While Japan sits at the top of many general safety rankings, travelers to the country still need to be aware of potential dangers and how best to react to them. A well-documented fact is that Japan is prone to acts of natural violence through typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. While most are small in scale, it’s important to be prepared.
There is always a possibility, however unlikely, that you might fall victim to a form of petty crime during your stay in Japan. If you need help, head to a local Koban—the small police boxes dotted throughout Japanese neighborhoods. If you don’t know where it is, just ask. If you should find yourself without your credit cards, airline tickets or passports due to theft, contact the issuers to arrange for replacements. Keep a list of relevant numbers.
If you need to have your passport reissued or receive an insurance payment due to theft, loss, traffic or other accidents, a police report will be required. A local police station can create this for you. Visit your local Koban, or if you are staying at a hotel, ask the front desk to give you a hand.
Your embassy is also a useful point of contact in case of any emergencies, so make a note of the location and relevant contact details before arriving in Japan. You will need to get in touch with your embassy if you need a replacement passport. Just in case, make a couple of copies of your passport and keep one with you and leave one at home.
Earthquakes can occur at any time and strike with little or no warning. Japan’s location on shifting tectonic plates means that the country is almost always shaking—it’s just that many of the quakes go unnoticed. If you are inside during a larger earthquake, remember to stay calm and follow any instructions staff might give. When you check into a hotel, double-check where the evacuation routes are so you know where to go in an emergency. Fire is the most dangerous secondary disaster, so extinguish any naked flames immediately. If you are carrying a phone, make sure to keep it charged. It can become an indispensable tool in the event of any emergency. If you are by the coast when a large earthquake strikes, head for higher ground in case of a tsunami.
In addition to the emergency number of 110, the Metropolitan Police in Tokyo has an English helpline available Monday through Friday (except on national holidays) from 8:30 a.m. to 5.15 p.m. — Dial 03-3501-0110 for this service. For mental health support, Tokyo English Life Line (TELL) has a hot line open on 03-3201-3331, every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The JNTO Tourist Information Center in Tokyo is a phone-call away on 03-3201-3331, every day 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tourist Information Centers also have two locations at Narita International Airport, and at Kansai International Airport in Osaka.