Japan Guide - Health and safety

Health and safety

Hygiene standards are high in Japan, and medical facilities - although expensive - are widely available. Probably the most important preventative measure is to make sure that you are healthy before you start traveling. Dental treatment is expensive as well, so it's a good idea to have a check-up before you leave. Make sure that you bring extra contact lenses or glasses as well as any medications you might need. Getting correct medications may be difficult - and illegal if you don't have your prescription handy (it’s also a good idea to know the generic name of the drug as well as the brand name). However, medical treatment and drugs are of high quality. No immunizations or health certificates are necessary for Japan. Food is almost always safe to eat and you can drink tap water throughout Japan but should avoid drinking directly from streams or rivers. You should also avoid wading barefoot in rice paddies or stagnant water as there could be parasites living in the water.

Insurance

It’s a very good idea to take out a good travel insurance policy to protect you from theft, property loss or health problems. Due to the high cost of hospital treatment in Japan, you want to make sure that are covered before you arrive. If you're not sure where to look, ask your travel agent. Make sure you read through the policy and find out which one will work best for you. For example, some policies will not cover you if you're doing activities such as scuba diving, cycling and even hiking. If your itinerary includes these things than you don't want to sign up for that policy. Other things to check for are: ambulances and emergency flights home, payment method (do they pay upfront or do you get reimbursed), and low or high medical expense options.

Reimbursement

Most insurers will not arrange on-the-spot payments in the event of a major expense or loss. You will usually be reimbursed only after going home. In cases when something has been lost or stolen you will have to get a report from the local police in order to make a claim. For medical problems you’ll also need copies of the bills paid for treatment and medicines.

Medical Kit

A small medical kit can save you the problem of running around a foreign city and looking for items that are a lot easier to find at home. Things you might consider including in your kit are: band-aids/bandages, Aspirin or Advil, Antihistamines, Imodium or Lomotil for stomach problems, an antiseptic, rehydration medicine in case of severe diarrhea, calamine lotion, a small set of scissors, lip balm, insect repellant and sunscreen.
 

Dangers

Japan is a generally an extremely safe country. Theft and crime in general are not common, and those who have spent a fair amount of time in the country can relate several instances when wallets, watches or other valuables have been promptly returned or at least left alone. That being said, carelessness is often the cause of problems, so you should always be careful while in crowded transit areas. If you do happen to lose something on a train or in an airport, check with the lost and found service at the appropriate office, and more likely than not it'll turn up. Because of the safety factor, Japan is a great place to travel with children. Just make sure you keep an eye on them, as it's also a very crowded country.

Earthquakes are a fact of life in this tectonically active area. Nonetheless, although small tremors are fairly common, the chance of experiencing a large quake is extremely low. If there is an earthquake, head for a doorway or a place with supporting beams or pillars or even under a desk or table for protection. It's best to be outside, but stay clear of buildings, as falling debris can be dangerous.  For this reason, it is advised not to run outside from the inside of a building while an earthquake is in progress.

For more information on the Great East Japan Earthquake of 11th March 2011, please read our report here.

Western toilets are available in modern buildings such as hotels and airports, and sometimes in train or bus stations. However, if you're staying in Japan, you are more than likely going to get to experience the Japanese toilet. Most modern buildings have western toilets nowadays, but public bathrooms and older buildings still use the traditional kind. The correct position is to face away from the door toward the hood of the toilet (this is the opposite of most other Asian countries). Toilet paper is not always provided so it's a good idea to carry your own tissue.

In homes and small businesses, a special pair of bathroom slippers is provided for you to change into while using the facilities, and change out of when you are finished.

Visitors to Japan who are expecting peaceful Zen gardens may be a bit surprised at the noise pollution that bombards you from every direction. This is mainly concentrated in the metropolitan areas, but earplugs or an ipod can help. The size of things in Japan can also be a minor nuisance for travelers as well. Even average-sized visitors must be aware of their head in Japanese houses, and long-legged foreigners will be forced to get creative in small seats and cramped toilets.

Japan’s wildlife does not provide much of a danger to humans exploring the natural surroundings. Probably the most notorious inhabitant is the habu snake in Okinawa Prefecture. If you are bitten – don’t panic, as anti-venoms are available. The best thing to do is to wrap the limb tightly, attach a splint to immobilize it and seek medical treatment. The other poisonous snake on the mainland is the mamushi but they are not much of a threat. If you are hiking through the Northern Alps or remote areas of Hokkaido you should be aware that there are bears. Brown bears, especially in Hokkaido can be very protective of their cubs. Although bear attacks are rare, you should particularly pay attention in autumn when they are rummaging for food before hibernating. Other possible dangers are foxes that carry diseases, stinging insects for those with allergic reactions, and stinging jellyfish at certain times during the summer. In general, there is very little to worry about with regards to wild animals.

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Japan General Information

Part 1 Information on Japan
Part 2 Getting to Japan
Part 3 Tourist information
Part 4 Passport and visas
Part 5 Costs and money issues
Part 6 Post and telephone
Part 7 Internet and newspapers
Part 8 Measurements
Part 9 Health and safety
Part 10 Accommodation
Part 11 Food
Part 12 More food!

Please note: We will be updating this section in the near future. If you would like to help us do this, please do contact us.  Thank you.