You and your passport in Japan

Something that many visitors are not aware of is that Japanese law requires visitors to carry passports with them at all times. This can be a surprise and a concern to some people, who worry about the security of their passport. They would prefer to leave it locked in a hotel safe.

What will happen if I don’t carry my passport with me?

It is the law in Japan that visitors have to carry their passport with them. When you arrive, you’ll get a temporary entry permit in your passport which is proof that you have been permitted to enter Japan.

Although it’s rare, there have been occasions when police have asked to see a visitor’s passport. There are reports from some people on various websites that they have shown a photocopy of their passport and that has been ok. Others have had to go back to their hotel with a police officer to get the passport or spent some hours at a police station sorting out matters.

Personally, I always carry my passport with me and wouldn’t take a chance on a photocopy being sufficient. The consequences of not doing so can be unpleasant, and not a great way to spend your holiday.

Other reasons for carrying your passport

There are other reasons for keeping your passport with you.

Tourists can do tax-free shopping at many stores and this requires a passport. The store staff will check your passport to see that you are a temporary visitor, and then attach a receipt. This is collected at the departure airport.

The JR Pass and other train passes (eg Keihan passes) are available only to temporary visitors. When you go to the ticket office to pick up these passes, the staff will look at your passport before issuing the pass. Occasionally the conductor on a train will ask to see passports when a rail pass is shown.

When you check into accommodation, the staff will ask to see your passport and will photocopy this. They are required to collect details of people staying with them, and they use passport details to do this.

Keeping your passport safe

Japan is a relatively low-crime country and pickpocketing or robbery is rare compared with most destinations. If you lose something, the chances are high that it will be handed in to the police.

Even though the chances of your passport going astray are low, it is still sensible to be careful. Keeping it in an inside zipped pocket in your bag or jacket is one way of keeping it secure. Make sure that it’s a place which you don’t access for other things, so that you won’t accidentally pull your passport out while getting something else.

Having a back-up copy of your passport is useful, either a photocopy or an electronic copy, so that you have the details if the worst happens. Do report the loss to the police as soon as possible, as it may be handed in. Know the contact details for your country’s embassy or consulate, just in case.

With a bit of care, you can stay on the right side of Japanese law and keep your passport safe.

Do you have any questions about travelling around Japan? Please feel free to contact me.

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For further information, the ebook Japan Just for You is a practical step-by-step guide to planning your trip to Japan, starting with developing your own personal trip concept. It’s now available on Apple, Amazon and Kobo, and other stores.