Japan Country Report
Policy priorities have remained consistent if plagued by predictable delays since Shinzō Abe became prime minister in December 2012. Despite delays in labour-market reform and an ongoing scandal involving Abe's wife, policy implementation will probably remain strong relative to previous administrations. Challenges include Japan's high tax rate compared with its neighbours, insular business culture, linguistic and cultural barriers, and heavy government regulation in various sectors. Japan faces the problem of a rapidly ageing population, which puts pressure on government finances and limits the size of its workforce. The most immediate security threat to Japan is North Korea's ballistic missiles, although war remains unlikely.
Official policy in Japan is to reduce or maintain low levels of regulatory burden for foreign entities. Corruption is low relative to the regional average. However, high operational costs and Japan's closed business environment pose obstacles to market-entry and smooth business operations. Rather than overt operational issues, foreign entities will probably be challenged by "keiretsu" networks between companies, suppliers, and financial institutions and by opaque but pervasive links between the government and domestic firms frustrating market penetration for foreign firms. The labour force is relatively costly, but strikes are very rare – when they do occur, usually in manufacturing sectors, they involve go-slows rather than halting operations.
War remains unlikely, although North Korea's development of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons continues to pose a security threat to Japan: since July 2016, multiple North Korean missiles have landed in Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone or flown over its territory. During the long term, the increasing frequency of exercises in the East and South China seas raises the risk of naval skirmishes and mid-air accidents between China and Japan, which both claim the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. However, these are unlikely to lead to a full military confrontation. Japan also has territorial disputes with Russia and South Korea, which present a relatively lower risk of escalation towards conflict.
Protests in Japan are peaceful. However, those triggered by specific issues will probably reoccur at least annually. Primarily in Okinawa, protests against US military bases are well-attended, with up to hundreds of protesters joining a sit-in outside Camp Schwab since July 2014. Since the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, a strong anti-nuclear movement has staged regular protests involving thousands in central Tokyo. Protests against a constitutional revision for the Japan Self-Defense Forces are also probable. The agriculture lobby will probably protest against the phasing-out of a 40-year-long rice subsidy by April 2019.
Vaccinations required to enter the country
No vaccinations are required to enter the country.
Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.
Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.
Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).
Japanese Encephalitis: For stays of longer than one month in a rural zone during the rainy season (for children over the age of one). The vaccine is administered in a local medical facility.
For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.
This serenity was brutally shattered by the powerful earthquake (magnitude 8.9; epicenter located 300 km northeast of Tokyo) that devastated the northeast on March 11, 2011, and the violent tsunami (waves as high as 30 meters) that followed shortly thereafter. The double disaster caused a tragically high death toll (between 10,000 and 20,000 victims) as well as significant material damages (homes and infrastructure destroyed) along 600 kilometers of coastline.
Adding to the crisis was the fact that several nuclear power plants, damaged during the earthquake (cracks, fires, explosions), began to leak radioactive materials, compounding the threat to nearby residents. These catastrophic events pushed Japanese authorities to institute specific security measures beginning on March 12, 2011 (confinement, travel restrictions, tens of thousands of individuals evacuated). Travel to Fukushima prefecture (within a 40 km radius of the damaged power plant, which is itself located 300 km from Tokyo) remains formally advised against.
In “normal” times, the only serious risk faced by travelers to Japan, located in the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” is an assortment of natural disasters. Typhoon season lasts from June until September (an average of six to ten typhoons are reported each year); during this time floods ‒ often severe – are regular occurrences. As evidenced by the earthquake on March 11, 2011, earthquakes of varying intensities are a constant risk, as are tsunamis. Furthermore, the risk of volcanic activity is high (Japan falls along five different volcanic arcs).
Foreign visitors will be pleased to note that Japan’s medical, hotel, transportation, and tourist infrastructures are all of the highest quality.
Japan's climate varies significantly between its southern islands (Kyushu, Shikoku) and the island of Hokkaido in the north.
In the south of the archipelago, the rainy season lasts from mid-June until mid-July. Winters are very cold in the north and the west, with regular snow. Summers are rainy and humid and typhoons often strike in September (violent winds, torrential downpours), principally in the south; temperatures are cooler on Hokkaido while the western (Tokyo) and southern coasts of Honshu, Japan's largest island, are warmer with sunnier days. Spring and autumn are very pleasant with mild temperatures and infrequent rain.
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Voltage: 100 V ~ 50/60 Hz