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Japan is one of the safest places on the planet to travel to. It has one of the lowest rates of crime in the world,1 extremely safe forms of transport for its citizens and visitors, and the people are very accepting of travellers from virtually anywhere on Earth.

In fact, Japan ranks ninth in the world for its peace score in the Global Peace Index 2019, four spots ahead of Australia.2 It was also Australia’s fifth favourite international destination, with more than 499,000 Australians visiting Japan in 2019.3

All that being said, nowhere on Earth is 100% safe. Despite Japan being the ninth most peaceful country in the world, you still need to ensure you’re protected in the event you get sick, you miss a flight, or your luggage ends up in the Bermuda Triangle.

Yes, you can never guarantee an incident-free trip when you travel, but you can account for this by taking out travel insurance. Here’s what you need to know about getting covered for your trip to Japan.

Do I need travel insurance for Japan?

We believe that you should always take out travel insurance for Japan, no matter your travel plans. It’s impossible to predict what may happen when on holidays; perhaps you fall and sustain an injury or eat some questionable food and end up in the hospital. As well as medical costs, travel insurance can cover you for cancelled travel plans and lost or stolen luggage.

With the right policy, travel insurance can help you out of these situations. What’s more, the Australian government can’t help you in every situation you may find yourself in overseas, so it’s essential to have more than one option for help should something happen.

What should my travel insurance policy for Japan include?

Any travel insurance for a trip to Japan should endeavour to cover – at minimum – emergency medical expenses and stolen luggage. This way, you’re covered in worst case scenarios. There is a variety of cover available, however, that will suit different travellers’ needs.

Skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports are some of Japan’s best tourist attractions. Although extreme and winter sports are usually excluded from travel insurance policies, most insurers do offer cover for these as an optional extra. The little extra you pay in premiums is offset by the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re covered for many accidents that can occur.

Additionally, if you’d prefer to drive around the country rather than fly or take the train, you should consider a travel policy that can help cover the rental car excess in the event of a crash or theft. A policy that covers medical costs would also be a smart purchase.

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Japan travel insurance: exclusions and what to watch out for

Travel insurance is a wonderful thing, but it can’t cover everything under the sun. That’s why it’s important to read and fully understand what your policy does and doesn’t cover before purchasing. Exclusions may differ from insurer to insurer, but here’s a list of some commons ones you might find in your Product Disclosure Statement (PDS).

Illegal activities. If your claim results from an incident where you knowingly did something reckless, high-risk or unlawful, it will likely be rejected by your insurer.

Pre-existing medical conditions. You may find some insurers cover a medical condition you had prior to departing on your holiday as an optional extra (for a higher premium), but this will vary by policy.

Intoxication. If you were drunk or under the influence of drugs at the time of the incident you are claiming for, it will likely be rejected.

Travelling against government warnings. As we mentioned above, your travel insurance for Japan may not cover you if you enter a region with an active warning from Smartraveller.

Extreme and winter sports. Pertinent to Japan is the exclusion of claims resulting from extreme and winter sports, as these are deemed high-risk activities.

Watch out for these dangers in Japan

Natural disasters

Earthquakes, typhoons, landslides, and volcanic eruptions. While you can’t really do anything about natural disasters, you can control how you respond to them. Make sure natural disaster cover is included in your travel insurance policy.

If you purchase travel insurance for Japan before the natural disaster becomes a known event, your insurer could cover your expenses if you have to cancel prior to departure.

As a general rule, don’t venture into any regions with active travel warningsThe Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) will issue such warnings on the Smartraveller website.

If something happens after you’ve already travelled into the area, you shouldn’t have any problems making a travel insurance claim, provided the policy covers such an event.

Volcanoes/ash clouds

Japan accounts for 110 of the world’s active volcanoes.4 Volcanic ash can be detrimental to human health and can cause long term health issues. It can also cause flight cancellations, leaving travellers unable to go on holidays or come back home.

Thankfully, natural disaster cover can make alternative travel arrangements or even reimburse your holiday! Find out more about how travel insurance can protect your holiday from volcanoes and ash clouds.

Areas affected by nuclear radioactivity

The Australian government advises Australians to stay away from certain regions of Japan. As of 2019, restricted zones include areas near Fukushima Dai-chi power plant.

Theft & crime

Japan has an exceptionally low crime rate. But that doesn’t mean crime doesn’t exist in the land of the rising sun. Keep a close eye on your belongings when in public places, be wary of your drinks when out at night, and travel with others wherever possible (safety in numbers).

Shibuya Crossing from top view at twilight in Tokyo, Japan

Staying healthy

Hospital treatment in Japan be quite expensive and they may also refuse care if you’re unable to provide proof that the costs of treatment can be paid for. This makes for a compelling argument for taking out travel insurance for Japan, where the cost of your treatment – no matter how serious the condition – may be paid for on your behalf.

Furthermore, Japan reportedly has a few endemic diseases – including Japanese encephalitis, measles and rubella – so it’s probably a good idea to consult your GP at least eight weeks before you depart about any vaccinations you may require.

Emergency services are available by calling 110 (for police) and 119 (for ambulance and fire)

Enjoying adventures

You may not necessarily think of Japan when you think of wild activities that get the blood pumping, but it’s actually a fantastic part of the world to do so.

Skiing & Snowboarding

Japan has some of the best ski fields in the world – hands down. If you’re going to take the trip to Nagano and start carving up the powder, you’d be wise to check out ski or snow sports cover as an additional extra to your Japan travel insurance policy. This can cover you for injuries encountered on the slopes, as well as things like lost passes and cancellations of tours.

Drifting school

This island nation has quite the love of racing cars. Drifting is a popular sport where you slide your car around corners…fast. You can take drifting classes to learn trade secrets, but make sure you’re going to an accredited school, and follow your instructor’s advice. If you don’t, you risk not being covered in the event of a claim.

Street karting

If you want to experience go-karting in the streets of Tokyo, you’ve come to the right place. You can dress up as various characters, while cruising in a go-kart! Although street karting has been made as safe as possible with new road rules, you’re still driving through congested Tokyo streets in an open, low-riding vehicle. Be sure to check with your insurer and street karting company whether you’d be covered by your travel insurance in the event of an accident.

Yasaka Pagoda and Sannen Zaka Street during Cherry blossom season in Kyoto, Japan.

Top travel tips for Japan

1. Mind your manners

Japanese etiquette is different in some ways to Australia’s. While you’re travelling, be respectful of the culture and enjoy partaking in it!

  • When riding trains, watch your body odour, don’t talk on the phone (keep your voice down in general), and don’t smoke inside the cabin.
  • Walking around in your shoes inside homes, certain restaurants, or even temples is considered bad manners.
  • Eating etiquette. Eating sushi with your hands is fine but use chopsticks to transport it to your plate if you’re sharing a meal with someone else. Also, don’t stick your chopsticks upright in your rice.
  • Public displays of affection may make others uncomfortable and can be considered impolite, particularly by the older generations.

2. Be aware of alcohol restrictions

The legal drinking age in Japan is 20, the blood alcohol limit for drivers is zero, and it’s even illegal to be a passenger in a vehicle driven by a drunk driver. Be sure to follow these rules, as any claim for an incident in which you’re intoxicated could be rejected.

3. Carry cash

Although card use is becoming more popular in recent years, you may find that many shops and other services only accept payment by cash, although most hotels accept the major credit cards. You can find ATMs at banks, convenience stores, and 7-Elevens. However, these may not accept all foreign cards, so you should check with your bank whether your credit card can be used in Japan.

4. Watch out for the weather

Typhoon season lasts from May to November each year and can bring torrential rain, flooding and landslides. This season is then followed by winter, which in Japan means heavy snow and freezing temperatures depending on the region. Conditions during winter can change very quickly.

You can stay up to date with the weather through the Japan Meteorological Agency. Smartraveller also has details of English-speaking services for tourists to contact.

Compare travel insurance for Japan

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, it’s a good idea to get travel insurance for peace of mind. Our travel insurance comparison service provides a quick and easy way to search, compare and choose from a selection of policies for your trip to Japan.

If you’re thinking of travelling to another destination in Asia, check out our Asia destinations hub. Otherwise, you can look through our guide to travel insurance by destination if you need more inspiration for your next overseas adventure!

Sources

1 Mai Sato – The Conversation. (2019). Despite Japan’s low crime rates, it’s seen a number of mass stabbings in the last decade. Accessed 15 June 2020.

2 Institute for Economics & Peace. (2019). Global Peace Index 2019: Measuring peace in a complex world. Accessed 15 June 2020.

3 Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2020). 3401.0 – Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia, Apr 2020. Accessed 15 June 2020.

4 Smart Traveller. (2020). COVID-19 and travel: Japan. Accessed 15 June 2020.

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