Travel insurance provides protection against unforeseen events. These can be medical issues, flight and travel cancellations, the provision of accommodation and cover for lost or stolen items. Japan is generally a very safe place to travel to, however, for many, it’s a once in a lifetime trip –and not one they are likely to repeat. Ensuring that you have something in place to cover you for unanticipated happenings will help you to enjoy your travels much more.
In this article, we’ll cover the reasons and some of the risks of travelling to Japan to consider before you buy your travel insurance policy for Japan.
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Why Do You Need Travel Insurance for Japan?
There are a variety of reasons as to why you should take our travel insurance prior to visiting Japan, and much of the type of insurance you take out will depend on what your activities will be while you are travelling.
Avoid Unforeseen Costs
If your funds are unlimited then you might not take out travel insurance, however, the avoidance of unforeseen costs is why we all buy travel insurance. It means we have the peace of mind that if something goes wrong, and there are additional costs to bear – like an emergency flight home or medical costs, or your luggage gets lost or stolen – that its covered and you don’t have to pay the cost yourself.
Serious Crime is low, but Robbery Can Occur
Serious crime and levels of robbery are very low when they do occur it tends to be opportunistic. It’s necessary, always, to be aware of your surroundings and protect valuables. We always travel with a portable safe from Pacsafe and secure our valuables in it in the room when we leave.
Our 15 litre Pacsafe can fit two laptops, two kindles and a camera, passports and money in it. We locked our valuables inside it when we hiked Mount Fuji, Kamikochi and the Magome Tsumago Trail.
It is generally safe to walk at night and to use public transport, but be vigilant (as in any location). The areas around Roppongi and Kabuki-Cho in Tokyo are higher crime risk areas. Be aware of spiked drinks and credit-card fraud.
Cash is king in Japan
Japan is primarily a cash-based society and carrying a lot of cash around Japan is quite normal. It’s well worth bringing cash from home to change until you’ve confirmed that the ATMs will accept your cash or debit card. Maestro, Cirrus, Link and Delta cards are not widely accepted. The best place for ATMs in the 7-Eleven store, but some of these stores close at 2100.
The potential for petty theft and pickpocketing is higher because of this. Ensure that your case is safely locked away (use something like the Pacsafe for this)
Natural Disasters Occur
There is a regular risk of volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and earthquakes in Japan. Japan is in a major earthquake zone and it’s necessary to ensure you are familiar with safety procedures in the event of an earthquake. The latest warnings are published here
Depending on when you are travelling to Japan, you may experience a typhoon. The typhoon season in Japan runs from June until December, with the south of the country at most risk. Again you can monitor the progress of storms at the Japanese Meteorological site here.
There are more than 100 active volcanoes in Japan, some of which you’re likely to visit – Sakurajima, for instance, close to Kagoshima. Again, monitor local reports.
We were lucky enough to leave Nepal the day before the massive 2015 earthquake. Friends weren’t and were still there – in both the Langtang Valley and also in Kathmandu – and had to be evacuated. If there is a natural disaster while you are in the country and your government advises you leave the area, then your insurance company may pay for you to be evacuated.
Health Risks in Japan
There are occasional outbreaks of Dengue Fever in Japan – many Tokyo Parks were closed when we visited, as a result of an outbreak. Medical facilities in Japan, are though, excellent, although costs are high. If you required medical assistance, you may be expected to pay the full cost of treatment and claim it back from your insurance. We recommend having proof of insurance with you, as the hospital may refuse to treat you.
Adventure Activities Are Higher Risk
Do you plan on hiking, diving or skiing when you visit Japan? These activities come with higher risks of injuries than sitting on the beach and are classed as higher risk by insurance companies.
Hiking in Japan can be at Attitude
Do you plan on summiting Mount Fuji? The summit of Fuji is 3776 metres – most insurance companies require additional coverage at altitudes more than 2,000 metres. Even some of the climbs in the Kamikochi National Park are over 3,000 metres. Be sure to check your policy and identify to your insurance company if you plan to hike at altitude.
Flight Delays and Cancellations are possible
Typhoon season in Japan runs from June until December, which can mean earthquakes and landslides as well as the typhoon itself. You can expect the loss of power, communications and water as well as the disruption of travel services. Flights are likely to be delayed or cancelled.
Risks of Travelling to Japan
The risks of travelling to Japan are no different from other countries and islands in this area – Natural disasters are a common occurrence, the country is in an earthquake and typhoon zone. The risks of Japanese travel include, but are not limited to
- Health – dengue fever is sometimes present
- Flight cancellations and delays
- Adventure activities carry risks – like diving, skiing, hiking at altitude
Why do you need travel insurance for Japan?
Some people never buy travel insurance and it is possible to anywhere without travel insurance, mostly, if you so choose. Travel insurance is there for you to pay for the unknown. The cost of hospital and doctors bills if you get sick, replacement items if your gear gets stolen, the cost of flying you home if you need to be repatriated, or if events with family members mean that you need to return home.
Do you need special travel insurance for Japan?
In a nutshell, it depends on what you are going to do. It’s extremely important to check the small print of your policy to ensure that your policy covers you for
- Adventure activities (if you intend to undertake them)
- Hiking to certain altitudes if you include hiking in your itinerary.
Most travel insurance policies will cover you to an altitude of 2,000 metres and then allow you to buy extra packs that cover you to higher altitudes. World Nomads provides hiking insurance for altitude hikes, including up to 4,000 metres, which reaches the summit of Mount Fuji.
What do you need to take into account when buying Travel Insurance for Japan?
There are a number of things you need to take into consideration when buying travel insurance for Japan. We’ve detailed these below.
The altitude to which you plan to travel
If you’re travelling to Japan to include a hike to the summit of Mount Fuji then you’ll need to ensure you have coverage to 4,000 metres.
If for any reason – your sickness, a death in the family, serious illness in a close member of the family, you need to cancel then you need a policy that will provide for cancelled hotel reservations and other travel plans.
Medical coverage and repatriation/evacuation coverage
Whichever plan you take out should include all the potential expenses – including ambulances, hospital care, and if necessary repatriation back to your home country.
Lost, Stolen or Damaged Luggage and Gear
Japan is a pretty safe country and crime levels are low, but accidents happen. A laptop gets damaged in transit, you drop your new iPhone, your bag never arrives in Japan.
The activities you plan to undertake
If you’re planning to travel to Japan to ski, to dive or to undertake other adventure activities then you should plan accordingly with your travel insurance.
Where you are when you take out the insurance policy
Most travel and health insurance companies only provide insurance if you are leaving on your trip from your home address. Other require that you have been resident in that country for six months or more, you will likely also have to be registered with a local doctor.
We found this out when we started our travels in 2014 – have returned from 4 years working in the USA, we were not registered with a doctor and had been in the country 6 days not 6 months! World Nomads to the rescue with our policy that we took out, and then renewed while we were on the road.
So if you’re already on the road or find yourself living a nomadic lifestyle I really recommend that you take a look at World Nomads for your travel insurance for Japan.
Your age and the age of travellers on the same policy
If you’re 55 or old, then you’ll need to review your travel insurance provider. Many companies change their policies at this age and you need to ensure that you’re covered. Nigel turned 56 this year and luckily for us, World Nomads is one of the companies that continues to provide policies for those aged over 55. And those under 55. Their flexibility is superb.
Pre-existing medical conditions
If you live with and are traveling with existing medical conditions then you’ll need to declare them, otherwise, if something happens related o that condition while you’re in Japan then your insurance won’t cover it. It’s also worth checking to see if you need to declare if you’re had surgery in the last 12 months, regardless of what that surgery was before you buy your travel insurance policy.
Travel Tips for Exploring Japan
- Read about Japan in these incredible books
- Get insurance for your Japan Trip with WorldNomads
- Buy your Japan Rail Pass before you arrive in Japan
- Book the best tours and guides in Japan on Civitatis, GetYourGuideand Klook
- Book fabulous Japanese foodie experiences with locals through Eatwith
- Learn to cook Japanese food in Chef’s kitchens in Japan
- Save money in Japan with a Wise debit card
- Find the right accommodation for you via Booking.com
- Book an incredible ryokan experience in Japan
Final words on Japan Travel Insurance
We had no issues travelling around. We travelled into Japan on a ferry from Korea and headed south. We took trains all over the country, we took buses, we hiked Fuji, Kamikochi and part of the Nakasendo Trail. We climbed to the top floors of magnificent castles, we wandered around onsen towns in a typhoon. We stayed in ryokans, in homestays, in hotels and hostels. We ate absolutely everything. And we did all of this with a comprehensive insurance policy – and learned from other trips where we have had to claim on our insurance that it is well worth it!
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