Japan Country Report
The faraway Japanese archipelago (population 127 million) remains a low-risk destination. Trips to Japan - where an average of more than 6 million foreigners visit annually - are traditionally carried out under secure, calm conditions.
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).
Japan’s complicated regional geopolitical situation, including its historically contentious relations with North Korea, South Korea, and China (constantly alternating between dialogue, cooperation, and friction; relations between Tokyo and Beijing remain tense as of mid-2016), generally does not affect the stability of this wealthy East Asian nation, nor does it have an impact on travel to the archipelago.
It should also be stated that social movements are sometimes organized to denounce the large American military presence in the country (50,000 soldiers). Most of these demonstrations, like those held in 2015, take place in Okinawa (located in the extreme southwest of the country).
The next national elections (legislative) will be held in late 2016.
Foreign visitors will be pleased to note that Japan’s medical, hotel, transportation, and tourist infrastructures are all of the highest quality.
Finally, travelers should note that several dozen cases of dengue fever were detected in central Tokyo in late August 2014; experts believe patients contracted the disease in the city’s parks, in particular Park Yoyogi but also Shinjuku Central Park and Meiji Jingu Gaien/Gaien Sotobori Park, all of which were partially closed to the public in response to this health threat.
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.
Useful NumbersCountry Code: +81 Police: 110 Fire Dept., Ambulance: 119
Voltage: 100 V ~ 50/60 Hz
Japan: Heavy snowfall along western coast Feb. 6
TIMEFRAME: from 2/6/2018, 12:00 AM until 2/6/2018, 11:59 PM (UTC).
Japan: Widespread disruptions due to winter weather Jan. 25 /update 1
TIMEFRAME: from 1/25/2018, 12:00 AM until 1/27/2018, 11:59 PM (Asia/Tokyo).