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    Communicative strategies are systematic techniques employed by a speaker to express his meaning when faced with some difficulty and the difficulty here refers to the speaker’s inadequate command of the language used in the interaction (Faerch & Kasper, 1983:16). On the other hand, the term learning strategies has been defined as “the higher-order skills […]
  • Review: Teaching Unplugged by Luke Meddings and Scott Thornbury August 13, 2012
    by Hall Houston About 8 years ago, I read an article titled “Teaching Unplugged” by Scott Thornbury in It’s for Teachers magazine. The article described a new approach to teaching languages that de-emphasized coursebooks and other teaching materials, and stressed real communication between students. This approach was loosely based on a Danish film […]
  • Living and Working in Japan: A guide for US Citizens May 23, 2012
    Japan is a stable, highly developed parliamentary democracy with a modern economy. Tourist facilities are widely available, except in coastal areas of Northeast Japan still recovering from the aftermath of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami. Below is a comprehensive list of all the information you should read before visiting or relocating to […]
  • Experience a New Culture When you Teach English in China May 21, 2012
    The human desire to help others is an innate one. This is why, despite the negative aspects, people are still very attracted to the profession of teaching, notes Thomas Galvin. It has been regarded for centuries as a very noble job, and no doubt this will continue for centuries to come. Many teachers these […]
  • The Importance of Vocabulary Roots in AP English April 16, 2012
    The Advanced placement exams are very important for students, suggests Joseph Paul, as they look very good on the students’ report cards and also help them to get credit in certain universities which helps them to save a major portion of the tuition money demanded from students who have not cleared the exam. The […]
  • Business Translation: A Useful TEFL Sideline? April 8, 2012
    The use of translation in business is heavily underestimated and misunderstood. However translation has a big part to play in business and is rapidly becoming one of the most useful things an organisation can use to get ahead in the business world. Whether it be using in-house translators to transcribe documents, official papers […]
  • How to Judge the Quality of Language Learning Software March 21, 2012
    We all know that learning a language is a great way to enhance the look of your resume! Fortunately, there are lots of different options available to you to help you make that a reality. Out of the vast number of options available to you, the option that provides you with the most […]
  • The worst ELT interview questions… and how to answer them March 12, 2012
    Some friends of Naturegirl123 were talking about interview questions that they got. Here are some difficult ones to answer and suggested answers. What religion are you?/ Are you X religion? This could be a legit question if you’re applying to a religious school. If you have the same religion as the school, simply say […]
  • Invoice factoring as a way of financing your language school March 12, 2012
    You’re looking into alternative ways to keep the finances in order in your burgeoning language school. Why not consider invoice factoring? Please don’t think of invoice factoring as a loan because it’s actually something quite different to that: it is more correctly defined as the acquisition of a financial asset. What does that mean? […]
  • Language Classes… Heat Up Careers! March 9, 2012
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Living and Working in Japan: A guide for US Citizens

Japan is a stable, highly developed parliamentary democracy with a modern economy. Tourist facilities are widely available, except in coastal areas of Northeast Japan still recovering from the aftermath of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami. Below is a comprehensive list of all the information you should read before visiting or relocating to the country.


You must have a valid passport and an onward/return ticket for tourist/business “visa free” stays of up to 90 days. Your passports must be valid for the entire time you are staying in Japan. U.S. citizens cannot work on a 90-day “visa free” entry. As a general rule, “visa free” entry status may not be changed to another visa status without departing and then re-entering Japan with the appropriate visa, such as a spouse, work, or study visa.

For more information about the Japanese visa waiver program for tourists, Japan’s rules on work visas, special visas for taking depositions, and other visa issues, you should consult the Consular Section of the Embassy of Japan at 2520 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel. (202) 238-6800, or the nearest Japanese consulate. Please visit the Japanese Embassy’s website for location details. The U.S. Embassy and U.S. consulates in Japan cannot assist in obtaining visas for Japan.

All foreign nationals entering Japan, with the exception of certain categories listed below, are required to provide fingerprint scans and to be photographed at the port of entry. This requirement is in addition to any existing visa or passport requirements. Foreign nationals exempt from this requirement include special permanent residents, persons under 16 years of age, holders of diplomatic or official visas, and persons invited by the head of a national administrative organization. U.S. travelers on official business must have a diplomatic or official visa specifying the nature of travel as “As Diplomat,” “As Official,” or “In Transit” to be exempt from biometric collection. All other visa holders, including those with diplomatic and official visas stating “As Temporary Visitor,” are subject to this requirement. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) personnel, are exempt from biometrics entry requirements under SOFA Article IX.2.

If you are a U.S. citizen entering or transiting Japan, make sure that your passport and visa are up-to-date before you leave the United States. Occasionally, airlines mistakenly board U.S. citizens coming to Japan even though their passports have already expired. The U.S. Embassy and U.S. consulates cannot simply vouch for you without a valid passport, and passport services are not available at the airport. In some prior instances, travelers have been returned immediately to the United States, while in other cases, they have been issued 24-hour “shore passes” and required to return the next day to Japanese Immigration for lengthy processing.

Many Asian countries require you to hold a passport valid for at least six months after you enter the country. Airlines in Japan will deny you boarding for transit if you don’t have the required travel documents for an onward destination in Asia. For the entry requirements of the country you’re traveling to, check the State Department’s Country Specific Information website

Airlines in Japan will deny you boarding for onward flights to China if your passport does not have a valid Chinese visa. You will then have to obtain a Chinese visa in Japan, which can be a long and complicated process. The U.S. embassy and U.S. consulates cannot assist in obtaining Chinese visas. More information is available in the Country Specific Information for China.

Long-Term Residency Requirements: 

Japan amended its Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act in 2009, and the changes will take effect July 12th, 2012. In addition, under the 2006 revision of the same law, if you are a long-term resident who obtained residence through your Japanese ancestry, you may have to provide evidence that you do not have a criminal record in your home country before you can renew residency status in Japan. As Japanese Immigration regulations are complex and changing, the Embassy recommends that you consult directly with your local immigration office for specific guidance. You can obtain a Proof of no U.S. criminal record through the FBI Identification Record Request.

Starting July 12, 2012, the Japanese government will institute a new residency system impacting the following groups:

* Foreign nationals with Permanent Resident status;

* Foreign nationals who have long-term residence in Japan based on familial relationships with Japanese citizens;

* Foreign nationals with “College Student” status; and

* Foreign nationals issued a working visa in various professional classifications such as Engineer, Specialist in Humanities / International Services, Research, Business Management, Designated Activities, etc.

The changes in the new residency system include new residence cards, a new maximum stay of five years, a new re-entry permit system, updated requirements for reporting to the Japanese Immigration Bureau, as well as new regulations requiring aliens legally resident in Japan to report to the city offices where they reside. As part of the new policy, a new Residence Card (zairyu kaado) will replace the current Alien Registration Certificate (ARC). Resident aliens will also be required to be registered by household in the same manner as Japanese citizens.

The new procedures also include updates and changes to penalties for those who are unable to maintain legal status in Japan or fail to comply with new the new reporting regulations. Both prospective and current resident aliens in Japan should be familiar with updated procedures to ensure compliance with current policies.

As the changes in Japanese immigration and resident registration procedures and the affected groups described above are not a comprehensive listing, please check directly with the Japan Immigration Bureau or the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC). The Japanese government websites below have more information on these changes:

Also, it is important to remember that “Long-Term Resident” (teijusha) and “Permanent Resident” (eijusha) are different and therefore are subject to different requirements.

For a renewal of visa status or a change in visa status, you should bring your Japanese health insurance card (social insurance or national health insurance) to immigration offices in addition to your passport.  Immigration officials will urge those applicants without a health insurance card to join the Japanese public health insurance system.

HIV/AIDS Restrictions:

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors or foreign residents of Japan.


There have been no major terrorist incidents in Japan since 1995. However, you should be aware of the potential risks and take these into consideration when making travel plans.

The Government of Japan maintains heightened security measures at key facilities and ports of entry as antiterrorism precautions. At times, these security measures may increase because of regional tensions with North Korea. The Government of Japan is vigilant in tracking terrorist threat indicators and remains at a high state of alert. You can contact local police substations (koban) and police emergency dispatchers (tel. 110) to report any suspicious activity.

U.S. offices in Japan communicate threat information through our nationwide e-mail message system and post current threat information on the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizens Services (ACS) web page.

You can stay up to date by:

  • Taking some time before travel to consider your personal security—Here are some useful tips for traveling safely abroad.


The general crime rate in Japan is well below the U.S. national average. Crimes against U.S. citizens in Japan usually involve personal disputes, theft, or vandalism. Violent crime is rare but does exist. Sexual assaults do not happen often but do occur, and females may be randomly targeted. Hate-related violent crimes rarely occur, though some U.S. citizens have reported being the target of comments or actions because of their nationality or their race. There have been some incidents of pick pocketing of foreigners in crowded shopping areas, on trains, and at airports. Every year, a number of U.S. citizens report their passports lost or stolen at international airports, especially passports that were carried in their pockets.

Some U.S. citizens report that Japanese police procedures appear to be less sensitive and responsive to a victim’s concerns compared to the procedures in the United States, particularly in cases of domestic violence or sexual assault, or when both the victim and the perpetrator are foreigners. Few victim’s assistance resources or battered women’s shelters exist in major urban areas, and they are generally unavailable in rural areas. Investigations of sexual assault crimes are often conducted without female police officers present and police typically ask about the victim’s sexual history and previous relationships. The quality of Japanese-English interpretation services can vary, and for some U.S. citizen victims, this has caused a problem.

Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are such goods illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.

Concerns Regarding Roppongi and other Entertainment and Nightlife Districts: 

  • Roppongi is an entertainment district in Tokyo that caters to foreign clientele and is considered a high-risk area for crime, particularly misappropriation of credit card information in bars to make fraudulent credit card charges. Other high-risk areas for crime in the Tokyo area include Shinjuku (especially the area of Kabuki-cho), Shibuya, and Ikebukuro. However, you should use caution in all entertainment and nightlife districts throughout Japan. Incidents involving U.S. citizens since the spring of 2008 in these areas include physical and sexual assaults, drug overdoses, theft of purses, wallets, cash and credit cards at bars or clubs, and drugs allegedly slipped into drinks.
  • Drink-spiking has routinely led to robbery and has also resulted in physical and sexual assaults. In most drink-spiking reports, the victim unknowingly drinks a beverage that has been mixed with a drug that makes the victim unconscious or dazed for several hours, during which time the victim’s credit card is used for large purchases or the card is stolen. Some victims regain consciousness in the bar or club; other victims may awaken on the street or in other unknown locations. Several U.S. citizens have also reported being charged exorbitant bar tabs in some bars and clubs in Roppongi and other entertainment and nightlife districts. Please be aware that Roppongi and other entertainment and nightlife districts have also been the scenes of violence between criminal syndicates in the past.

We urge you to keep these incidents in mind and use caution in all entertainment areas and nightlife districts.


If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:

  • Replace a stolen passport.
  • Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
  • Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want us to, we cancontact family members or a friend.
  • Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.

The local equivalents to the “911″ emergency line in Japan are 110 (police) or 119 (ambulance/fire).

Contacting Police, Fire and Ambulance Services: You can reach the police throughout Japan by dialing 110. Fire and ambulance services can be contacted by dialing 119. Note that these numbers may not work from cell phones and English-speaking dispatchers may not be available. Please review advice on how to call for help. If you need assistance, you should be able to describe your address/location in Japanese or find someone who can do so, since few police officers speak English.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.


While you are traveling in another country, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In Japan, you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport or Japanese alien registration card to show your identity and visa status. Driving under the influence could also land you immediately in jail. If you violate Japanese law, even unknowingly, you may be arrested, imprisoned, or deported. If you are arrested in Japan, even for a minor offense, you may be held in detention without bail for several months or more during the investigation and legal proceedings. A list of English-speaking lawyers located throughout Japan is available on our website. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods or purchase child pornography. While you are overseas, U.S. laws don’t apply. If you do something illegal in your host country, you are subject to the laws of the country even though you are a U.S. citizen. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you go.

  • Illegal Drugs: Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs, including marijuana, are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and fines. In most drug cases, suspects are detained and barred from receiving visitors or corresponding with anyone other than a lawyer or a U.S. consular officer until after the first hearing. Solitary confinement is common.
  • You could be convicted of drug use based on positive blood or urine tests alone, and several U.S. citizens are now serving time in Japanese prisons as the result of sting operations that used informants. The Japanese police routinely share information on drug arrests with Interpol, assuring that notification of the arrest will reach U.S. law enforcement agencies. About a quarter of all U.S. citizens now in prison in Japan are incarcerated for drug-related crimes.
  • Japanese authorities aggressively pursue drug smugglers with sophisticated detection equipment, “sniffing” dogs, and other methods. When entering Japan, you and your luggage will be screened at ports of entry. Incoming and outgoing mail, as well as international packages sent via DHL or FedEx, is also checked carefully. The Japanese police make arrests for even the smallest amounts of illegal drugs. Several U.S. citizens have been arrested, tried, and convicted after having mailed illegal drugs to themselves from other countries, or for having tried to bring drugs into Japan as paid couriers working out of Southeast Asia or Europe.
  • Knives: Possession of a knife with a locking blade, or a folding blade that is longer than 5.5 cm (a little more than two inches), is illegal in Japan. U.S. citizens have been arrested and detained for more than 10 days for carrying pocket knives that are legal in the United States but illegal in Japan.
  • Immigration Penalties: Japanese work visas are not transferable and are issued outside of Japan for a specific job with a specific employer at a specific place of employment. It is illegal for you to work in Japan while in tourist or visa-waiver status. Japanese authorities do not allow foreigners to change their immigration status from visa-waiver status to work status while in Japan. Japanese immigration officers may deny you entry if you appear to have no visible means of support. Please contact the Japanese Embassy or nearest Japanese consulate in the United States for information on what is considered enough financial support. If you work in Japan without a work visa, you may be subject to arrest, which can involve several weeks or months of incarceration, followed by conviction and imprisonment or deportation. If you are deported, you will have to pay the cost of deportation, including legal expenses and airfare.
  • Overstaying your visa or working illegally may lead to fines of several thousands of dollars, and in some cases, re-entry bans can be as long as ten years or indefinitely for drug offenders. For additional information please see Japan’s Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act.

Arrest notifications in Japan:

Generally, when you are arrested in Japan, the police will ask if you would like the U.S. embassy or consulate to be notified of your arrest. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.


Japan has very strict laws regarding the importation and possession of firearms and other weapons. Persons bringing a firearm or sword into Japan (including target and trophy pistols, air guns, some pocket knives, and even Japanese-origin swords) may have these items confiscated by Japanese customs authorities and may be arrested, prosecuted, and deported or jailed. Some prescription medications, as well as some over-the-counter medications, cannot be imported into Japan. (Please see the “Confiscation of Prescription Drugs and other Medication” section below.) Please contact the Japanese Embassy or nearest Japanese consulate in the United States, or visit the Japanese Customs website for specific information regarding import restrictions and customs requirements.

Japanese customs authorities encourage the use of an Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission (ATA) Carnet in order to temporarily import professional equipment, commercial samples and/or goods for exhibitions and trade fairs into Japan. The ATA Carnet Headquarters is located at the U.S. Council for International Business (U.S. CIB), 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036 issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information, please call (212) 354-4480, or email the U.S. CIB for details.

Confiscation of Prescription Drugs and Other Medication: 

The Japanese government decides which medications may be imported legally into Japan. The Embassy and Consulates of Japan in the United States have limited information available and do not have comprehensive lists of specific medications or ingredients.

You can bring up to a two-month supply of allowable over-the-counter medication and up to a two-month supply of allowable vitamins into Japan duty-free. However, it is illegal to bring some over-the-counter medicines commonly used in the United States, including inhalers and some allergy and sinus medications into Japan. Specifically, products that contain stimulants (medicines that contain pseudoephedrine, such as Actifed, Sudafed, and Vicks inhalers) or codeine are prohibited. You can generally bring up to one month’s supply of allowable prescription medicine into Japan. You must bring a copy of your doctor’s prescription as well as a letter stating the purpose of the drug.  However, some U.S. prescription medications cannot be imported into Japan, even when accompanied by a customs declaration and a copy of the prescription. You should not mail prescription medicines, including insulin and injectors, without obtaining an import certification called “Yakkan-Syoumei” from the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare.

Japanese physicians can often prescribe similar but not identical substitutes for medicines available in the United States. You can consult a Japanese doctor by phone before you travel to Japan, to find out what medications are available and/or permitted in Japan. Here is a list of English-speaking medical facilities. Certain popular medications that are legal in the United States, such as Prozac and Viagra, are sold illegally in Japan on the black market. Please bear in mind thatyou risk arrest and imprisonment if you purchase such drugs illegally while in Japan.

If you travel to Japan carrying prescription and non-prescription medications, you should consult the Japanese Embassy or a Japanese consulate in the United States before leaving the United States to confirm whether or not you will be allowed to bring this particular medication into Japan.


The Japanese Animal Quarantine Service (AQS) sets procedures for importing pets. At a minimum, the process will take 7-8 months, though the process can take up to a year before a pet may enter Japan. Advance planning is critical. You can find more information about importing a pet into Japan or information about exporting a pet from Japan on our embassy website.

Consular Access: 

You must carry your U.S. passport or Japanese alien registration card with you at all times so that if questioned by local officials, you can prove your identity, citizenship, and immigration status. Under Japanese law, the police may stop any person on the street at any time and demand to see identification. If you do not have with you either a passport or valid Japanese Alien Registration Card, you are subject to arrest. In accordance with the U.S.-Japan Consular Convention, U.S. consular officers are generally notified within 24 hours of the arrest of a U.S. citizen, if the U.S. citizen requests consular notification.

Employment Issues: 

U.S. citizens should not come to Japan to work without having the proper employment visa arranged ahead of time, or in the hopes of earning a large salary. Teaching English, even privately, and serving as hosts/hostesses are both considered “work” in Japan and are illegal without the proper visa.

Some U.S.-based employment agencies and Japanese employers do not fully discuss or correctly represent the true nature of employment terms and conditions. U.S. consular officers in Japan receive numerous complaints from U.S. citizens who come to Japan to work as English teachers, carpenters, models, actors, entertainers, exotic dancers, and bar hosts/hostesses. The complaints include contract violations, non-payment of salary for months at a time, sexual harassment, intimidation, and threats of arrest, deportation, and physical assault.

A minimum requirement for effectively seeking the protection of Japanese labor law is a written and signed work contract. Without a signed contract, Japanese authorities do not get involved on behalf of foreign workers. If you’re coming to Japan to work, carefully review your contracts and the history and reputation of your Japanese employer before traveling to Japan. We cannot confirm information about prospective Japanese employers although we may be familiar with organizations or have received complaints in the past. If you are asked to do something you find troubling, you should reconsider being in Japan and think about terminating your employment and returning to the United States. Complaints against U.S.-based employment agencies or recruiters should be directed to the Better Business Bureau or the Office of the Attorney General in that particular state.

Living and Travel Expenses: 

Japan’s cost of living is one of the highest in the world. The use of credit/debit cards is not widespread, particularly outside major cities. While there are ATMs in Japan, most are not open 24 hours a day, and only a very limited number accept U.S.-issued cards. ATMs at major airports, foreign bank branches, Japanese post offices, 7-11 stores and some convenience stores are more likely to accept foreign cards than are those at other locations. You should make sure that you have access to sufficient funds through credit cards, debit cards, or cash to carry out your travel, and know how to contact your banking or credit card establishments in an emergency.

In summer 2010, Western Union resumed service in Japan, offering cash-to-cash transfers across 200 countries and territories to and from some areas in Japan. Western Union service is available at the following Travelex offices.

  • Chiba: Narita Airport Terminal 1, Narita Airport Terminal 2
  • Tokyo: Roppongi, Shinjuku (Ome-Kaido Ave), Shinjuku South Gate, Hibiya, Aqua City Odaiba, Keisei Ueno,Otemachi, Tokyo Station (Yaesu Shopping area) T-CAT, LaLaport Tokyo Bay, Shiodome, Ikebukuro (West)
  • Yokohama: Yokohoma Sky Bldg
  • Kyoto: Kyoto Shijo (Nippon Travel), TiS Kyoto (Kyoto Station)
  • Osaka: Nankai Namba, TiS Osaka (Osaka Station)
  • Hyogo: TiS Sannomiya
  • Nagoya: Meitetsu Department Store B1 (Nagoya Station), Nagoya Chunichi Bldg 2F (Sakae)
  • Sapporo: Chuo-ku, Asty 45 Building
  • Fukuoka: Tenjin
  • Sendai: Aoba-ku, Ever-I Building

More information can be found in English at and in Japanese at

Taxi fares from airports to downtown Osaka and Tokyo can cost hundreds of dollars; bus fare can run US$40 or more. The airport departure fee is generally included in the ticket prices for flights departing from international airports in Japan. Bus fare between Narita (Tokyo) International Airport and Haneda Airport in Tokyo is approximately $40 and takes from 90 to 120 minutes.

English Help and Information Lines: 

As a tourist or foreign resident in Japan, you can have access to valuable information, including professional counseling, through help and information telephone hotlines. The Tokyo English Lifeline (“TELL”) provides English-speaking counseling and referrals at 03-5774-0992. The Japan Help Line provides similar assistance nationwide at 0570-000-911 (domestic), 813-3435-8017 (international).

Disaster Preparedness: 

Japan is faced with the ever-present danger of deadly earthquakes, tsunamis, and typhoons. Japan is one of the most seismically active locations in the world; minor tremors are felt regularly throughout the islands. On March 11th, 2011, an earthquake registering 9.0 on the Richter scale struck the northeastern coast of Japan and triggered tsunami waves that caused extensive damage to life and property and severely damaged the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. Additional information on the aftermath of the March 11th earthquake is available on the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizens Services (ACS) web page. While responsibility for caring for disaster victims, including foreigners, rests with the Japanese authorities, one of the first things you should do upon arriving in Japan is to learn about earthquake and disaster preparedness from hotel or local government officials. Self-preparedness information is available on the on the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizens Services (ACS) web page and on the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) home page.

Radiation: Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

Agencies of the U.S. government continue to review the conditions at and around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant and the measures taken by the Government of Japan. Additional data are now available from Japanese authorities, allowing for a fuller assessment by U.S. government scientists.

Areas to Avoid:

Based on current data from Japan, we recommend that U.S. citizens avoid all unnecessary travel to areas within 20 kilometers of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. In addition, U.S. citizens should avoid all unnecessary travel to the area northwest of the plant that the Government of Japan has designated as the “Deliberate Evacuation Area.” This oblong area in a northwestern direction from the power plant covers Iitate-mura, the Yamagiya district of Kawamata-machi, Katsurao-mura, Namie-machi and parts of Minamisoma. U.S. citizens should also avoid all “Specific Spots Recommended for Evacuation” by the Government of Japan. U.S. citizens who are still within any of these areas should evacuate. Government of Japan maps and information on evacuation areas may be found at

Other Areas within 80km of Fukushima Daiichi Plant

  • Temporary Visitors: Government of Japan data measurements show varying levels of radiation in land areas outside of the area described above, but within 80 kilometers of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. The U.S. government believes the health and safety risks to temporary visitors to these areas are low and exposure does not pose significant risks to U.S. citizens making visits of less than one year. We recommend U.S. citizens contemplating travel to these areas consult with Japanese authorities regarding local conditions at the proposed destination.
  • Long-Term Residents: The risks may be higher for U.S. citizens who reside for more than one year within 80 kilometers of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. Out of an abundance of caution, we recommend that U.S. citizens who choose to reside for more than one year within 80 kilometers of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant consult with local authorities to receive current guidance on expected levels of radiation and recommendations for reducing exposure to radiation. In addition, pregnant women, children, and the elderly should avoid residing within 30 km of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant.

Additional information about radiation and its effects on human health may be found at the following websites:


While in Japan, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what they find in the United States. Although Japan’s accessibility laws mandate that new construction projects for public use include provisions for persons with disabilities, older buildings are not likely to have been retrofitted for accessibility. At major train stations, airports, and hotels, travelers with disabilities should encounter few accessibility problems. Accessibility at other public facilities continues to improve through the installation of elevators and wheelchair ramps. However, travelers should note that many smaller stations are inaccessible to those who cannot climb stairs. Most major urban hotels have wheelchair accessible rooms, while smaller “business hotels” and traditional Japanese-style inns may not accommodate wheelchair users.

Information on travel in Japan for travelers with disabilities is available at Tesco Premium Search Co., Ltd. website “the Travel Guide for Wheelchair Users.” American travelers in wheelchairs should be aware that wheelchairs must be no more than 120 centimeters in length/height and no more than 70 centimeters in width in order to be allowed in trains, and large American size wheelchairs may not be allowed in trains. Accessibility information regarding the East Japan Railway Company is also available at the company’s website. Reduced train fares for individuals with disabilities are not available for temporary visitors to Japan. If you do not speak Japanese, you may wish to ask your travel agent to make advance arrangements for your travel in Japan.


While medical care in Japan is good, English-speaking physicians and medical facilities that cater to U.S. citizens’ expectations are expensive and not widespread. Japan has a national health insurance system which is available only to those foreigners with long-term visas for Japan. National health insurance does not pay for medical evacuation. Medical caregivers in Japan require payment in full at the time of treatment or concrete proof of ability to pay before they will treat a foreigner who is not a member of the national health insurance plan.

U.S.-style and standard psychiatric care can be difficult to locate in major urban centers in Japan and generally is not available outside of Japan’s major cities. Extended psychiatric care for foreigners in Japan is difficult to obtain at any price.

U.S. prescriptions are not honored in Japan, so if you need ongoing prescription medicine you should arrive with a sufficient supply for your stay in Japan or enough until you are able to see a local care provider. Certain medications, including some commonly prescribed for depression and Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), are not widely available. Please see the section above entitled, “Confiscation of Prescription Drugs and Other Medication,” regarding the importation of medicine into Japan. Also see information on importing medicines into Japan and a list of medical facilities in Japan with English-speaking staff.

You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions, on the Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

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Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $120,000 or more, depending on your location and medical condition. U.S. military hospitals in Japan do not treat or provide military medical evacuation to private U.S. citizens. The military strictly controls access to U.S. military facilities; veterans with service-connected disabilities should contact the appropriate U.S. military hospital before traveling to Japan. Most small clinics and some large hospitals do not accept credit/debit cards. No facility accepts checks drawn on U.S. bank accounts.

You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:

  • Does my policy apply when I’m out of the U.S.?
  • Will it cover emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or an evacuation?

In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip.


While in a foreign country, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Japan is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Driving in Japan is quite complicated and expensive. Those who cannot read the language will have trouble understanding road signs. Highway tolls are assessed at about $1 (U.S.) per mile. City traffic is often very congested. A 20-mile trip in the Tokyo area may take two hours. There is virtually no legal roadside parking. In mountainous areas, roads are often closed during the winter, and cars should be equipped with tire chains. Roads in Japan are much narrower than those in the United States. Japanese compulsory insurance (JCI) is mandatory for all automobile owners and drivers in Japan. Most short-term visitors choose not to drive in Japan. Traffic moves on the left side of the road. Turning on red lights is forbidden, unless it is specifically authorized.

Japanese law provides that all drivers in Japan are held liable in the event of an accident, and assesses fault in an accident on all parties. Japan has a national zero percent blood-alcohol level standard for driving, and drivers stopped for driving under the influence of intoxicants will have their licenses confiscated. If you’re found guilty of “drunken, speeding, or blatantly careless driving resulting in injury” you are subject to up to 15 years in prison.

All passengers are required to fasten their seat belts.

Emergency Assistance: 

Within Japan, please dial 110 for police, and 119 for ambulance. For roadside assistance, please contact the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) at 03-5730-0111 in Tokyo, 072-645-0111 in Osaka, 011-857-8139 in Sapporo, 092-841-5000 in Fukuoka, or 098-877-9163 in Okinawa.

For specific information concerning Japanese driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please refer to the Japan National Tourist Organization website for locations in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco. In addition, information about roadside assistance, rules of the road, and obtaining a Japanese driver’s license is available in English from the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) web site.

International Driving Permits (IDPs): 

An international driving permit issued in the United States by the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) is required of short-term visitors who drive in Japan. You must obtain an international driving permit (IDPs) issued in your country of residence prior to arriving in Japan. The U.S. Embassy or its consulates do not issue IDPs. IDPs issued via the Internet and/or by other organizations are not valid in Japan.

“Residents” – the exact definition is unclear – must convert to or obtain a Japanese driver’s license. Residents in Japan who use an international driver’s license may be fined or arrested. In practice, the term “resident” involves more than simply visa status or length of stay in Japan and is determined by the police. In short, an international license is not a substitute for a valid Japanese license.


If you are going to live in or visit Japan, please take the time to tell your Embassy or one of our Consulates in Japan about your trip. Local embassy information is available from the links at the bottom of this article and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.

You can find information quickly and easily on consular services for all of Japan, including travel enrollment, passport renewal, legal matters, and safety and security, using the convenient, alphabetized links on the U.S. Embassy’s website. Please also see the list of U.S. and Japanese holidays. Look at maps of all the consular offices in Japan, along with directions on using public transportation to reach us.

U.S. Embassy in Tokyo
1-10-5 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-8420 Japan
Telephone: 81-3-3224-5000
Emergency after-hours telephone: 81-3-3224-5000
Fax: 81-3-3224-5856

U.S. Consulate General in Osaka-Kobe
2-11-5 Nishitenma, Kita-ku, Osaka 530-8543
Telephone: 81-6-6315-5900
Emergency after-hours telephone: 81-6-6315-5900
Fax: 81-6-6315-5914

U.S. Consulate General in Naha
2-1-1 Toyama, Urasoe, Okinawa 901-2104
Telephone: 81-98-876-4211
Emergency after-hours telephone:
81-3-3224-5000 (Emergency calls are routed through the Embassy switchboard after hours)
Fax: 81-98-876-4243

U.S. Consulate General in Sapporo
Kita 1-Jo Nishi 28-chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 064-0821
Telephone: 81-11-641-1115
Emergency after-hours telephone: 81-11-641-1115
Fax: 81-11-643-1283.

U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka
2-5-26 Ohori, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka 810-0052
Telephone: 81-92-751-9331
Emergency after-hours telephone:
81-3-3224-5000 (Emergency calls are routed through the Embassy switchboard after hours)
Fax: 81-92-713-9222

U.S. Consulate in Nagoya
Nagoya International Center Bldg. 6th floor, 1-47-1 Nagono, Nakamura-ku, Nagoya 450-0001
Telephone: 81-52-581-4501
Emergency after-hours telephone: 81-52-581-4501
Fax: 81-52-581-3190.

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