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Japan Country Report

Country Risk Level

Low

Overview

Executive Summary

Yoshihide Suga was formally elected prime minister of Japan on 16 September following by Shinzō Abe’s resignation. Continuity on key policies is likely, especially as Suga retained numerous ministers from the Abe cabinet. Strong support for Suga within the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the government’s improved public approval ratings under the Suga cabinet increase the likelihood of early elections, which must take place before October 2021. Despite political scandals within the LDP and criticism over the central government’s handling of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus pandemic, the opposition remains too fractured to pose a substantial threat to LDP before at least 2021.Following a steep contraction of real GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2019, an even deeper contraction of about 5.7% is likely in 2020 because of supply chain disruptions and the decline in consumer spending caused by COVID-19 containment measures. The resumption of economic activity could gradually lift external and domestic demand. However, social distancing practices in line with a resurgence of new confirmed cases and weak household income will suppress a recovery of domestic demand.Continued uncertainties over COVID-19 and mainland China-US tensions are likely to limit a resurgence of the yen depreciation. US-Japan inflation differentials are poised to drive the yen appreciation gradually against the US dollar.Challenges to operations in Japan include a relatively high corporate tax rate compared with its neighbours, insular business culture, linguistic and cultural barriers, and heavy government regulation in various sectors. For example, Japan implemented stricter rules on foreign investment in industries related to national security in June. The problem of a rapidly ageing population will continue to exert pressure on government finances and limit the size of Japan’s workforce for at least the five-year outlook.

Operational Outlook

The aims of government policy are to reduce or maintain low levels of regulatory burden for foreign entities. High operational costs and Japan's closed business environment pose obstacles to market entry and smooth business operations. The labour force is relatively costly, but strikes are rare – when they do occur, usually in manufacturing sectors, they involve go-slows rather than halting operations. Rather than overt operational issues, foreign entities will probably be challenged by "keiretsu" networks between companies, suppliers, and financial institutions, and by opaque but pervasive links between the government and domestic firms frustrating market penetration. Corruption is low relative to the regional average, but high-level connections between politicians and business remain.

Terrorism

Low

The risk of terrorism in Japan is very low. Its homogeneous society and effective domestic security forces make attacks by domestic militant groups highly unlikely. Japan's geographical location (making travel costly) and minimal number of immigrants also mean attacks by foreign groups or individuals are unlikely.

Crime

Crime rates in Japan are low compared with other OECD countries. In general, violent crime remains rare and foreigners are unlikely to be targeted. Petty crime is also rare; the most likely crime to affect foreign visitors would be sexual harassment, specifically indecent exposure or groping in public places. There has been a reported increase in weapons smuggled from China and Russia, but armed crime is likely to remain rare. The perpetrators and victims of gun-related crime tend to be affiliated with the yakuza crime syndicates. Occasional violent incidents involving knives or fire are usually motivated by individuals' grievances and are unlikely to affect foreigners.

War Risks

War remains unlikely, although North Korea's development of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons continues to pose a security threat to Japan. Since July 2016, multiple North Korean missiles have flown over Japan's territory or landed in its Exclusive Economic Zone. The increasing frequency of exercises in the East and South China seas raises the risk of naval skirmishes and mid-air accidents between China and Japan in the long term, which both claim the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. However, these are unlikely to lead to a full military confrontation. Japan also has territorial disputes with Russia and South Korea, which present a relatively lower risk of escalation towards conflict.

Social Stability

Protests in Japan are peaceful. Nonetheless, those triggered by specific issues are likely to reoccur at least annually. Mainly in Okinawa, protests against US military bases are well-attended, with up to hundreds of protesters joining a sit-in outside Camp Schwab since July 2014. Since the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, a strong anti-nuclear movement has staged regular protests involving thousands in central Tokyo. Protests against a constitutional revision for the Japan Self-Defense Forces are also probable. The agricultural lobby will probably protest against the phasing-out of a 40-year-long rice subsidy.

Health Risk

Vaccinations required to enter the country

No vaccinations are required to enter the country.

Routine Vaccinations

Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.

Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).

Other Vaccinations

Japanese Encephalitis: For stays of longer than one month in a rural zone during the rainy season (for children over the age of one). The vaccine is administered in a local medical facility.

For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.

Natural Risks

This serenity was brutally shattered by the powerful earthquake (magnitude 8.9; epicenter located 300 km northeast of Tokyo) that devastated the northeast on March 11, 2011, and the violent tsunami (waves as high as 30 meters) that followed shortly thereafter. The double disaster caused a tragically high death toll (between 10,000 and 20,000 victims) as well as significant material damages (homes and infrastructure destroyed) along 600 kilometers of coastline.

Adding to the crisis was the fact that several nuclear power plants, damaged during the earthquake (cracks, fires, explosions), began to leak radioactive materials, compounding the threat to nearby residents. These catastrophic events pushed Japanese authorities to institute specific security measures beginning on March 12, 2011 (confinement, travel restrictions, tens of thousands of individuals evacuated). Travel to Fukushima prefecture (within a 40 km radius of the damaged power plant, which is itself located 300 km from Tokyo) remains formally advised against.

In “normal” times, the only serious risk faced by travelers to Japan, located in the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” is an assortment of natural disasters. Typhoon season lasts from June until September (an average of six to ten typhoons are reported each year); during this time floods ‒ often severe – are regular occurrences. As evidenced by the earthquake on March 11, 2011, earthquakes of varying intensities are a constant risk, as are tsunamis. Furthermore, the risk of volcanic activity is high (Japan falls along five different volcanic arcs).

Practical Information

Climate

Japan's climate varies significantly between its southern islands (Kyushu, Shikoku) and the island of Hokkaido in the north.

In the south of the archipelago, the rainy season lasts from mid-June until mid-July. Winters are very cold in the north and the west, with regular snow. Summers are rainy and humid and typhoons often strike in September (violent winds, torrential downpours), principally in the south; temperatures are cooler on Hokkaido while the western (Tokyo) and southern coasts of Honshu, Japan's largest island, are warmer with sunnier days. Spring and autumn are very pleasant with mild temperatures and infrequent rain.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +81
Police: 110
Fire Dept., Ambulance: 119

Electricity

Voltage: 100 V ~ 50/60 Hz

Outlets:

Risk Level
Critical High Medium Low Minimal