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Safety advisories for overseas vacationers


Thinking of booking an overseas holiday this coming Golden Week? Want to take extra precautions that wherever you go will be safe from terrorists and other troublemakers who could spoil the trip, and possibly even end your life?

Well you can go to the "Overseas Safety" site operated by Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and see which countries are on its list of high-risk destinations. Over the past month, for example, the site has issued danger advisories for Fiji, El Salvador, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Syria, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Russia, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Or, you could read the piece in Shukan Shincho (April 2), in which several travel professionals tell you about which famous overseas tourist spots are to be avoided.

"From long ago, Tunisia had been a convenient destination for tourists from Europe, and has been developed as a resort," says Masato Iizuka, professor at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. Iizuka likes Tunisia so much that since 2012, he'd visited the capital Tunis for three straight years.

Iizuka noted that atmosphere was "not one that seemed likely for a terrorist incident would take place," and in fact the MoFA had rated lowest, at Level 1, on its four-step risk indicator. The site's advisory for Level 1 countries merely states "Take sensible precautions."

How does MoFA rank Tunisia compared with other countries? The same as the interior of China or certain parts of Mexico. By contrast the majority of countries in North Africa are designated the highest, either Level 4, or Level 3.

"Tunisia's government collapsed in 2011 as a result of the "Arab Spring, but was spared major disorder," Osamu Miyata, head of the Center for Contemporary Islamic Studies in Japan, tells the magazine. "Under its new government the military and police succeeded in maintaining the old system, and tourism, one of the mainstays of the economy, made a comparatively quick rebound."

Nevertheless, from the recent attack at the National Bardo Museum in Tunis, terrorism has proved to difficult to root out, as the world was to learn on March 18. If MoFA had raised the warning level, might the lives of the three Japanese victims have been spared?

A source with close ties to MoFA tells Shukan Shincho that from a look at the countries where warnings have been raised, the accuracy of danger assessment has proved "even less accurate than weather forecasts."

"A decade or so ago, cruises were extremely popular in Europe, and the number of Japanese booking tours on them also rose rapidly," a veteran tour conductor said. "In addition to calling on Tunisia they would visit Morocco, Greece, Spain and other places where visitors could see Roman-era ruins."

The risks of joining such trips were often obscured. For instance Morocco, the conductor said, ranks third in the number of "soldiers" who have volunteered to fight for ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

"The cafes in Casablanca have no security precautions whatsoever," points out the aforementioned Miyata. "An assailant shooting at customers could easily get away."

Greece, owing to its geographic proximity to Syria, may also be vulnerable to Islamic terrorists.

"More than museums, the tourist attractions in Greece are mostly outdoor archeological sites and this makes them more difficult to guard," said the aforementioned tour conductor. "Take the Acropolis in Athens, for example. There are no checks of visitors' hand-carry items, and anybody with a ticket can gain admission. Police patrol the area, but I've never seen anyone stopped for a spot check, not even visitors carrying large baggage."

Ominously, articles in ISIS's own glossy magazine "Dabiq" have issued clear threats against citizens of the U.S., Great Britain, Germany, France and Australia, raising the possibility that tourists from those countries will be targeted.

The solution for Japanese travelers, says Miyata, is to avoid locales with large numbers of Western European and North American visitors. "Likewise, it's best not to stay in hotels belonging to chains owned by corporations in those places," he says. "It's safer to stay in locally owned and operated hotels."

And Doha, capital of Qatar, seems to be pretty safe bet, since most of the players in the Middle East, terrorist groups included, do their banking there.

© Japan Today

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I wonder why France is not on this list. They have had quite a number of incidents.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

I think the list focuses on places where you are in additional danger simply because you are a Japanese tourist. Otherwise they would have to mention every country where there is an elevated risk of being randomly gunned down... a very sensitive subject.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

I think the list focuses on places where you are in additional danger simply because you are a Japanese tourist.

For most Japanese tourists, this simply means anywhere outside Japan....

12 ( +14 / -2 )

Best vacation is staying in Japan.

0 ( +10 / -10 )

Best vacation is staying in Japan.

I don't know if it's the best, but vacationing in Japan can be great. I love traveling around.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Best vacation is staying in Japan.

I disagree but I have to admit, Japan HAS everything. From the snowy mountains in Hokkaido to the tropical beaches in Okinawa and everything in between. Unfortunately, there's just too many people going at the same time.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Japan HAS everything

Please direct me to the nearest desert. I'm in Kyushu. I love Japan, but diverse topography is not one of its most noted features. I would travel more in Japan if the airfares and highway fees weren't so ridiculous. At a certain point, you just say "Let's go overseas. It's cheaper."

6 ( +10 / -2 )

Tottori has Desert.

8 ( +12 / -5 )

Go anywhere in Golden Week and expect to pay through the nose for everything - train/plane tickets, hotels, restaurants, service. Much better to stay at home and travel at another time of your own choosing. Lower prices, better service, smaller or no crowds.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

At a certain point, you just say "Let's go overseas. It's cheaper."

Only if you don't factor in plane tickets. The cheapest I can leave the country for with my family is about 240,000 yen (60,000 x 4). For that same price, I can drive anywhere in Japan, and stay in nice onsen and hotels, and do a lot of activities, and live like a king for a week.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

What a load of hysterical nonsense. Is there civil unrest? Is there violent crime targeting tourists? If yes, then don't go, otherwise grow up and stop being afraid of your own shadow. Maybe if Japanese tourists didn't go around in packs, clutching onto each other for comfort, they wouldn't stand out so much.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Mentioning Tunisia as a place to avoid sounds fair but then who goes to Tunisia from Japan?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Rather surprising that parts of the Philippines and Malaysia are not on the list as those countries themselves have travel restrictions in place for their own citizens too.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

TokiyoAPR. 09, 2015 - 02:23PM JST Tottori has Desert.

No. Tottori has sand dunes. Sand dunes do not equal desert.

Seconding Cleo, the best advice for Japanese wanting to travel during Golden Week is don't. Why not travel some time over the summer break, other than O-bon if you have kids, or sometime during tsuyu if you are unencumbered by children?

Most Japanese who bother to take extended vacation still do this during the national holidays meaning they must endure the crush of humanity at rail stations or airports.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

There are two long breaks this year, the so-called "Golden Week" holiday and thanks to the calendar one in September too dubbed "Silver Week", so if folks dont want to get caught up in traffic in May, wait until September.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Well I would never go to Africa there are already way too many problems there,,,,,, Mid-East??? Hell No! perhaps the western pacific or Austrailia,,,, Hmmmm,,,,,, on second thought i'll spend my time & money in the good old U.S.of A.!

-2 ( +3 / -6 )

Isn't the U.S.A. on the list? There are so many guns around there and there is so much viloent street crime.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Travelling Japan by car is cheap. You travel all the small country roads. Traveling super highways is not only expensive, but boring too. The small roads running through quaint villages and towns are wonderful. Travel by van, and you can use it to sleep in also. Most small towns have sento so bathing is easy too. And, no other country in the world has such an abundance of toilets. Safe, cheap, easy and people will feed you and take care of you.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

You travel all the small country roads. Traveling super highways is not only expensive, but boring too. The small roads running through quaint villages and towns are wonderful.

I fully agree.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I'm surprised they don't simply list all the countries in the world and note them all in varying degrees of "Sugoku abunai" "abunai" and "maa maa abunai", because realistically that's pretty much the average J mentality

5 ( +6 / -1 )

gaijintravellerAPR. 10, 2015 - 09:34AM JST Isn't the U.S.A. on the list? There are so many guns around there and there is so much viloent street crime.

While gun ownership in the U.S. is at an all-time high, violent crime is at it's lowest level in about forty years.

Most violent crime in the U.S. is, sadly, "black-on-black" violence and an ever increasing level of police violence, primarily against people of color.

4 ( +5 / -2 )

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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