Unlike many cities in Europe, Tokyo is almost entirely modern. With little left of its historical past, the bustling metropolis is typified by skyscrapers, concrete, and electric lights. This is largely because the city was devastated by bombing during World War II and had to be rebuilt during the post-war years.
Most visitors to Tokyo are struck by its sheer size. Indeed, with a population over 30 million, Japan’s capital is the world’s largest metropolitan area. During the Cold War, Tokyo was the heart of East Asian industrialization and modernization. For this reason, it has become a center for business across the region. Perhaps that is why a staggering 47 companies on the Forbes 500 are headquartered in the city.
Fortunately for business travelers, Japan is one of the safest countries in the entire world. Violent crime is rare, and it is generally considered safe to go about at night. However, English is not used as widely as it is in Europe, and some signs are written exclusively in Japanese characters. Moreover, Japanese culture can seem significantly different than Western culture. For these reasons, many visitors have found Japan a more challenging country to navigate successfully.
Yet, Tokyo is considerably more international than the rest of the country and sees a substantial number of foreign travelers every year. Like any nation, visitors should be watchful of pickpockets, especially around shopping areas, bars, nightclubs, trains, and the metro. Airports can also be hazardous as there have been a several reports of passport theft at Tokyo’s international airports.
Japan’s police are generally well trained and proficient. However, many of them do not speak English well, and communication may be a problem. Although they are very competent in most matters, some victims have found that Japanese police seem less comfortable dealing with crimes affecting women. Particularly, they seem to show less sensitivity to victims of rape and sexual assault. Furthermore, some visitors have reported that the Japanese police seem less concerned with crimes affecting foreigners.
Visitors to Japan should also understand that the country’s laws can be very strict. For example, several foreigners have run into trouble for carrying pocketknives as it is against the law to carry any knife longer than 2 inches in public. Travelers should also try to avoid escalating disputes with locals. Following heated disagreements over hotel and restaurant bills, some visitors have been detained by Police until law enforcement has completed its investigation of the dispute. Unfortunately, these investigations may run as long as several weeks.
Even though Tokyo is very safe, there are certain parts of the city where travelers should take extra precautions. The highest risk areas of city are Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ikebukuro, and especially Roppongi. The somewhat infamous area of Roppongi is Tokyo’s international district. English is widely spoken there and it is home to many bars and nightclubs. Unfortunately, the district also experiences higher rates of crime than the rest of the city, and there have been reports of violence breaking out between rival criminal syndicates. Furthermore, it is best for visitors to avoid using credit cards at Roppongi establishments, as there have been multiple reports of credit card theft and fraud.
Additionally, some travelers to the district’s bars and clubs have become victims of drink spiking. The victims of this crime typically report being offered a drink by a stranger, sometimes an attractive woman, while partying at one of Tokyo’s nightspots. Later the victim loses consciousness only to wake up on the street after his credit cards and money have been stolen. As a precaution, visitors should avoid leaving their drinks unattended and not accept drinks from strangers, even if they appear outwardly friendly.
While Tokyo has its dangers and difficulties, it should be restated that the city is one of the safest metropolitan areas in the entire world. Moreover, due to the high density of international corporations located there, most businesses simply can’t afford to not travel to Tokyo. Although the city may be more difficult to navigate for Westerners than many American or European cities, with a little effort, travelers can learn to survive and even thrive in Japan’s modern metropolis.
Ambulance /Fire: 119
Tokyo English Speaking Police : 03-3501-0110
Tokyo English Life Line (Counseling and Information Service): 03-5320-7744