Customs Regulations: 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 the 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. See the list of English-speaking medical facilities throughout Japan on the United States Department of State's website. Some popular medications that are legal in the United States, such as Prozac and Viagra, are sold illegally in Japan on the black market. You 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 the particular medication into Japan.
Pets: 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.
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, 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. 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 may 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 you should know how to contact your banking or credit card establishments in an emergency.
Western Union offers cash-to-cash transfers across 200 countries and territories to and from some areas in Japan. Western Union money transfer service is available at Travelex offices in major cities.
Paypal is available for international money transfers.
Please see the United States Department of State's website for additional information on financial arrangements in Japan.
Taxi fares from airports to downtown Osaka and Tokyo can cost hundreds of dollars; bus fares can run USD $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 on 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 11, 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 Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Additional information on the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake is available on the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizens Services (ACS) webpage. 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 U.S. Embassy’s American Citizens Services (ACS) webpage and on the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) home page.
Radiation: Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant: The Government of Japan and agencies of the U.S. government continue to work together to monitor the conditions at and around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. In addition, on September 19, 2012, Japan established an independent organization to oversee the safety of its atomic reactors, the Nuclear Regulation Authority.
Areas We Recommend U.S. Citizens Avoid: Based on current data from Japan, we recommend that U.S. citizens avoid all unnecessary travel to areas described by the Japanese government. Out of an abundance of caution, we recommend that those considering travel to affected areas in Fukushima Prefecture consult with local authorities to receive current guidance on expected levels of radiation and recommendations for reducing exposure to radiation in these areas.
Areas We Recommend Caution for Long-Term Residence by U.S. Citizens: 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 Power Plant consult with local authorities to receive current guidance on expected levels of radiation and recommendations for reducing exposure to radiation.
Please note that many of the coastal areas in the Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi Prefectures affected by the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster in 2011 are still undergoing significant reconstruction. If you wish to travel to these areas, you should exercise caution as you may experience disruption in travel or infrastructure. We recommend that you contact local authorities or travel/accommodation service providers in advance.
You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.