Japan Flag
Country Description: Japan is a stable, highly developed parliamentary democracy with a modern economy. Tourist facilities are widely available.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: For information about the Japan visa waiver for tourists and Japan's strict rules on work visas and on special visas to take depositions, travelers may consult the Consular Section of the Embassy of Japan at 2520 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, tel.: (202) 939-6700, or the nearest Consulate in Anchorage, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Guam, Honolulu, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Portland, San Francisco, or Seattle.

Safety/Security: In 1994 - 1995, Japan experienced a series of attacks by the Aum Shinrikyo religious cult using deadly chemical agents, and occurring primarily in the Tokyo Mass Transit Network. Since police disruption of the group, the attacks have not recurred. Japanese police officials continue to assure the U.S. Embassy that Tokyo's subway system is safe and secure. These incidents, however, emphasize the need to continue exercising security awareness while using the subway system, immediately reporting any unattended items to subway personnel and, most importantly, not touching these items.

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: Crimes against U.S. citizens are rare and those that occur usually involve petty theft and vandalism. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Useful information on guarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad is provided in the Department of State pamphlet, "A Safe Trip Abroad." It is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.

Medical Facilities: Health care facilities in Japan are good. However, Japan has a national health insurance system, and it can be both difficult and very expensive for foreigners not insured in Japan to receive medical care. Medical care clinics do not require deposits, but insist upon payment in full at time of treatment and may require proof of ability to pay prior to treating a foreigner. The Medicare/Medicaid program does not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Private U.S. citizens cannot receive treatment at U.S. military hospitals in Japan, whose services are reserved for active duty military personnel.

U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. Supplemental medical insurance which specifically covers treatment in Japan, including provision for medical evacuation, has proven useful. The international travelers hotline at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be reached at (404) 332-4559 for additional useful health information.

It is illegal to bring into Japan some inhalers, allergy/sinus medications and other over-the-counter medicines containing trace amounts of amphetamines or amphetamine-like drugs. Travelers carrying these items have been detained by Japanese customs officials and subjected to investigation, sometimes for several weeks. Japanese officials may require travelers in possession of medicines to present copies of prescriptions. It is wise to leave all medicines in their original, labeled containers, and if travelers require medication containing habit-forming drugs or narcotics, to carry a copy of the doctor's prescription attesting to that fact. The Japanese Embassy or one of the Japanese consulates in the United States may be able to provide additional information about these requirements.

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 do not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry their U.S. passports or alien registration cards issued by the Japanese government with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of U.S. citizenship is readily available. Traffic accidents are automatically considered to involve negligence, and criminal charges can be brought in any case involving injury without specific proof of the negligence. Heavy criminal penalties are possible in cases involving injury. In a collision between an automobile and a motorcycle, the automobile driver is automatically assumed to be at fault. Persons arrested in Japan, even for a minor offense, may be held in detention for weeks or months during the investigation and legal proceedings.

Drug Penalties: Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines. See comments under Medical Facilities above regarding possible confiscation of certain over the counter medications and detention of persons traveling with such medications. In most drug cases, suspects are detained incommunicado, which bars them from receiving visitors other than a lawyer or the U.S. consular officer, and from corresponding with anyone other than their lawyer and the U.S. Embassy or consulate. Incommunicado orders generally are lifted after indictment.

Employment Disputes: Work visas are issued for a specific job with a specific employer at a specific place of work, and are not transferable. U.S. citizens cannot work in Japan while in tourist or visa waiver status. The Japanese authorities have stated that they will not allow foreigners to change their immigration status from the waiver program to work status while in Japan. If a U.S. citizen enters Japan without a work visa obtained from abroad, s/he should not expect to obtain a work visa in Japan, and if the U.S. citizen chooses to work out of status, s/he is subject to arrest and deportation. It is possible that the deportation process itself could involve several weeks of detention. Japanese Immigration Law provides for penal sanctions against those who violate its provisions.

Some U.S.-based employment agencies targeting jobs in Japan and some local Japanese employers are not fully discussing or are outwardly misrepresenting Japanese Immigration Law to U.S. citizens. The U.S. Embassy and consulates in Japan receive numerous complaints from U.S. citizens who have come to Japan to work as English teachers, carpenters, models, actors, entertainers, exotic dancers and bar hostesses. U. S. citizens' complaints include contract violations, non-payment of salary for months at a time, sexual harassment, intimidation, threats of arrest/deportation, and physical assault.

A minimum requirement for effectively seeking the protection of local Japanese labor law is a valid contract. The U.S. Embassy is aware of no case where local authorities have intervened on behalf of foreign workers except where a valid contract existed. Careful review of contracts and proof of the bona fides of the enterprise before traveling to Japan has proven useful. Complaints against U.S.-based employment agencies may be made to the Better Business Bureau or the Office of the Attorney General of the state in question.

Customs Information: Information concerning regulations and procedures governing items that may be brought into Japan is available through the Japanese Embassy and consulates in the United States. Japan has very strict laws concerning importation of firearms. Persons bringing a single firearm into Japan, including target and trophy pistols, have been subject to detention, deportation, arrest and prosecution.

Living Expenses: Japan is an extremely expensive country to visit. Visitors have found it useful to determine in advance what expenses will be and to make sure they have ample funds for their expected stay. The use of credit cards is not widespread, particularly outside of large metropolitan areas, and major credit cards may not be accepted at many locations. Travelers may wish to take this information into account when preparing for their trip. Use of taxis to travel from international airports to city centers can be prohibitively expensive, consequently, use of public transportation may be preferable.

Road Safety: Most short-term visitors choose not to drive in Japan. In Japan, vehicular traffic moves on the left, and turns at red lights are not allowed unless specifically authorized. Roads in Japan are much more narrow than in the U.S., and traffic jams are common. Drivers should exercise particular caution with respect to motorcyclists, who frequently exceed the speed limit and disregard traffic rules. See the above section on Criminal Penalties regarding Japanese laws concerning traffic accidents. Japanese Compulsory Insurance (JCI) covering death and injury is mandatory for automobile owners. For specific information on Japanese requirements concerning driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Japanese National Tourist Organization which has offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles, or local police stations in Japan.

Registration: U. S. citizens living in or visiting Japan are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy or a consulate. They may also obtain updated information on travel and security within the country at the U.S. Embassy or consulates.

U.S. Embassy and Consulate Locations: The U.S. Embassy in Japan is located at 10-5, Akasaka 1-chome, Minato-ku (107), Tokyo - Telephone: (81-3) 3224-5000; Fax: (81-3) 3224-5856. Recorded information for U.S. citizens (24 hours) is available at 8 (81-3) 3224-5168.

The U.S. Consulate General in Naha is located at 2564 Nishihara, Urasoe, Okinawa 90121. Telephone: (81-98) 876-4211. Fax: (81-98) 876-4243.

The U.S. Consulate General in Osaka-Kobe is located at 11-5 Nishitenma 2-chome, Kita-Ku, Osaka 530. Telephone: (81-6) 315-5900. Fax: (81-6) 315-5914. Recorded information for U.S. citizens (24 hours) is available at (81-6) 315-5995. Recorded visa information for non-U.S. citizens (24 hours) is available at (0990) 512-122. Internet: http://www.senri-i.or.jp.

The U.S. Consulate General in Sapporo is located at Kita 1-Jo Nishi 28-chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 064. Telephone: (81-11) 641-1115. Fax: (81-11) 643-1283.

The U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka is located at 5-26 Ohori 2-chome, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka 810. Telephone: (81-92) 751-9331/4. Fax: (81-92) 713-9222.

The U.S. Consulate in Nagoya is located at Nishiki SIS Building 6F 10-33 Nishiki 3-chome Naka-ku, Nagoya 460. Telephone: (81-52) 203-4011. Fax: (81-52) 201-4612. The Special Consulate in Nagoya offers only limited emergency consular services for U.S. citizens.

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