Is It Safe to Visit Japan?

20 Jul

Is it safe to visit Japan? Is it safe to take young children there?”… These are questions that I have been asking myself ever since the Earthquake. It has been nearly 7 years since my last visit to Japan and I am craving it… the people, the food, the atmosphere, the language, the cool products… and now that I am trying to raise bilingual children, I desperately want to expose them to the Japanese culture first-hand.

I’ve talked to a lot of people (mostly Japanese people) about current safety and they seem to fall into one of these two categories:

1) It is absolutely safe to visit Japan. The aftershocks are subsiding and the radiation levels are too small to worry about. The people in Japan are going about business as usual. We can’t let fear keep the country from moving forward. We need to support their economy by visiting. The naysayers are just trying to freak you out.

2) It’s not worth the risk. Nobody knows what harmful side effects the radiation can have. The government is not telling us the whole truth. Wait at least a few more years before going.

Japan just launched a new campaign/video with a band called “Arashi” to try and show the world that Japan is a safe place to visit:

Watching this video makes me REALLY want to go to Japan. That food–DROOL! You can watch more videos urging foreigners to visit Japan HERE.


If you are also contemplating visiting Japan, these websites are informative:

JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organization)‘s travel advisory website is frequently updated and currently says:

Can We Visit Japan Today? – YES!

The majority of regions in Japan including popular leisure travel destinations, are outside the areas affected by tsunami, earthquake and radiation, and received no disruption to infrastructure.  Everything in these areas continues to operate as usual.  The greater Tokyo area has already retrieved the usual condition, and there are no more periodical blackouts.  The other regions are unharmed, and safe and normal as before.

How is the Radiation Level? – NOT DANGEROUS!

Except for the proximate areas near the nuclear power plants, there is no dangerous level of radiation detected in Japan.  Tokyo is not within radiation contamination concern area, located over 200km (124 miles) away from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant facilities.  The radiation level in Tokyo is similar to that of New York City.  The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and other international organizations confirm that the radiation level in the atmosphere is within a reasonable safety level to human health.

Another article by Japan National Tourism Organization states:

Japan has once again shown the world how hard-working and determined it is with a super speedy recovery following the earthquake and tsunami on 11 March. Popular holiday destinations such as Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, Mt. Fuji, Nagasaki, Hokkaido and Okinawa are safe and well and waiting to welcome you.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office of Britain has a Travel Advice Page for Japan that currently says:

  • We advise against all but essential travel to those areas in north-east Japan most affected by the 11 March earthquake and tsunami. This includes those coastal areas of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures which suffered extensive damage. These areas continue to experience disruptions to residential, business and transport infrastructure. There is also a continuing risk of aftershocks. If your travel is essential, you should consult local contacts before travelling.
  • We advise against all travel to within a 60km radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility with the exception of transit through the area via the Tohoku Expressway and the Tohoku Shinkansen Railway. The Tokyo Metropolitan area and Narita airport lie outside this zone.
  • The situation in Japan outside of these specific areas has largely returned to normal and most visits are trouble free. 184,045 British nationals visited Japan in 2010. See General – Consular Assistance Statistics.
  • There may however still be some further disruptions to transport, power, communications and water and food supplies. For up to date transport news, please refer to JR East’s English site. For information about possible power cuts during the summer months, please check the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) website.
  • There is a continuous risk of earthquakes and tsunamis throughout Japan.  Latest warnings and advisories are published on the Japan Meteorological Agency website.

What do you think? What have you been told and what do you believe?  If you live in Japan, what are your thoughts?

17 Responses to “Is It Safe to Visit Japan?”

  1. Bicultural Mama July 20, 2011 at 8:43 PM #

    A Japanese-American friend told me she didn’t want to go back to Tokyo this year to visit family because she has a 2 year old and didn’t want to take the chance of getting him exposed since he’s young. Hopefully Japan will be able to make all people feel comfortable coming back to visit as it’s a beautiful country with a rich culture and friendly people.

    • Hiragana Mama July 21, 2011 at 7:23 AM #

      A lot of my friends are in a similar situation 😦 I feel badly for people who have close family members in Japan and can’t go to visit.

  2. Nami | Just One Cookbook July 22, 2011 at 2:50 AM #

    It’s very hard question to answer…. My mom is here now from Japan (she lives in yokohama) and she told me all the complicated story… I have 2 young kids myself and keep postponing the trip we were supposed to go in April. As long as the nuclear plant hasn’t solved the problem yet, I don’t think it’s good idea to bring young children (adults can worry less). The west side (like Osaka) has normal life, but my home town city measures level of radiation in preschool (and could be all school?). Usually news is too late (like they find higher level of radiation in some food etc). My friends in Tokyo area use water bottle for almost everything. They do their best, but they also have no choice but live normal life… if you have a choice, and have kids, probably it’s better to wait at least until the nuclear reactor problem is solved. No need to hurry…. it’s difficult because we can’t see the radiation… that’s what I think for now…

    • Hiragana Mama July 22, 2011 at 9:43 PM #

      Thanks for your insight!! it’s true, there’s no hurry. I guess we could wait a few years. I really miss Japan though. it’s surprising to me how strong my desire is to go back to the land of my ancestors, since I mostly grew up in America. (PS I’m sending you a reply to your email soon when I’m back from vacation!)

  3. 紗織 July 22, 2011 at 1:36 PM #

    It’s a really difficult situation. I was going to move to Japan with my husband this summer. We were going to live with his family in Fukushima until he found a job. But we didn’t want to risk the radiation, especially when we’re young and want to start a family some day. So we decided to wait until I finish college here in America, and then move to wherever God leads us to. In the end, it’s better because we’ll be more financially stable and independent from his parents. But I still worry. We will most likely visit Fukushima this winter. The government, my husband and his parents keep saying that where his hometown is, near Koriyama, the radiation is so little and it is safe to live there. But I also hear so many people telling me not to go there, saying we don’t know the risks of radiation and the government is not telling the whole truth. It’s so hard.

    Fortunately, his parents came to visit us in America this summer. So we did get to see them. I really do hope things get better by winter. I know there are still aftershocks, and people in his hometown are getting used to them.

    • Hiragana Mama July 22, 2011 at 9:39 PM #

      I hope things will be better by winter too.We’re lucky to have the choice to live in the USA right now. If you go to Japan soon, let me know how it is!

  4. AdelaideBen July 22, 2011 at 6:49 PM #

    Having been in Japan only 3 weeks after the earthquake (with my whole family), it was quite an experience. Were we entirely sure we were safe? Hmmm – there was a fair bit of stress about it back then,.. and if it wasn’t for the fact that we had a wedding to attend in Tokyo, we most probably wouldn’t have gone.

    Still, I think that for people wanting to visit Japan is safe in all but the areas around Fukushima (our foreign affairs office, still advises people not to travel within 80km of the reactors) or the areas affected by the tsunami. Yes, there is some risk – but then again, we live with risk all of our lives… and you’ve more chance of being killed on the roads than being affected by radiation in Japan (overly dramatic I know).

    Also – don’t forget that Japan’s a big country, and there’s a lot of areas far away from the problem zone… so, if you’re not visiting friends/family in a particular place, there’s always somewhere to enjoy visiting in Japan.

    HM – Seven years since you went back! That’s a long time. I don’t think my wife could survive that long without going back. It is however, the best way to get children speaking Japanese – especially if you spend lots of time with grandparents or other family. My 4yo son picked it up so quickly, it was amazing. Of course – it doesn’t last forever, and he starts preferring English after a month or two after coming back to Australia. Still… we’re sure it has positive long term effects.

    • Hiragana Mama July 22, 2011 at 9:36 PM #

      So true that we all live with some type of risk in our lives. We shouldn’t live in fear… we should do what we want to do because you never know when life is going to be over anyway. But at the same time, if I take my children and it does affect their health in the future, how will that feel? Like everyone says, such a difficult decision to make. Seems pretty safe though, I’m sure your family will be fine. Yes, 7 years!! We have been busy working, having kids, and saving money… And now finally to the point where we feel our kids are old enough to enjoy the experience, and we can now afford the trip.

      • AdelaideBen July 23, 2011 at 10:29 AM #

        Oh – btw – I watched the Arashi clip… not a big fan of the ad campaign. Ok, some nice food shots, but as for the rest of it, you couldn’t really see much of Japan. Hokkaido… a quiet country road, and Biei without a single flower. Very odd choice I thought. They seem to want to make Japan bland IMO. Or am I being too harsh?

        • Hiragana Mama July 24, 2011 at 9:54 AM #

          Totally agreed!! They could have done many things better.

  5. thomas from ger July 27, 2011 at 8:03 AM #

    don´t visit Jp
    or play with your live and go !! one atom of Plutonium or strontium …Te..
    in your boddy and the risk for go bad and ill are to high !!! many friends of my
    from Bellarus. are died 20 j after tchernobyl wiht many pain from bad cancer
    i dident have frinds from there without any cancer in there familys it isend sure in JP
    and your gov dont tell the true !!!

    • Hiragana Mama July 27, 2011 at 8:24 AM #

      Thomas… I am sorry about your friends. Did they all live close to Chernobyl? Or did they just go visit?

  6. S July 27, 2011 at 3:04 PM #

    I love your blog! It is so needed. After living in Japan briefly until I had to return to America (surprise pregnancy), my husband and I are trying to teach our son Japanese. We’re both Caucasian and by no means bilingual so it’s definitely not an easy thing. Still, it’s amazing to watch him soak it up. He’s learned a LOT of nouns and we’re hoping to expand over the years. Will he be fluent? Maybe not. But he’ll at least be ahead of the game as he continues to study. At any rate, it’s so nice to have someone like you post information you’ve found since I’m mostly working on speaking/listening and can’t read kanji (though I can read katakana/hiragana). Thank you so much for your efforts!

    As for the question about returning to Japan, I am also feeling the itch to get back over there. You’re right that it’s such a hard, and personal, decision to make. I don’t think I’d hesitate to go back myself but I’m so much more protective of my son. I’ll hopefully go in the next year or two, though, but probably to areas further away from the radiation. However, does anyone know about how you can protect yourself from food contamination? That’s my biggest fear. I really just want to avoid food from affected areas and then I think I wouldn’t be very worried. Any tips?

    • Hiragana Mama July 27, 2011 at 3:27 PM #

      Thank you for your kind comments!

      Even though I am trying so hard, I’m not sure if even my kids will be fluent. But like you, I am hoping they will have a good enough foundation to where if they want to study Japanese seriously, they will have a good head start.

      I haven’t looked into the food contamination issue much yet. I know a lot of my friends in Japan with children only let them drink bottled water.

  7. Cherie J September 26, 2011 at 10:17 AM #

    We just found out that we’re moving there in February! I’m excited, although, I’m a little jealous that my children are all at an age where language comes more easily :-). I look forward to the language immersion for all of us once we get there and have been using your site HEAVILY in the meantime. Thank you so much!! I hope you get to visit Japan soon 🙂

    • Hiragana Mama September 26, 2011 at 11:30 AM #

      Oh, I am jealous! Have so much fun! Are you moving there permanently?


  1. Free Trips to Japan!! « Hiragana Mama - October 10, 2011

    […] you know when I find out. How about you? If you won a free flight to Japan, would you go, despite the risks? Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

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