Japan is frequently rated among the safest countries in the world. Reports of crime such as theft are very low and travellers are often stunned by the fact that locals leave belongings unaccompanied in cafes and bars (though we certainly don’t recommend it!). That being said, there are a couple of safety factors travellers should keep in mind before they go.
Environmental and weather safety
Because of its geographic position in the ‘Ring of Fire’, Japan is frequently hit with natural disasters caused by the movement of the region’s tectonic plates. These natural disasters include earthquakes, tsunamis, extreme flooding and typhoons. As Japanese infrastructure is built to accommodate many of these occurrences, they rarely result in widespread harm. However, these events are expected to increase in frequency and severity if the global climate crisis is not adequately addressed.
Typhoons are the most likely natural phenomena that travellers are likely to encounter. Typhoon season officially lasts from August to October but can begin as early as May. Heavy rains (particularly in September) and strong winds are a given during these months, and there is some potential for flooding. As even severe typhoons move slowly, there is little chance of being caught unaware by one. As long as you are prepared with appropriate clothing and some optional inside activities, you are not likely to encounter any danger as a direct result of typhoons.
Earthquakes are very common in Japan, though the vast majority are very low on the ‘shindo’ scale (the rating system Japan uses to measure earthquake severity) and cause little damage. In the unlikely event of a serious earthquake, follow the directions of your Intrepid leader or local authorities. If you are on your own, drop to the ground and cover your neck and shoulders to prevent impact from falling debris. While many people think the doorway is the safest place to hide during an earthquake, this is not true of modern buildings. However, under a sturdy desk, if there is one nearby, is a good place to take cover.
The largest earthquake in Japan’s recorded history caused a devastating tsunami in 2011. Since then, major sea walls have been constructed in vulnerable areas and travellers should not be overly concerned about the risk posed by tsunamis.
Safety for LGBTQIA+ travellers
Japan is generally an incredibly safe destination for LGBTQIA+ travellers. For a detailed report on safety for LGBTQIA+ travellers in Japan, plus a rundown on queer culture in Tokyo and Osaka, go here.
Safety for solo female travellers
In general, Japan is a destination that female travellers can feel comfortable and safe travelling through alone. Verbal street harassment is relatively uncommon in Japan and women can generally walk alone without being bothered.
Unfortunately, ‘chikan’ – non-consensual groping and rubbing that often occurs on crowded trains – is still common in Japan. Women-only train carriages have been introduced on some train lines by some companies, though their existence is controversial. Convictions for perpetrators of sexual assault are rare. Photographing women without their consent by aiming a camera surreptitiously under skirts (known as ‘upskirt’ photos), is also somewhat common in cities like Kyoto and Tokyo.
Tips for staying safe in Japan
- Carefully consider whether the season you want to travel in suits your physical limitations or preferences
- Check the weather updates regularly
- Be aware of evacuation points in your accommodation
- Get a local SIM card or have a way to stay contactable at all time
- Download the earthquake warning app Yurekuru Call
- Purchase comprehensive travel insurance
Our tours in Japan