The Department of Foreign Affairs strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before travelling to Japan. You should note any exclusions, and check that your policy covers you for the activities you are planning to undertake.
Travellers should note that the Irish Government does not provide funds for emergency medical repatriation or for repatriation of remains.
Summary Travel Advice
Do not travel to within 20km of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima Prefecture where a Japanese Government exclusion zone is in place. Avoid non-essential travel to the areas beyond this where radiation hotspots have been identified.
EARTHQUAKES AND TSUNAMIS
Japan is in a very active earthquake zone and earthquakes of various sizes occur frequently throughout the country. Irish citizens travelling to or resident in Japan should familiarise themselves with the measures to take in the event of an earthquake. As was seen in March 2011, a major off-shore earthquake can be accompanied by very destructive tsunamis. Citizens travelling to coastal areas should be especially alert for tsunami warnings that may be issued by the Japanese authorities.
Tsunami warnings issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center can be found here.
Citizens staying in Japan for extended periods are also advised to register with the Irish Embassy.
March 2011 Earthquake in Japan:
An earthquake of magnitude 9 on the Richter Scale struck the north-east of Japan on 11 March 2011. A subsequent tsunami severely affected the north-east coast and caused widespread loss of life and destruction to property and infrastructure.
The earthquake and tsunami also severely damaged the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima Prefecture (240km from Tokyo). The cooling systems were knocked out and four of the six reactors at the plant were seriously damaged. There were a number of explosions and significant releases of radiation into the air and ocean.
The Japanese authorities have implemented an exclusion zone encompassing a radius of 20km around the Plant and illegally entering this zone is a punishable offence. There are further non-mandatory exclusion areas outside this 20-km zone, where smaller radiation hot-spots have been detected. The Irish government advises against non-essential travel to these areas, which can be seen on the following Japanese government map. Up-to-date Japanese government information on the radiation levels around the Fukushima Plant can be found here. The Japanese authorities are carrying out comprehensive monitoring of possible contamination of water and food and are imposing strict controls where necessary. The situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has stabilised, although it will take decades to decommission and decontaminate the plant.
Elsewhere in the north-east of Japan, the situation has largely returned to normal and there is no reason to avoid or postpone travel to this region, provided one exercises due caution.
OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS
The Japanese typhoon season runs from June to October, with the period between August and September seeing the most typhoon activity. Typhoons that hit Japan are often accompanied by high tides and landslides that can occur anywhere during continuous periods of heavy rain.
Travellers to Japan (particularly southern regions) should pay attention to local travel information and consult the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), which provides information in English. You should also check with your airline or transport operator before travelling.
Japan has several active volcanoes. You should follow advice given
by the Japanese authorities about travelling in volcanic
Mt Kirishima in Miyazaki/Kagoshima Prefectures, Kyushu, and Mt Sakurajima in Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu, are currently at Alert Level 3 (do not approach the volcano), as advised by the JMA. For further information please consult local media.
For entry requirements for Japan, please contact the nearest Japanese Embassy or Consulate.
All foreign visitors entering Japan will be fingerprinted and digitally photographed during entry procedures. Those refusing to be fingerprinted or photographed will be denied entry to Japan. Persons under the age of 16, special status permanent residents and those performing actions which would be performed by those with a status of residence, "diplomat" or "official government business" will be exempt from these procedures. Full information may be found on the website of the Immigration Bureau, Ministry of Justice.
It is advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you. During your stay you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times.
Japan is a safe country with low levels of crime. You should of course take the same precautions for your safety and security as you would anywhere else.
The police can be contacted by calling 110. Further information on dealing with the Japanese emergency services is available on the website of the Embassy of Ireland in Tokyo.
CASH AND BANKING
Visitors to Japan may experience difficulties accessing funds through some ATMs using cash cards issued in Ireland. It is advisable for visitors to have an alternative means with which to access funds should such situations arise (e.g. a credit card with a cash advance facility or travellers' cheques).
There are numerous English language schools in Japan recruiting teachers from overseas. The Department strongly advises job applicants to scrutinise the details of the terms and conditions of their prospective contracts and of their prospective agency/ employer, in order to ensure that they are fully satisfied of the good standing of those agencies/employers and that their conditions of employment will be met.
LOCAL LAWS & CUSTOMS
Consumption of Alcohol
Customs and laws concerning the consumption of alcohol in Japan are broadly similar to those in Ireland. There are severe penalties against drink-driving or allowing someone else to drink and drive by, for example, being a passenger in a vehicle driven by a drunk driver.
Irish citizens should also be aware that there have been several reported instances of drinks being spiked in certain districts in Tokyo. For this reason, one should avoid leaving drinks unattended and avoid accepting free drinks from third parties.
There have also been reports of people unexpectedly receiving very large bills for drinks in certain establishments, so care should be taken to find out in advance the price to be charged for the drinks being purchased.
Be aware that alcohol and drugs can lead to you being less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment.
Japan has a zero-tolerance policy towards drug offences and penalties for the possession, distribution and trafficking of even small amounts of illegal drugs are severe.
There are restrictions on the importation of some over-the-counter and prescription medicines and this may include certain types of allergy and sinus medication. If a visit to a doctor is required, there are a number of clinics with English-speaking personnel who widely advertise their services. However, it may not be possible to obtain the same brand-name medication that is available in Ireland.
Japanese roads are modern and well maintained. The rules of the road are broadly similar to those in Ireland, and traffic travels on the left-hand side. Visitors wishing to drive in Japan require an international driving license and insurance.
Longer-term residents who wish to drive in Japan will need to obtain a domestic driving license within their first year in the country. Information on how to obtain this can be found on the website of the Embassy of Ireland in Tokyo.
REGISTERING WITH IRISH EMBASSY IN JAPAN
Irish citizens who are staying in Japan for more than 3 months should register with the Embassy of Ireland in Tokyo. Contact details for the Embassy of Ireland to Japan are available here. (Opens in new window)