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
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
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,
for Traffic Accident Research: Fatalities by Prefecture at
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
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
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 email@example.com, or visit http://www.uscib.org
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.
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)
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:
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.
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/.
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/.
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/.
U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka is located at 2-5-26 Ohori, Chuo-ku,
telephone 81-92-751-9331; fax 81-92-713-9222. Its web site is
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/.