One of the things that you often hear about Japan is that it's a safe country. And that's true. In comparison to America, Japan has a very low crime rate and nonviolent crimes such as theft are much more common than violent crimes. However, just because Japan is relatively safe doesn't mean that it is completely safe. Japan, like any country, does have its criminals and its crime rate is rising. Take the shocking stabbings that occurred in broad daylight in Akihabara on June 8th 2008 which left 7 people dead and 10 injured or the fact that some of the students at JCMU had their bikes stolen even though they were locked. Use common sense: Travel in pairs or groups and keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded or famous areas.

Sexual Harassment on Trains

Japan is also infamous for its "chikan" or the men who sexually harass women--generally on crowded trains. One doesn't have to be constantly in "high alert" on trains but it is certainly a real concern within Japan and one that women traveling alone should be aware of. Japanese people generally suggest rather passive approaches in situations of sexual harassment such as just turning and staring at the offender in a way that makes him obvious to other people on the train. Supposedly, the idea is to shame the offender into ceasing his activities rather than physically stop him. However, although there are accounts of people hitting or scratching chikan as well. Basically, do what you must to stop your assaulter even if it means physically lashing out. Most Japanese women usually simply say, "Please stop" when confronted by a chikan but foreigners don't have to be so polite. Make a lot of noise if you have to. You are also able to report chikan to station attendants and press charges.

Japan has responded to these instances of sexual abuse by creating women-only cars on trains. These cars are usually marked by a sign on the platform on the floor of the car's boarding area or attached to the car itself. Sometimes the gender rule is enforced only on certain days of the week at certain times such as rush hour. The signs located near or within the car will provide this information.

Emergency Response Time

The average time it takes for an ambulance or firetruck to reach its destination in Japan is currently about 7 minutes and 26.4 additional minutes to take the patient to the hospital. This is incredibly slow. Keep this in mind while you're in Japan. In this case it's definitely better to be safe than sorry.

The US Bureau of Consular Affairs has more information on crime in Japan as well as what to do should you be the victim of a crime.