Safety Tips for Travelling to Japan

Safety Tips for Japan

I woke up this morning to news of another tragic bombing in Jakarta where several tourists lost their lives. It’s a sad reality that travel is no longer as safe as it once was.

When my wife and I planned our first Asian trip, we decided on picking up one of Cathay Airlines All Asian passes, as it would allow us to travel to several Asian destinations. As I sat down with big plans to jump from country to country and enjoy as many cultures as I could – reality gave me wake up call.

There were several places I really wanted to visit, but as I looked at each one I noticed several travel advisories warning about traveling there. Philippines? Terrorist threat to Westerners. Malaysia? Nope. Kidnapping warnings. Thailand? Weeks before our trip a military uprising over through the government. Indonesia? I’m not a big fan of bombings. It’s a telling story when you’re left with Vietnam on your short list of safe places to travel.

In the end, we decided to just stay longer in Japan – and I’m very glad we did.

Japan has the great reputation of being one of the safest places to travel to in the world, and my experience found that to be true. My wife and I felt very comfortable walking around Japan even after the sun went down. In one case, when we were walking through a dark park outside of Himeji castle with thousands of dollars worth of camera gear, our only worry was tripping over Japanese couples who were looking for a little alone time.

But that’s not to say that everything in Japan is perfectly safe. You still have to travel smart. So here our short list of safety tips for visiting Japan.


Safety tips Japan - Pickpockets

When in heavily congested areas like the Tokyo subway, keep your possessions close. No sense making it easier for someone with sticky fingers to walk away with your wallet.


Safety tips Japan - Women travellers

If you a woman traveling alone, see if there is a Women-only subway car that you can use during the busy times of the day (they’re usually marked in pink). Even though many Japanese are shy and reserved, some don’t seem to have a problem trying to go for a grope on a crowded subway car.

Public Parks at night

Safety tips Japan - Parks at night

I know what I said about walking through Hemiji Park at night, but here me out. Again, if you’re a single female traveler, avoid public parks at night. I’ve found the lighting to be very poor in a lot of Japanese parks, so if it would make you feel uncomfortable doing it a home, don’t do it in Japan.

No-Gaijin Bars

Stafey tips Japan - No Gaijin Bars

Don’t ask me why the last three tips all started with P. I guess I could have named this tip Prejudice Proprietors?

Although most Japanese drinking establishments will welcome foreigners, you may come across ones that give you the stink eye when you enter. Rather than try and make a stand for human equality, it’s probably better to leave. Alcohol and a population trained in martial arts do not mix well.

Don’t be a jerk

Safety tips Japan - Don't be a jerk

The Japanese prize politeness (there I go with the p’s again!), so don’t be a pushy, loudmouth. If you get popped in the nose for being a jerk, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Stay away from Yakuza

Safety tips Japan - Yakuza

If you come across tough looking guys covered in tattoos, it’s best to stay away. The alleys and streets of Shinjuku are a popular modern Tokyo Yakuza hangout.

Stay alert. Stay safe.

Safety tips Japan - Stay Alert. Stay Safe.

Use your head when traveling through Japan. If something feels unsafe then trust your gut and avoid it.

So there you go, pretty straight forward stuff. Use common sense and put these tips into practice, and you should have an enjoyable and safe visit to Japan.

Photo Credits: Tokyo lights – marcusuke, Women-only subway car – Wikipedia, Pickpocket – Archie McPhee Seattle, Park at night – malzor905, Japanese Bar – Slugicide, Jerk City – Joe Shlabotnik, Yakuza – Sushicam, Stay Alert – mr.smashy.

2 Responses to “Safety Tips for Travelling to Japan”

  1. Jesse  on July 20th, 2009

    I agree that I never felt in danger in Japan, even when my native tour guide hopped onto a subway car leaving me a few seconds behind. I just waited there and he came back a few minutes later on a different train and retrieved me. I didn’t feel threatened or in any danger there in the train station even though it was bustling with people and I was just a teenager and obviously a tourist.

    We even did some very late walking, and karaoke bar hopping one night, somewhat unintentionally, but I never felt unsafe. The food wasnt great in the late night, smoke filled, karaoke bar that we ended up at though.. ;)

  2. Travis  on July 23rd, 2009

    Nice to hear you had a similar experience, Jesse.

    I wish I could say that about more places I’ve traveled to.

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