Foreign travel advice

Japan

Important COVID-19 Travel

Under current UK COVID-19 restrictions, you must stay at home. You must not travel, including abroad, unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so. It is illegal to travel abroad for holidays and other leisure purposes.

Check the rules that apply to you in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If you intend to travel to the UK from abroad, including UK nationals returning home, you must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result taken up to 3 days before departure. If you do not comply (and you do not have a valid exemption) your airline or carrier may refuse you boarding and/or you may be fined on arrival.

Before you return to the UK you must provide your journey and contact details. You must self-isolate when you enter the UK from any foreign country except Ireland, unless you have a valid exemption.

When you enter England from abroad (except Ireland), you must follow the new requirements for quarantining and taking additional COVID-19 tests. For those travelling from a country on the banned travel list you will be required to quarantine in a hotel. Different rules apply for arrivals into England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If you are legally permitted to travel abroad, check our advice on your country of destination. Some other countries have closed borders, and may further restrict movement or bring in new rules including testing requirements with little warning.

Local laws and customs

You must carry your passport or residence card at all times. Information about the residence card system can be found on the Japanese immigration website.

Arrest and Detention

Japan has a zero tolerance towards drug crime and there are severe penalties for all drug offences. Detection facilities at airports and post offices are effective. British nationals have been arrested and detained for receiving small quantities of cannabis through the mail, and for returning positive results in tests carried out by Japanese police on customers in bars. British nationals have received sentences for drug trafficking ranging from 6 to 17 years with work, or even longer, as well as receiving large fines. Prisoners in Japan are expected to work as part of their sentence.

Police have the power to detain people whilst they investigate you, for up to 23 days, even for minor offences. If you are arrested, the police can question you before you are able to speak to a lawyer or an embassy consular officer. Investigations are not usually recorded and lawyers are not present. High quality interpretation may not always be available.

Penalties for most offences tend to be more severe than in the UK.

If you are charged with a crime, it is likely that you will be detained without bail until your court dates. You may be subject to a communications ban if the charges are drug related, which means you will only be allowed to speak to your lawyer and embassy while awaiting trial. Legal proceedings can take many months or longer. More information about what happens if you are arrested can be found in the Japan Prisoner Pack.

Medicines

The use or possession of some common prescription and over-the-counter medicines are banned under Japan’s strictly enforced anti-stimulant drugs law and ignorance may not be considered a defence. This includes Vicks Inhalers, medicines for allergies and sinus problems, cold and flu medication containing Pseudoephedrine and even some over-the-counter painkillers like those containing codeine. Foreign nationals have been detained and deported for offences. If you’re travelling to Japan with medication, or are in Japan and intending to import medication into the country for personal use, you should check the status of your medicine with the nearest Japanese Embassy or Consulate beforehand. See Medication

Family law

Japanese family law is very different from UK law. Joint custody of a child after divorce is not a legal option, and access for a non-custodial parent can be challenging. Legal custody disputes can also be lengthy, and enforcement of rulings returning a child has historically proven difficult. Japan is party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which entered into force in Japan in April 2014. New Japanese legislation to strengthen enforcement of Hague Convention and domestic rulings came in to force from April 2020. We have produced some general information about issues around custody, child abduction and parental rights.

Homosexuality is not illegal, although currently there are no provisions in Japanese legislation guaranteeing freedom from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. While same-sex marriages are not recognised in Japan, some areas of the country have begun issuing equivalent certificates that can be used in civil issues, such as hospital visitation rights. Nichome in Tokyo and Doyamacho in Osaka are the most well-known LGBT areas. The Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade has been held without incident since 2012. In 2019, 10,000 people joined the parade and over 200,000 people took part in the two-day event. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

Customs controls

It’s forbidden by Japanese law to bring meat products (including sausages, bacon and ham) into Japan without permission from the Japanese Animal Quarantine Service. Since April 2019, penalties are imposed on offenders bringing meat product illegally into Japan. For more information on illegal products, visit the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries website.

Whale meat is available in Japan but importing it into the UK/EU is illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Any importation of whale meat into the UK will result in seizure of the goods, possibly a fine of up to £5,000 and a custodial sentence.

Local customs

Most Japanese people are very friendly and welcoming but can be reserved. Loud, boisterous behaviour is not as acceptable as it is in the UK.

In regard to sexual conduct in private, Japan is a tolerant society. However, public displays of affection are less common than in the UK.

Drinks and meals are paid for at the end of your visit to a Japanese bar. Tipping is not necessary. In some places, prices can be high. Disputes over bills can lead to arrest.

Tattoos in Japan have a historical association with organised crime, and while attitudes towards them are increasingly accepting, many public swimming pools, hot springs, beaches, and some gyms do not admit anyone with tattoos. Other establishments may simply ask that any tattoos to be covered up while using the facilities.