Japan Health Care and Vaccinations
Health insurance is strongly recommended, owing to the high cost of treatment for those outside the Japanese national healthcare system. Confirm that your health care policy fully covers travel to Japan before departure, as you will be expected to pay the full amount of any treatment you receive.
The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (www.iamat.org) provides a list English-speaking doctors. There are hospitals with emergency and outpatient facilities in all major cities. Throughout Japan dial 119 to call an ambulance. Because emergency operators may not speak English, assistance from a local person, if possible, would be helpful when making an emergency call.
If bringing small amounts of personal medications into Japan, whether they are over the counter or prescription, make sure they are in clearly marked containers. Larger quantities or devices may require a special certificate which must be obtained before departure to Japan. Consult the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare website (www.mhlw.go.jp) for more detailed information. Visitors should be aware that in Japan medications containing stimulants or codeine are illegal. You are not permitted to take commonly available nasal decongestant medication such as Sudafed and Vicks Inhalers into Japan.
Food and Drink
If travelling to the area near the Fukushima nuclear accident it is advisable to take supplies of food and water. Produce from the area near the Fukushima nuclear accident, which is still being sold in some supermarkets nationwide, should be avoided due to the lack of a centralized testing system in Japan for radioactive contamination in food, and discrepancies between Japanese and international standards for safe levels of radioactive substances in food.
Tap water in Tokyo was declared not safe for consumption after the accident, although the government has since stated otherwise. Nevertheless, if travelling with children it is advisable to take precautions. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare website (www.mhlw.go.jp) has updates on contamination levels in tested food. In other parts of Japan, food and drink are generally considered safe.
Only eat raw fish, seafood and meat from recognised establishments, and be aware that there is a risk of parasitic infection and toxins if these foods have not been prepared properly. E-coli food poisoning outbreaks tend to occur in Japan during the warmer months (June-September), and it is advisable to take precautions when consuming perishable foods at outdoor summer festivals, where refrigeration may be an issue.
You should make sure you are up to date with routine vaccinations. Influenza and measles epidemics have occurred in recent years and precautions should be taken. Tuberculosis and hepatitis B occur and vaccination is sometimes advised. Typhus occurs in some river valleys. Japanese encephalitis may occur. Vaccination is recommended for long-term travel (greater than one month) in rural areas. All normal precautions should also be exercised to avoid exposure to sexually-transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
If spending prolonged periods outdoors during the summer months when heat and humidity can be extreme, make sure to have plenty of fluids on hand to avoid dehydration and wear hats and other protective clothing to avoid heatstroke.