance that covers medical expenses while in Japan to avoid any unforeseen costs.
In conclusion, Japan provides an extremely safe environment for American visitors. While petty crimes do exist, especially in crowded tourist hubs like Tokyo and Osaka, violent crime is rare. Use common sense, exercise reasonable precautions, learn some Japanese phrases, and you’re highly unlikely to encounter any threats during your trip.
So don’t let any lingering doubts about safety deter you from visiting this amazing country. The Japanese people are friendly, helpful, and go out of their way to make foreign guests feel welcome. With its unparalleled mix of modern comforts and fascinating traditional culture, Japan should be at the top of every world traveler’s list.