Welcome back to a new chapter in my Tokyo 2019 series about how I plan my travels. I have been writing these blogs as I plan my trip to Tokyo in late May 2019. Can you believe it is now less than 80 days before I travel? The time is flying by. Another key reason for writing these blogs is to act as a bit of travel advice for others that may be travelling to Japan solo like me or perhaps travelling there for the first time. I try my best to address some key questions that people ask about Japan and my experiences going there. Where do you eat? Where do you stay? One question that I think pops up for most people regardless of the destination would be…is it safe?
Now I don’t profess to be any kind of travel expert or safety advice bureau. I am going to talk about my experiences, precautions and tips. You have to make your own mind up about the safety of any destination you choose to travel to anywhere in the world.
Let me say from the start that I have found Japan to be a very safe country as a traveller. I have never had any moments where I have felt threatened or concerned about my safety at all. As it turns out, Japan is one of the safest countries in the world – another reason I believe why it is considered such a great place to travel. Crime is seriously low, and law enforcement presence is high. Add to this that Japan has a strong economy and a culture that is highly respectful and shames poor behaviour. This is not to say that crime does not exist. But given the size and density of the population, it is very minimal. In a recent report, Japan was rated as having the second lowest homicide rate and second lowest assault rate in the world. Another recent study showed that in Australia, 75.59% of respondents said that they felt safe walking alone during the daylight – compared to Japan’s 90.09%. And that in Australia only 46.14% felt safe walking alone during the night compared to Japan’s 86.64%.
So you get the picture. But, that doesn’t mean that you should throw caution to the wind. Still, exercise caution when walking alone at night. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t think that a dark alley is as good a place as any to get your wallet out and count your cash. Common sense is still necessary. Do a little research on the districts that you will be visiting. Are they tourist traps filled with lots of non-Japanese people or are they local areas. Are they areas that lots of tourists go to drink?
An important aspect is safety getting around Japan. The public transport system is considered very safe. Train stations always have staff on hand and platforms are safe to wait on. Some stations have spots where women queue and men queue some distance away. From what I have found this is due to women being groped on transport. Especially on packed trains and platforms. Not a pleasant thing to consider and in recent years more has been done to address this poor social behaviour and assault. Buses and taxis are also considered safe. Walking the streets, as demonstrated earlier, is considered to be very safe. And lots of people walk at night. To and from work, train stations, etc. You even see quite young age school children walking to school without a parent.
Food and Water
It is safe to drink the water from the tap in Japan and equally safe to accept water in restaurants and cafes. If you don’t feel comfortable accepting tap water, there are vending machines everywhere selling every kind of drink you could imagine. In hotter months the devices are full of cold beverages. In colder months, the machines have a more extensive range of hot drinks and even soups. As for food, I have never had a lousy meal experience. The food from all manner of restaurants and food stalls is always fresh and prepared with high standards. Japanese food is some of the most fantastic tasting food you will ever experience as they rely on the freshness of ingredients to add to the flavour experience. Street food vendors and izakaya bars all sell freshly cooked food. You can decide for yourself if the cleanliness of a place is up to your standards.
One thing I found surprising in Japan is the presence of not just police, but other forms of security personnel. At busier times police will assist in directing traffic despite the clear road signs and lights. Most large train stations and public access hubs will have a police box. These stations are relatively small as it appears that they rarely arrest and detain many people. But I also noticed that a lot of major department stores, office buildings and other populated places would have their own security people. They are always in a uniform with a hat like a police hat. You will see them during the day stopping pedestrian traffic while a delivery truck backs into a store loading dock.
I have always used caution in carrying my belongings around Japan. Just makes sense and also helps to prevent an accidental loss of something that could ruin your holiday. When it comes to larger luggage, I have always felt safe leaving such things in my hotel rooms. Or if in transit, leaving it with hotel concierge or even in a locker at the train station. Most hotels will have a small safe if you feel the need. As for me, I always carry my passport, wallet and phone with me at all times.
Given that Japan is still a relatively cash reliant country, you will need to work out the best way to carry your cash securely. Pickpocketing is not an issue at all in Japan but again imagine if you lost your wallet. So I keep them safe. The same goes for my camera gear. I keep it in a secure bag and always keep it close — common sense stuff.
What about all the natural disasters?
I have been to Japan three times, and the worst I have experienced is a nasty, windy storm one day. Not even the slightest hint of a tremor or earthquake – silly but in some ways, I would like to experience it once — just a small shake. Japan has a lot of natural impacts given its geographical location. Earthquakes – some of the biggest in recorded history, active volcanoes that erupt from time to time and an insane monsoon season that can result in flooding and landslides. And, depending on the quake, a tsunami can be triggered.
In any event, the Japanese have been dealing with these kind of incidents for hundreds of years. In the lead up to the 2020 Olympic games, they have been practising more emergency drills and procedures. Just follow the directions given to you in the case of any such an event.
The following is the link to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trading. It has a travel section where you can get all sorts of information about the countries you are travelling to:https://dfat.gov.au/pages/default.aspx
And here is the DFAT page all about Japan including locations of embassies. May not hurt to have a bit of an idea where the Australian embassy is located in the cities you are travelling to. https://dfat.gov.au/geo/japan/Pages/japan.aspx
And finally, this is the link for DFAT’s Smart Traveller site. It has a bunch of information about safe travel in Japan. https://smartraveller.gov.au/Pages/default.aspx
Above all else, exercise some common sense precautions when travelling to Japan. Yes, I believe it to be a safe country, but that is not going to stop you accidentally stepping in front of a taxi. Be safe and have a great time. That is the whole point of taking the trip in the first place. Happy travels.