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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet

Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Japan

Japan - Consular Information Sheet
December 5, 2000

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Japan is a stable, highly developed parliamentary democracy with a modern economy. Tourist facilities are widely available.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport and an onward/return ticket are required. A visa is not required for tourist/business stays up to 90 days. For information about the Japanese visa waiver for tourists, Japan's strict rules on work visas, special visas to take depositions, and other visa issues, travelers should consult the Consular Section of the Embassy of Japan at 2520 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, tel. (202) 939-6700, or the nearest Japanese consulate. In the United States, there are Japanese consulates in the following cities: Agana (Guam), Anchorage, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Portland (Oregon), Saipan (Northern Marianas), San Francisco and Seattle. Additional information is available via the Internet on the Embassy of Japan home page at http://www.embjapan.org/.

While active-duty U.S. military personnel may enter Japan under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with proper Department of Defense (DOD) identification and travel orders, all SOFA family members, civilian employees and contractors must have a valid passport and, in some cases, a SOFA visa to enter Japan. Active duty military personnel should obtain a tourist passport prior to leaving the U.S. to accommodate off-duty travel elsewhere in Asia. DOD travelers should consult the DOD Foreign Clearance Guide, DOD 4500.54, http://www.fcg.pentagon.mil, before leaving the U.S.

U.S. citizens transiting Japan should ensure that their passports and visas are up to date before leaving the United States. Many Asian countries deny entry to travelers whose passports are valid for less than six months. It is not usually possible to obtain a new U.S. passport and foreign visa during a brief stopover while transiting Japan. Airlines in Japan will deny boarding to Americans who seek to transit Japan without the required travel documents for their final destinations in Asia.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: There have been no major terrorist incidents in Japan since 1995. Nevertheless, Americans traveling abroad in any country should exercise security awareness.

CRIME: Crimes against U.S. citizens in Japan are rare and usually only involve personal disputes, theft or vandalism. Some Americans believe that Japanese police procedures appear to be less responsive to a victim's concerns than would be the case in the United States. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: While medical care in Japan is good, English-speaking physicians and medical facilities that cater to Americans' expectations are expensive and not very widespread. Japan has a national health insurance system, which is only available to foreigners with long-term visas for Japan. National health insurance does not pay for medical evacuation or medical care outside of Japan. Medical caregivers in Japan require payment in full at the time of treatment or concrete proof of ability to pay before treating a foreigner who is not a member of the national health insurance plan.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the U.S. It can be both difficult and expensive for foreigners not insured in Japan to receive medical care. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $120,000. Private U.S. citizens are ineligible for treatment at U.S. military hospitals in Japan or U.S. military medical evacuation to the U.S. In the event of death, the cost of preparation and shipment of remains to the U.S is over $15,000. Extended psychiatric care for foreigners in Japan is difficult to obtain at any price.

Please check with your insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor, or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death. Persons with serious medical conditions who travel to Japan may wish to consider obtaining insurance that specifically covers medical evacuation because the cost for medical evacuation from Japan can be extremely expensive.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers' hotline, which may be reached from the United States at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747), via its toll-free autofax number at 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

CONFISCATION OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS AND OTHER MEDICATION: It is illegal to bring into Japan some over-the-counter medicines commonly used in the United States, including inhalers and some allergy and sinus medications. Japanese customs officials have detained travelers carrying prohibited items, sometimes for several weeks. Some U.S. prescription medications cannot be imported into Japan, even when accompanied by a customs declaration and a copy of the prescription. Japanese physicians can often prescribe similar, but not identical, substitutes. Lists of Japanese physicians are available from the U.S. Embassy and consulates and from the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of American Citizens Services. Persons traveling to Japan carrying prescription medication that must be taken daily should consult the Japanese Embassy in the U.S. or the Japanese Customs Bureau's English-language web site at http://www.narita-airport-customs.go.jp/eng/hints_frame.html before leaving the U.S. to confirm whether they will be allowed to bring the particular medication into Japan. Japanese customs officials do not make on-the-spot "humanitarian" exceptions for medicines that are prohibited entry into Japan.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Japan is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Excellent
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural road conditions/Maintenance: Good
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Good
(in Japanese only)

Driving in Japan is quite complicated and expensive. Those who cannot read the language will have trouble understanding road signs. Highway tolls are assessed at about U.S. $1 per mile. City traffic is often very congested. A 20-mile trip in the Tokyo area may take two hours. There is virtually no roadside parking. In mountainous areas, roads are often closed during the winter, and cars should be equipped with tire chains. Foreigners should be alert to traffic on secondary roads, which does not come to a full stop at traffic lights or stop signs. Roads in Japan are much narrower than those in the United States. Japanese compulsory insurance (JCI) is mandatory for all automobile owners and drivers in Japan. Most short-term visitors choose not to drive in Japan. Vehicular traffic moves on the left. Turns at red lights are forbidden unless specifically authorized.

Japanese law provides that all persons who drive in Japan are held liable in the event of an accident, and it assesses fault in an accident on all parties. Drivers stopped for driving under the influence will have their licenses confiscated. Drivers involved in an accident resulting in injury or death face criminal prosecution with a maximum penalty of 5 years' imprisonment. The National Police Agency (NPA) oversees the administration and enforcement of traffic laws. Further information in English is available on the NPA's web site at http://www.npa.go.jp.

An international driving permit issued in the U.S. by the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) is required of short-term visitors who drive in Japan.

Emergency Assistance: Within Japan, please dial 110 for police, and 119 for ambulance. For roadside assistance, please contact JAF at: 03-5395-0111 in Tokyo, 06-577-0111 in Osaka, 011-857-8139 in Sapporo, 092-841-5000 in Fukuoka, or 098-877-9163 in Okinawa.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Japanese driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Japan National Tourist Organization offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York or San Francisco via the Internet at http://www.jnto.go.jp/. In addition, information about roadside assistance, rules of the road and obtaining a Japanese driver's license is available in English from the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) web site at http://www.jaf.or.jp/e/index_e.htm. Please see also road safety information from other sources in Japan, including the following: Japan Road Safety Links: National Organization for Automotive Safety and Victims' Aid (OSA) at http://www.osa.go.jp/html99e/994100e.html, Ministry of Transport at http://www.motnet.go.jp/index.htm, Institute for Traffic Accident Research and Data Analysis at http://www2.ceri.go.jp/eng/e9a.html, and Institute for Traffic Accident Research: Fatalities by Prefecture at http://www2.ceri.go.jp/eng/e9a.html.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Japan's civil aviation authority as Category 1 - in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Japan's air carrier operations.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at tel. 618-229-4801.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Japan has very strict laws regarding the importation and possession of firearms and other weapons. Persons bringing a firearm or sword into Japan (including target and trophy pistols, air guns and Japanese-origin swords) may have these items confiscated by Japanese customs authorities, and may themselves be arrested, prosecuted and deported or jailed. Some prescription medications, as well as some over-the-counter medications, cannot be imported into Japan (See "Confiscation of Prescription Drugs and other Medication" section in this Consular Information Sheet.) Please contact the Japanese Embassy or nearest Japanese Consulate in the U.S., or visit the Narita Airport (Tokyo) Customs' web site in English at http://www.narita-airport-customs.go.jp/eng/index.html, for specific information regarding import restrictions and customs requirements.

Japanese customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary importation into Japan of professional equipment, commercial samples and/or goods for exhibitions and trade fairs. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information, please call (212) 354-4480, or send e-mail to atacarnet@uscib.org, or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking Japanese law can be more severe than in the U.S. for similar offenses. Persons violating Japanese law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Japan are strict, and convicted offenders can expect "hard time" jail sentences and fines. In most drug cases, suspects are detained incommunicado, which bars them from receiving visitors or corresponding with anyone other than a lawyer or U.S. consular officer until after indictment, which may take several weeks. Persons arrested in Japan, even for a minor offense, may be held in detention without bail for many weeks during the investigation and legal proceedings. Information about Japanese criminal law is available in English at the National Police Agency web site at http://www.npa.go.jp/.

IMMIGRATION PENALTIES: Japanese work visas are issued outside of Japan for a specific job with a specific employer at a specific place of employment, and are not transferable. It is illegal for U.S. citizens to work in Japan while in tourist or visa waiver status. Japanese authorities do not allow foreigners to change their immigration status from tourist or visa waiver status to work status while in Japan. Japanese immigration officers may deny entry to travelers who appear to them to have no visible means of support. Please contact the Japanese Embassy or nearest Japanese consulate in the United States for guidance on what constitutes adequate financial support for a specific period of time. A U.S. citizen who works in Japan without a work visa may be subject to arrest, which can involve several weeks of incarceration, followed by conviction and imprisonment or deportation. The deportee must bear the cost of deportation, including legal expenses and airfare. Changes to Japanese immigration law enacted in February 2000 make illegal entry or landing into Japan a crime and bar former illegal entrants from returning to Japan for five years.

CONSULAR ACCESS: U.S. citizens should carry their U.S. passports or Japanese alien registration cards with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available. In accordance with the U.S.-Japan consular convention, U.S. consular officers are generally notified within 24 hours of the arrest of a U.S. citizen, if the U.S. citizen requests consular notification.

CONDITIONS AT PRISONS AND DETENTION FACILITIES: Japanese prisons and detention facilities maintain internal order through a regime of very strict discipline. American citizen prisoners often complain of stark, austere living conditions and psychological isolation. A prisoner can apply for parole only after serving two thirds of his/her sentence. No early application for parole is allowed for any reason--humanitarian, medical or otherwise. Access to competent interpreters is not required at all times under Japanese criminal law. Japan has no prisoner transfer treaty with the U.S. Information about detention in Japan is available in English at the National Police Agency web site at http://www.npa.go.jp/.

EMPLOYMENT ISSUES: The Japanese economy remains in recession, and no American citizen should come to work in Japan without the proper working visa arranged ahead of time, or in the hopes of earning a large salary. U.S. citizens planning to work in Japan should never enter Japan using a tourist visa or the visa waiver, even if they have been advised to do so. Such actions are illegal and can lead to arrest, incarceration and/or deportation.

Assessing Employment Offers: Some U.S.-based employment agencies and Japanese employers do not fully discuss, or correctly represent, the true nature of employment terms and conditions. U.S. consular officers in Japan receive numerous complaints from U.S. citizens who come to Japan to work as English teachers, carpenters, models, actors, entertainers, exotic dancers and bar hostesses. These complaints include contract violations, non-payment of salary for months at a time, sexual harassment, intimidation and threats of arrest, deportation and physical assault.

A minimum requirement for effectively seeking the protection of Japanese labor law is a written and signed work contract. Without such a contract, Japanese authorities do not intervene on behalf of foreign workers. It is prudent for U.S. citizens coming to work in Japan to carefully review their contracts and the bona fides of their Japanese employer before traveling to Japan. U.S. consular officers generally are unable to confirm the bona fides of prospective Japanese employers, although they may be familiar with organizations about which they have received complaints. If asked to do something they find troubling, U.S. citizens may wish to reassess their reason for being in Japan, and consider terminating their employment and returning to the United States. Complaints against U.S.-based employment agencies or recruiters may be directed to the Better Business Bureau at http://www.bbb.org, or the Office of the Attorney General of the state in question.

Teaching English: For specific information on teaching English in Japan, please contact the Embassy of Japan or nearest Japanese consulate in the United States, or visit the Embassy of Japan's home page on the Internet at http://www.embjapan.org/.

LIVING EXPENSES: Japan's cost of living is one of the highest in the world. An American family, expecting to lead an unostentatious U.S.-middle class lifestyle in the Tokyo area, to include recreation, children's education in English, clothing, medical and dental care, housing and food, should be prepared for $100,000-$200,000 in annual expenses. This lifestyle may be unavailable at any price in outlying areas. The use of credit cards is not widespread, particularly outside major cities. While there are ATMs in Japan, most are not open 24 hours a day or do not accept a U.S.-based card. Taxi fares from airports to downtown Osaka and Tokyo can cost hundreds of dollars. The airport departure fee is collected in cash (in local currency, the Japanese yen) at Kansai (Osaka) International Airport, but generally it is included in the ticket prices of flights departing from Narita (Tokyo) International Airport.

ENGLISH HELP AND INFORMATION LINES: Tourists and foreign residents in Japan have access to valuable information, including professional counseling, via help and information telephone hotlines. The Tokyo English Lifeline provides English-speaking counseling and referrals at 03-3968-4099. The Japan Help Line provides similar assistance nationwide at 0120-461-997.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Japan is faced with the ever-present danger of deadly earthquakes and typhoons. Responsibility for caring for disaster victims, including foreigners, rests with the Japanese authorities. One of the first things a traveler should do upon arriving in Japan is to learn about earthquake and disaster preparedness from hotel or local government officials. General information regarding disaster preparedness is available via the Internet on the home pages of the U.S. Embassy, Tokyo, and the U.S. Consulate General, Osaka-Kobe via links through http://travel.state.gov/links.html, and from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) home page at http://www.fema.gov/.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone 202-736-7000.

REGISTRATION/U.S. EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: U.S. citizens resident in or visiting Japan are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo or one of the five U.S. consulates in Japan, where they may also obtain updated information on travel and security within Japan. Registration forms are available via the home pages or by fax from the U.S. Embassy or one of the U.S. consulates. Alien registration formalities required under Japanese immigration law are separate from U.S. citizen registration, which is voluntary but allows U.S. consular officials to better assist American citizens in distress. Registration information is protected by the Privacy Act.

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo is located at 1-10-5 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-8420 Japan; telephone 81-3-3224-5000; fax 81-3-3224-5856. Recorded information for U.S. citizens concerning U.S. passports, notarials and other American citizen services is available 24 hours at 81-3-3224-5168. Recorded visa information for non-U.S. citizens is available at the following 24-hour toll phone number: 0990-526-160. The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo's web site is http://usembassy.state.gov/tokyo/. Please see also the U.S. Commercial Service in Japan's web site at http://www.csjapan.doc.gov.

The U.S. Consulate General in Osaka-Kobe is located at 2-11-5 Nishitenma, Kita-ku, Osaka 530-8543; telephone 81-6-6315-5900; fax 81-6-6315-5914. Recorded information for U.S. citizens concerning U.S. passports, notarials and other American citizens services is available 24 hours at 81-6-6315-5900. Recorded visa information for non-U.S. citizens is available at the following 24-hour toll phone number: 0990-526-160. Its web site is http://synapse.senri-i.or.jp/amcon/.

The U.S. Consulate General in Naha is located at 2564 Nishihara, Urasoe, Okinawa 901-2101; telephone 81-98-876-4211; fax 81-98-876-4243. Its web site is http://usembassy.state.gov/naha/.

The U.S. Consulate General in Sapporo is located at Kita 1-Jo Nishi 28-chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 064-0821; telephone 81-11-641-1115, fax 81-11-643-1283. Its web site is http://usembassy.state.gov/sapporo/.

The U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka is located at 2-5-26 Ohori, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka 810-0052;
telephone 81-92-751-9331; fax 81-92-713-9222. Its web site is http://usembassy.state.gov/fukuoka/.

The U.S. Consulate in Nagoya is located at the Nishiki SIS Building 6th Floor, 3-10-33 Nishiki, Naka-ku, Nagoya 460-0003; telephone 81-52-203-4011; fax 81-52-201-4612. The U.S. Consulate in Nagoya offers only limited emergency consular services for U.S. citizens. The U.S. Consulate General in Osaka-Kobe handles all routine matters. A consular officer from the U.S. Consulate General in Osaka Kobe visits the U.S. Consulate in Nagoya on the second Wednesday of every month. During those visits the consular officer provides consular services to U.S. citizens by appointment. To make an appointment for consular services in Nagoya, please contact the U.S. Consulate in Nagoya at the number listed above. The U.S. Consulate in Nagoya's web site is http://usembassy.state.gov/nagoya/.

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