When preparing to trip abroad, most tourists will focus on preparing stuffs like passport, visa, list of tourist attractions to visit, as well as a list of people who will receive your gifts.

Unfortunately, not a few of those tourists forget to equip themselves with a all kinds of safety tips. In fact, every country  – especially developed countries — usually has their own safety procedures, especially when they face unwanted event like natural disaster.

So does Japan. This land of the rising sun has a number of safety tips every tourist urgently needs to know. Furthermore, besides all kind of its charm, Japan does not escape from various natural disasters.

Considering Japan is one of the countries with unique language, there is a concern that foreign tourists unfamiliar with Japanese language will have difficulties in case of emergency when they travel to Japan.

If you have plan to travel to Japan, please review these various safety tips. In general, I will divide these tips into two main parts: tips when facing natural disaster, and tips to face/prevent crime.


Safety Tips for Natural Disaster

Firefighting at Fukushima nuclear reactor post 2011 tsunami
Firefighting at Fukushima nuclear reactor post 2011 tsunami, via sites.suffolk.edu

On 22nd of November 2016, Japan was shaken by a strong earthquake (6.9 on the Richter scale). The effect of the tremble could be felt in several cities, and some areas were hit by small tsunami as high as 60 cms up to 1.40 meters.

That tsunami  even hit Onahana Port, there was a concern that it would disturb Fukushima nuclear reactor (fortunately it wasn’t that bad).

That was not the first time Japan got hit by natural disaster. In April 2016, Kumamoto prefecture was shaken by two big earthquakes. In 2016, Japan also experienced a series of disasters, including tsunami which leveled down some areas in Japan –  as well as damaged Fukushima nuclear reactor which lead to radiation disaster.

Even if we look deeper, it can be said that Japan is very prone of natural disasters. Earthquake, typhoon, volcanic eruption, tsunami, and so on are some of the disasters regularly hit Japan.

However, don’t be feared and eventually cancel your trip to Japan. Even though Japan is often swept by disasters, this country has very good early warning system and evacuation standard procedure.

Nonetheless, considering that disaster always come unexpectedly, there is no harm for those planning to visit Japan to know several tips to face various natural disaster. The main objective is that tourists do not get confused in the event of disaster, and understand the standard safety procedure they have to perform. Please review the details as follows:

Basic Information

A ship got stuck on the roof of a house post 2011 tsunami
A ship got stuck on the roof of a house post 2011 tsunami, via rd.nl

–   Japan has a good early warning system. Local citizens also regularly train to face emergency situation. Even, every house has emergency bags (containing foods, drinks, and several other equipments) ready to be carried each time they have disaster warning. So, when you are confused of what to do, you can watch the respond of local citizens when disaster occurs. (for ethics of using train in Japan)

– When you are in Japan, don’t be lazy in monitoring daily weather forecast. Japanese wether forecast is relatively accurate and can be relied on because it is based on daily monitoring. Want to be more practical? Go to Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) (click on the link) to see the latest weather forecast.

–  For daily weather warning, you can visit this website Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA)/Warnings (click on the link).

–  For travelers, you can download early warning system “safety tips” apps that will send automatic warning at the event of disaster (particularly for earthquake and tsunami). The description of that application can be read HERE, and you can download the application here: ANDROID or IPHONE.

–  To make your communication easier at the time of emergency, especially when you can not speak Japanese, you can print some communication cards below in practical size that you can carry them easily (source)

  • At the Event of Disaster

  • Confirming current safety/security

  • Post evacuation (1) 

  • Post evacuation (2) 

  • Medical treatment   

  • Information in foreign language 

  • Transportation matters 

–  In case of large scale disaster and it’s impossible for you to get back to your hotel, go find shelter for protection as soon as you can. Emergency shelters are usually built in some public facilities (like parks or schools). In that emergency shelters you will get foods, drinks, and you can use toilets.

–  At the time of disaster, sometimes telephone network doesn’t work that it will be difficult for you to be contacted or to contact your family. However, in some cases, internet network is more reliable to find information or to tell your family at home.

–  In case of very emergency situations, please note the addresses of Indonesian embassies and consulates in Japan:

  • Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Japan
    Chancery: 5-2-9, Higashi-Gotanda, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo 141-0022. Phone: 03-3411-4201
  • Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia in Osaka
    Nakanoshima Intes Building 22F, 6-2-40 Nakanoshima, Kita-ku, Osaka 530-0005. Phone: 06-6449-9898
  • Honorary Consulate of the Republic Indonesia in Sapporo
    c/o Hokkaido Gas K.K., 7-3-1, Odori-nishi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo-shi 060-8530. Phone: 011-207-2100
  • Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Indonesia in Fukuoka
    c/o Kyudenko Corp., 23-25, Nanokawa 1-chome, Minami-ku, Fukuoka-shi 815-0081. Phone: 092-523-1691.



a residential area in Kumamoto post Earthquake in April 2016
a residential area in Kumamoto post Earthquake in April 2016, via marketwatch

–  Of many kinds of disasters often hit Japan, earthquake is at the top of the list. Tohoku and Kanto area (around Tokyo) are some areas often shaken by earthquake compared to other areas in Japan.

–  This is actually standard tips applicable in every country. Every time you stay in a hotel/another type of accommodation, don’t forget to find out the emergency route for evacuation.

–  If an earthquake occurs when you are in the hotel or outside, DON’T be in a hurry to run for your life. Why? Because it is worried that you will get hurt by glass flakes or other fractions when you are panic. It’s better to take cover under a table or other objects strong enough to protect your head.

–   As an additional information, the majority of buildings (particularly new buildings) in Japan are designed with earthquake-resistant construction. Sometimes it is safer being inside a building (at the time of  earthquake) instead of rushing to get out. But if you are not sure, it’s better for you to ask the people around you (if any) whether you should get out or it is safe safe enough to stay inside.

–  if you are in a seaside, or close from the sea, get away from the sea as far as you can because it is feared that tsunami  may occur.

–  If things has begun to subside, take a good look of your surroundings. Is there fire after the earthquake, or any potential of fire? If yes, immediatelly evacuate yourself to open space. The majority of earthquake victims in Japan were not due to falling debris from collapsed buildings, but because of trapped in fire (occurring post earthquake) and they were unable to escape.

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Tsunami in Miyako (2011)
Tsunami in Miyako (2011), via gazabpost

–  areas most prone to tsunami are certainly those close to the sea. If you travel to areas close to the sea, moreover areas with history of tsunami, it is better for you to run away from seaside (especially when the earthquake occurs for more than 20 seconds). Try to run to any higher place.

–  In case, at the event of tsunami, you are located within on of the areas directly affected by tsunami (particularly when the area is far from big cities), you migh have difficulties to travel due to damaged infrastructures. You’d better go and ask about the locations of emergency shelter, because you would find various necessary information there.

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Walking into a typhoon
Walking into a typhoon, via theindependentbd

–  Typhoon often occurs between June and December, and the highest intensity of typhoons takes place from June to September. Areas in Japan with high risk of typhoon are, among others, Okinawa, Kyushu, and Hokkaido.  But overall, areas in southern Japan are more prone to typhoon compared to those of other areas.

–  When typhoon attacks, it is suggested that you not be outside. In case you are accidentally outside, go and find safe a place to take cover immediately. And, stay away from water sources (like rivers) because typhoon sometimes causes flood.

–  When typhoon occurs, public transportation usually stops operating. If you must travel at the time of typhoon, use underground transportation like subway. But if the typhoon is accompanied with flood, it is highly recommended not to use subway.


Other Disasters

Japanese people wore masks when sandstorm hit
Japanese people wore masks when sandstorm hit, via japantimes

–  It’s certain that Japan can’t escape various disasters from volcanic eruption, flood, until sand storm (from Gobi Desert). But the frequency is relatively rarer than that of earthquake, that you don’t need to be so scared when traveling to Japan. The most important is that you should always monitor the latest weather forecast and warning from local government.


Tips on Facing/Preventing Crime

Japanese Police
Japanese Police, via javedch

Japan has a very good reputation in dealing with crime, because that country is known as one of the safest country in the world. Big cities in Japan is also well known for its high level security, and it’s safe enough for tourists to walk at night alone.

But, is Japan 100% safe? Of course not. In fact,  crime is still there. Even in 2014 Asahi Shinbun revealed facts that Osaka police didn’t report more than 81,000 criminal cases (in a period from 2008 – 2012) to maintain that city’s reputation (source).

Wow! Some cases like random knife attack and mass killing have ever happened too in Japan. So, even if Japan is known as one of the safest countries, there is no harm in remaining alert all the time. Prevention is better than regret, right?

By keeping in their mind that “crime can happen anywhere, anytime, and to anyone”, there is no harm for tourists to know about some potential crimes often reported in Japan, among others are:

–  Chikan, or sexual harassment often taking place in public transport like train. Believe it or not, the perpetrators of chikan have been accustomed to committing their crime on certain train lines (like rapid or limited express – types of train which do not stop in every train station) to be able to work on their victims longer.

–  Stalker

–  Bicycle theft. Bicycle theft is one of the most often crimes in Japan. Interestingly, it is recorded that Japanese cop successfully returned more than 50% of the reportedly missing bicycles.

–  Scam. Scam cases are most often by tourists, it usually happens in areas with a number of evening entertainments (like Kabukicho and Roppongi).  In those areas, there are many people inviting tourists to enter certain bars or night clubs. Some tourists reported that they were billed with abnormal amount of money, lost their wallet, or got their credit card cracked (after swiping their credit card in that bar/club) – source.

–  Racist. OK, this is not a crime, and it may be more proper to call it “unpleasant act”. But Japan can’t escape from racial issues, and tourists who do not understand are sometimes feel offended. An example of racial issue in Japan is that certain bars and pubs prohibit foreign tourists from entering (and attach “Japanese Only” sign on their entrance) for many reasons. You can find those bars in some areas like Golden Gai (Tokyo).

Japanese Cops before the victim
Japanese Cops before the victim, via vlasenko

Some tips to prevent/face the occurrence of crime during traveling in Japan:

–  When experiencing crime, you can directly report by dialing 110 (can be done from various phones).

–  When experiencing crime in Tokyo area and you want to report by phone, contact 03-3501-0110. Services in English ae available everyday, from Monday to Friday, from 08.30-17.15 local time.

–  You can also file a report by visiting various kobanKoban is a police station house (small version of police station) can be found in every district that it creates a unique information network between the cops and the society.

–  Unable to find officers when reporting to a koban? First, don’t be worry. The police officer maybe in outside duty, patrolling, or the working hours are done (koban isn’t open for 24 hours) If your needs are really urgent, you can use the phone inside that koban, which will directly be connected to police station in that particular area.

–  To prevent any possibility of being a chikan  target (especially woman), avoid giving impression of weak. Perpetrators of chikan like to target victims who look weak because they won’t (possibly) be dare to fight back, compared to those who look firm (even though they wear more open clothes).

–  You (especially woman) can also take special train for ladies (if any) to avoid chikan. Or, avoid to travel by train during busy hours, because chikan likes to operate when the train is crowded.

–  But if that doesn’t stop you from becoming a victim of chikan, don’t get panic easily. Stay calm and look at the perpetrator’s eyes and ask him kindly to stop doing that. Or, if there’s any chance, catch their hands and shout aloud ‘chikan‘ to gain attention from other train passengers. Usually, chikan perpetrator who got caught in the act will choose to avoid conflict by getting off at the nearest station (because if captured they will be fined ranged from JPY 500,000 to 1,000,000 or jailed from 6 months to 10 years).

–  For male travelers, to avoid being accused as chikan (because there is always a possibility that the victim will misidentify the molester), you’d better avoid standing behind a woman (moreover a beautiful woman). You can also hold something (like reading book with both of your hands or holding on train grip) to avoid the possibility of being accused as chikan.

–  To minimize the potentials of getting scammed, you’ better avoid visiting areas identical wiith scam activities like Kabukicho and Roppongi.


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