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Did you know, Japan ranks twelfth in the world for its peace score in the Global Peace Index 2021. Although it’s generally a safe country, accidents can still happen. Travel insurance for Japan could be extremely helpful in the event you get sick, you miss a flight, or your luggage ends up lost in transit.

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Do I need travel insurance for Japan?

It’s important to consider travel insurance for Japan, no matter your travel plans. It’s impossible to predict what may happen when on holiday; whether it’s loss of stolen property, sustaining an injury or needing urgent medical care, travel insurance is there to help ease the problem. Along with medical costs, travel insurance can cover you for emergency assistance for cancelled travel plans, repatriation and medical evacuation.

Unfortunately, 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 cover – at a minimum – emergency medical expenses and stolen luggage. This way, you’re covered in worst-case scenarios. There is a variety of insurance cover available from basic to comprehensive travel insurance, that will suit different travellers’ needs.

Skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports are some of Japan’s best tourist attractions, particularly on the island of Hokkaido. 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 travel insurance premiums could be offset by the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re covered for a variety of accidents that can occur.

Additionally, if you’d prefer to drive around Kyoto or the Osaka region rather than fly or take the train, you should consider a travel insurance 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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Travel insurance for Japan: exclusions

It’s important to read and understand what your travel insurance policy includes and excludes before purchasing. It’s handy to ask for any general advice before taking off on your Japanese holiday. Exclusions may differ from insurer to insurer, but here’s a list of some common 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. Your travel insurance for Japan may not cover you if you enter a region with an active warning from Smartraveller.2
  • 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.

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Watch out for these dangers in Japan

Natural disasters

Earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis, landslides, and volcanic eruptions are all possible in Japan. 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 pay cancellation fees prior to departure.

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

Volcanoes/ash clouds

Japan accounts for 110 of the world’s active volcanoes.3 Volcanic ash can be detrimental to human health and can cause long term health issues. It can also cause flight cancellations, leaving international travellers unable to go on holidays or citizens to 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 reconsider their need to travel to the restricted areas near the tsunami-stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. The 2011 earthquake caused the release of lethal radiation.

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 and personal effects 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 and healthcare in Japan can 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 has reported a few endemic diseases including Japanese encephalitis, measles and rubella, so it’s a good idea to consult your GP at least eight weeks before you depart about any vaccinations you may require.

Emergency services in Japan are available by calling:
icon-ambulance-min119 (for ambulance and fire)
110 (for police)

Enjoying adventures

Skiing & Snowboarding

Japanese snow regions such as Hokkaido have some of the best ski fields in the world, hands down. If you’re going to take the trip to Nagano or Sapporo 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 pop-culture 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 from 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 travel insurance 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 in Japan still only accept payment by cash, although most hotels accept 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 which may mean travel delays. 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 So keeping important travel documents safe from wet weather is a good idea.

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!

Stephen Zeller, General Manager

Meet our travel insurance expert, Stephen Zeller

As the General Manager of General Insurance, Stephen Zeller is our resident expert in travel insurance. He believes in educating customers about this product so that anyone can kick back and make the most of their time away from home.

Stephen has over 30 years of experience in financial services and he’s also an allied member of the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF). Stephen is passionate about helping customers prepare for their trip.

Stephen’s top tips for travel insurance in Japan

  1. Consider a higher excess to reduce your premium while travelling
  2. Always declare any pre-existing medical conditions to ensure there are no surprises if you are injured or become ill.
  3. Purchase travel insurance as soon as you make a booking and pay any deposits or final amounts to ensure you have the cancellation cover should you need to cancel your trip.
  4. Leave a photocopy of your travel insurance policy and passport with someone back home in case you lose yours while overseas or need assistance.
  5. If you plan to travel more than once throughout the year, you may find greater value in purchasing annual cover – travel insurance that covers all your trips for a full year.

Sources

1 nippon.com – Japan Comes 12th in 2021 Global Peace Rankings. Accessed November 2021.

2 smartraveller.gov.au – Japan – Safety. Accessed November 2021.

3 smartraveller.gov.au (2020). COVID-19 and travel: Japan  – Climate and Natural Disasters. Accessed November 2021.

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