While active-duty U.S. military personnel may enter Japan under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with proper Department of Defense identification and travel orders, they are urged to obtain passports prior to leaving the U.S. to accommodate off-duty travel elsewhere in Asia. All SOFA family members, civil service employees and contractors must have a valid passport and, in some cases, a Status of Forces visa to enter Japan.
U.S. citizens transiting Japan should take care to ensure that their passports and visas are up to date before leaving the U.S. Many Asian countries deny entry to travelers whose passports are valid for less than six months. It is not usually possible to obtain a new U.S. passport and foreign visa during a brief stopover while transiting Japan.
Safety of Public Transportation: Excellent
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural road conditions/Maintenance: Good
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Good
Driving in Japan is complicated for those who cannot read the language and who may have trouble understanding road signs. City traffic is often congested. Most short-term visitors choose not to drive in Japan. Vehicular traffic moves on the left. Turns at red lights are not allowed unless specifically authorized. Roads in Japan are much narrower than those in the United States. Drivers should exercise particular caution with respect to motorcyclists. See the above section on criminal penalties regarding traffic accidents. Japanese compulsory insurance (JCI) is mandatory for automobile owners. An international driving permit is required.
For specific information concerning Japan’s driver’s permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Japan National Tourist Organization offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York or San Francisco via their Internet website at http://www.jnto.go.jp, or consult local police stations in Japan.
Japan has very strict laws regarding the importation and possession of firearms or other weapons. Persons bringing a firearm or sword into Japan (including target and trophy pistols, air guns and Japanese-origin swords) may find these items confiscated by Japanese customs agents, and may themselves be incarcerated, prosecuted and deported or jailed. Please contact the Japanese embassy or one of the Japanese consulates in the United States for information about import restrictions.
Customs officials encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information call (212) 354-4480, send an e-mail to email@example.com or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.
IMMIGRATION DETENTION: Working Without a Proper Visa: Japanese work visas are issued outside of Japan for a specific job with a specific employer at a specific place of employment, and are not transferable. It is illegal for U.S. citizens to work in Japan while in tourist or visa waiver status. Japanese authorities do not allow foreigners to change their immigration status from tourist or visa waiver status to work status while in Japan. A U.S. citizen who works in Japan without a work visa may be subject to arrest and deportation, which can involve several weeks of incarceration, or conviction and imprisonment. The deportee must bear the cost of deportation, including legal expenses and airfare.
CONSULAR ACCESS: U.S. citizens should carry their U.S. passports or Japanese alien registration cards with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available. 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.
CONDITIONS AT PRISONS AND DETENTION FACILITIES: Japanese prisons and detention facilities maintain internal order through a regime of very strict discipline. American-citizen prisoners often complain of stark, austere living conditions and psychological isolation. Access to competent translators is not required at all times under Japanese criminal law.
The Japanese economy remains in recession, and no American citizen should come to work in Japan in the hopes of earning a large salary.
U.S. citizens planning to work in Japan should never enter Japan using a tourist visa or the visa waiver, even if they have been advised to do so. Such actions are illegal and can lead to arrest, incarceration and/or deportation.
Assessing Employment Offers: 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 hostesses. These 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 such a contract, Japanese authorities do not intervene on behalf of foreign workers. It is prudent for U.S. citizens coming to work in Japan to carefully review their contracts and the bona fides of their Japanese employer before traveling to Japan. U.S. consular officers generally are unable to confirm the bona fides of prospective Japanese employers, although they may be familiar with organizations about whom they have received complaints. If asked to do something which they find troubling, U.S. citizens may wish to reassess their reason for being in Japan, and consider terminating their employment and returning to the U.S. Complaints against U.S.-based employment agencies or recruiters may be directed to the better business bureau or the office of the attorney general of the state in question.
Teaching English: For specific information on teaching English in Japan, contact the Japanese embassy or one of the Japanese consulates in the United States, or visit the Embassy of Japan's home page on the Internet at http://www.embjapan.org.
LIVING EXPENSES: Japan's cost of living is one of the highest in the world. Japanese immigration officers may deny entry to travelers who appear to them to have no visible means of support. Contact the Japanese embassy or one of the Japanese consulates in the United States for guidance on what constitutes adequate financial support for a specific period of time. The use of credit cards is not widespread, particularly outside major cities. While there are ATM card machines in Japan, finding a machine that is open 24 hours a day or one that will accept your U.S.-based card may be difficult. Taxi fares from airports to downtown Osaka and Tokyo can cost hundreds of dollars. Airport departure fees are collected at both Narita (Tokyo) and Kansai (Osaka) international airports.
ENGLISH HELP AND INFORMATION LINES: Tourists and foreign residents in Japan have access to valuable information, including professional counseling, via help and information telephone hotlines. The Tokyo English Lifeline provides English-speaking counseling and referrals at (03) 3968-4099. The Japan Helpline provides similar assistance nationwide at 0120-461-997. For additional referrals, contact the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo or the nearest U.S. consulate.
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Japan is faced with the ever-present danger of deadly earthquakes and typhoons. Responsibility for caring for disaster victims, including foreigners, rests with the Japanese authorities. One of the first things a traveler should do upon arriving in Japan is to learn about earthquake and disaster preparedness from hotel or local government officials. General information regarding disaster preparedness is available via the Internet on the home pages of the U.S. Embassy, Tokyo, and the U.S. Consulate General, Osaka-Kobe via links through http://travel.state.gov/links.html, and from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) home page at http://www.fema.gov.
The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo is located at 1-10-5 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-8420 Japan; telephone: (81)(3) 3224-5000; fax (81)(3) 3224-5856. Recorded information for U.S. citizens concerning U.S. passports, notarials and other American citizen services is available 24 hours at: (81)(3) 3224-5168. Recorded visa information for non-U.S. citizens is available at the following 24-hour toll phone number: 0990-526-160. The U.S. Embassy Tokyo's home page via the Internet is available at http://usembassy.state.gov/tokyo. See also the U.S. Commercial Service in Japan's home page at http://www.csjapan.doc.gov.
The U.S. Consulate General in Osaka-Kobe is located at 2-11-5 Nishitenma, Kita-ku, Osaka 530; telephone: (81)(6) 6315-5900; fax (81)(6) 6315-5914. Recorded information for U.S. citizens concerning U.S. passports, notarials and other American citizens services is available 24 hours at (81)(6) 6315-5995. Recorded visa information for non-U.S. citizens is available at the following 24-hour toll phone number: (0990) 512-122. The U.S. Consulate General Osaka-Kobe's home page via the Internet is available at http://synapse.senri-i.or.jp/amcon/.
The U.S. Consulate General in Naha is located at 2564 Nishihara, Urasoe, Okinawa 901-21; telephone: (81)(98) 876-4211; fax: (81)(98) 876-4243.
The U.S. Consulate General in Sapporo is located at Kita 1-Jo Nishi 28-chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 064. Telephone: (81)(11) 641-1115. Fax (81)(11) 643-1283.
The U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka is located at 2-5-26 Ohori, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka 810; telephone: (81)(92) 751-9331; fax: (81)(92) 713-9222. The American Consulate Fukuoka’s home page via the Internet is available at http://usembassy.state.gov/fukuoka.
The U.S. Consulate in Nagoya is located at the Nishiki SIS Building 6f, 3-10-33 Nishiki, Naka-ku, Nagoya 460; telephone: (81)(52) 203-4011; fax: (81)(52) 201-4612. The Consulate in Nagoya offers only limited emergency consular services for U.S. citizens. All routine matters are processed in Osaka-Kobe. The Consulate in Nagoya accepts applications for passports which are then issued by the U.S. Consulate General in Osaka-Kobe. The Consulate General in Osaka-Kobe forwards the new passport by mail directly to the U.S. citizen applicant in Nagoya.