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Country Reports

Japan Country Report

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Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

Structural changes to the labour market are an important part of Prime Minister Shinzō Abe's "Abenomics" economic policy bundle. The ruling coalition's victory in the July 2019 Upper House elections means that a constitutional-amendment proposal is more likely to be tabled in the Diet in 2020, although it remains less likely to pass. If it were to pass, the subsequent plebiscite would likely fail, especially if it includes a change to pacifist Article 9. Beyond the one-year outlook, increasing civil society disillusion is the main risk threatening to undermine Japan's long-standing government stability.We have maintained Japan's near-term real GDP growth forecast: a pullback for consumer spending following the consumption tax increase and persistent weak external demand could contain economic growth before a modest recovery.The softer outlook for the global economy and narrower US-Japan interest rate differentials are unlikely to lead to a meaningful rewind of yen appreciation over the near term.Challenges include Japan's relatively high corporate tax rate compared with its neighbours, insular business culture, linguistic and cultural barriers, as well as heavy government regulation in various sectors. Japan's government will continue to make efforts to increase labour-market participation by female and elderly workers through "working-style" reforms and by foreign workers through a new visa status and other measures. Even so, the problem of a rapidly ageing population will continue to exert pressure on government finances and limit the size of Japan's workforce for at least the five-year outlook.
Last update: November 6, 2019

Operational Outlook

The aims of government policy are 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, as well as by opaque but pervasive links between the government and domestic firms frustrating market penetration. The labour force is relatively costly, but strikes are rare – when they do occur, usually in manufacturing sectors, they involve go-slows rather than halting operations.

Last update: November 20, 2019

Terrorism

The risk of terrorism in Japan is very low. Its homogeneous society and effective domestic security forces make attacks by domestic militant groups highly unlikely. Japan's geographical location (making travel costly) and minimal number of immigrants also mean attacks by foreign groups or individuals are unlikely.

Last update: November 27, 2019

Crime

Crime rates in Japan are low compared with other OECD countries. In general, violent crime remains rare and foreigners are unlikely to be targeted. Petty crime is also rare; the most likely crime to affect foreign visitors would be sexual harassment, specifically indecent exposure or molestation in public places. There has been a reported increase in weapons smuggled from China and Russia, but armed crime is likely to remain rare. The perpetrators and victims of gun-related crime tend to be affiliated with the yakuza crime syndicates. Occasional violent incidents involving knives or fire are usually motivated by individuals' grievances and are unlikely to affect foreigners.

Last update: November 27, 2019

War Risks

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 flown over Japan's territory or landed in its Exclusive Economic Zone. In 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.

Last update: November 27, 2019

Social Stability

Moderate

Protests in Japan are peaceful. Nonetheless, those triggered by specific issues are likely to reoccur at least annually. Mainly 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.

Last update: November 27, 2019

Health Risk

Very high

Vaccinations required to enter the country

No vaccinations are required to enter the country.

Routine Vaccinations

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).

Other Vaccinations

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.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Natural Risks

Severe

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).

Last update: April 5, 2019

Infrastructure

Foreign visitors will be pleased to note that Japan’s medical, hotel, transportation, and tourist infrastructures are all of the highest quality.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Practical Information

Climate

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 Numbers

Country Code: +81
Police: 110
Fire Dept., Ambulance: 119

Electricity

Voltage: 100 V ~ 50/60 Hz

Outlets:

Last update: April 5, 2019