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Radiation levels in Japan

Radiation levels in Japan

We were due to go to Japan in March 2012, one year after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in March 2011, so we did a bit of background research about radiation levels and after weeks of reading news and corresponding with various sources of information through the net, we were definitely… confused.

In a last minute act before the trip, we bought the Gamma Scout Geiger counter and took measurements throughout Japan.


Our Geiger measurements indicate that radiation levels are average (often even below average), as you can see in the pictures.

To sum it up: background radiation is overall lower than in Europe. It is safe to go to Japan!

Quick reminder of typical radiation values: Germany/Heidelberg has a background radiation levels of about 0.1 – 0.2 micro sievert/hour and I found that very helpful when looking at the Gamma Scout, comparing values.


22nd March 2012. TOKYO.Tokyo Grand Hotel. Tokyo is really very low on radiation.


Tokyo Radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


23rd March 2012.TOKYO. The Inn capsule hotel.

Tokyo Radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


24th March 2012.TOKYO. Tsukiji fish market.

Tokyo Radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


24th March 2012.TOKYO. Metro.

Tokyo Radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


25th March 2012. TOKYO. Imperial Palace.

Tokyo Radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


26th March 2012.TOKYO. Supermarket.

Tokyo Radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


26th March 2012. TOKYO. Metro. Reduced radiation beneath the surface of the earth.

Tokyo Radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


27th March 2012. TOKYO. Restaurant.

Tokyo Radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


28th March 2012. Close to TOKYO Train Station. On the Shinkansen going to Yamagata.

Tokyo Radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


30th March 2012. On the Shinkansen. Close to YAMAGATA Train Station going back to Tokyo.

Yamagat Radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


1st April 2012. KYOTO. Metro.

Kyoto radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


3rd April 2012. KYOTO. At our Ryokan. Kyoto was really very low on radiation, usually below 0.1 micro sievert/h. The values would suddenly go above 0.1 micro sievert/h when the Gamma Scout was close to those apples. That freaked us out a bit. Very possible that we overreacted a bit, too. Background radiation is still very low, as you can see on the Geiger (despite the apples).

Kyoto radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


4th April 2012. KYOTO Train Station.

Kyoto radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


5th April 2012. HIROSHIMA Peace Memorial. At the Atomic Bomb Dome.

Hiroshima Radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


5th April 2012. HIROSHIMA Peace Memorial Museum.

Hiroshima Radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


5th April 2012. HIROSHIMA Peace Memorial Park. Near the end of WWII, in August 1945, the United States Army Air Forces dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. I was wondering whether these slightly increased values are radioactive remains of that bomb.

Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


5th April 2012. MIYAJIMA. Island of Itsukushima.


Miyajima Radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


6th April 2012. HIROSHIMA Airport.

Hiroshima Radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


7th April 2012. NAHA CITY on OKINAWA island.

Okinawa Radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


8th April 2012. NAHA Airport on OKINAWA island.

Okinawa Radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter




Yes, we even dared to take a trip to Fukushima Train Station and radiation values indicated by the Geiger were… just fine, as in average. We only got a significant increase in radiation, when the Shinkansen was getting closer to the Daiichi power plant. By that I mean that the train was passing the power plant at a distance of about 45-50 km. By significant I mean about three to four times average levels – which BTW is seriously nothing to radiation levels during flights.

What happened at Fukushima is different to Chernobyl (nuclear disaster in 1986), although both accidents are classified as a level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale – two sad worldwide records (so far).

These are the differences: there were no first hand deaths at Fukushima and the amount of radioactivity released from Fukushima was a lot less than the amount released at Chernobyl, where highly radioactive smoke drifted over large parts of the western Soviet Union and Europe. The total amount of radioactivity released from the Fukushima Daiichi reactors was only 1/10 of that from Chernobyl.

Our measurements would back the info, that most of the radioactivity was carried away from the mainland (onto the ocean) and that the overall impact was rather small in comparison to Chernobyl. I am not sure about the impact on marine life.


28th March 2012. Shinkansen arrived at FUKUSHIMA TRAIN STATION.  Slightly elevated values for the usually lower radiation levels in Japan. The city of Fukushima is actually 60 km away from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Fukushima Train Station Radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


28th March 2012. At FUKUSHIMA TRAIN STATION. Average radiation levels. (For Japan they are a tiny bit elevated.)

Fukushima Train Station Radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


28th March 2012. On the Shinkansen. We are passing by the FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR PLANT with a distance of about 45-50 km close to KORIYAMA. Exceeding normal radiation levels four times.

(close to) Fukushima Radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


30th March 2012. On the Shinkansen. Passing by FUKUSHIMA POWER PLANT again, with a distance of about 45-50 km, on our way back to Tokyo.

(close to) Fukushima Radiation Gamma Scout Geiger Counter


1st June 2013. After a three months stay in Tokyo (with simply perfect radiation), I just took one picture at Narita Airport at the Air Aisia check as we were leaving Japan. Radiation is just better than normal in Japan.




Detecting radioactive particles in food is not possible with the Gamma Scout. If you are concerned about what you will eat and worry about radiation in (sea) food, then don’t let it spoil you trip or better don’t go.

Aware of the limits of our Geiger in detecting food contamination, but very curious whether there would be any changes on the display – we held the Gamma Scout above our food to see what happens. We decided that, if radioactivity levels would increase and show a major discrepancy to surrounding radiation levels, we would be cautious – and risk scientists’ condemnation for our ‘method‘. This is by no means scientific as the Geiger counter measures background radiation all the time and not the inside contamination of solids or liquids. Unfortunately, you do need a laboratory for the latter.

Anyway, here is what we found: the Geiger showed a somewhat suspicious difference in radiation levels only that one time, as we were holding it above those four foiled apples, which we didn’t eat to comfort our conscious. At all other times we held the Geiger close to our food, the Geiger showed no changes at all. In the end we gave in to all (veggie and seafood) delicacies in Japan, because this was the reason why we came to Japan in the first place.



We carried the Geiger in the outside pocket of our backpack, so that we could ‘monitor’ radiation at all times. Maybe a bit on the compulsive obsessive side but we weren’t that bad. Look, we didn’t do a blood test for caesium, nor did we get the magic Prussian Blue Pill to come clean after leaving the country, nor did we take iodine tablets for thyroid protection. (Just some of the crazy stuff I read on the net.)

Considering radiation, but mainly the amazing food and things we saw, we are definitely planning to visit Japan again!

I hate radioactive rain‘. I found this kawaii sticker in Tokyo.

'I hate radioactive rain' sticker Japan

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  1. Your figures seem more or less similar to those on the Japan Geigermap. Reading about it like this makes it feel more personal, though, which is a huge advantage to looking at figures on a map.

    I see you’re planning on doing a geiger count for Malaysia (where I’m from)- looking forward to it!

  2. Tokyo is unsafe.

    The numbers you are using are post-fukushima. They were revised. 10 uSv/h is 10x the old recommended dosage for the non-nuclear worker. Based on your numbers, you essentially proved to yourself, without knowing, that you indeed visited a contaminated zone.

    Here is further proof:

    I would highly advise anyone in Japan to leave immediately. Tokyo was covered in uranium shortly after the explosion. That stuff doesnt just go away. Instead it accumulates in the system over time and causes this:

    • Hi Eric,

      we’ve never seen the values you’re claiming, 10 uSv/h. We’ve observed the values of 0.1-0.2 uSv/h in Tokyo, and this is typically less than in most cities around the world (just to compare, in Hong Kong, background radiation rises up to 0.8 uSv/h in some places). Therefore, we didn’t prove that Tokyo is a contaminated zone, quite the contrary. The only thing we’ve proved is that you’re confusing 0.1 with 10 :)

      The video “proof” on youtube you mention is authored by a controversial guy who is selling “anti-radiation” pills, and in fact, the quality of the video is so low, that we can’t see any of the instrument readings, nor where his measurements actually came from. The guy from the video claims that the Japanese government is trucking radioactive material from the Fukushima site all over Japan, in order to “increase the cancer rate in the whole of Japan so that there will be no control group” of children unaffected by the disaster.

      The discussed air conditioning filter supposedly from Tokyo is also very suspicious – the Fukushima disaster was in the month of March, which is the time when aircons are typically not used in Tokyo (average temperatures for Tokyo in March are between 6°C and 14°C).

      Eric, for the future, please read up some facts, before spreading this kind of nonsense.

  3. Hi Dasza and Tomek,

    We have the project to travel to Japan next spring with our two children. So of course I’m wondering whether this is safe. A question is bugging me : where did you buy the Geiger counter ?
    Thanks in advance for your answer
    Anne (Brussels)

    • Hello Anne,

      we have bought the Geiger Counter through this German manufacturer and have found it to be very sturdy. It has been traveling with us for over three years now.

      It has given us a more objective perspective on radiation levels.

      Apart from Fukushima Station (yep, we passed it, too), radiation levels have been remarkably low or average, in all the places we have traveled in Japan (Honshu, Kyushu, Okinawa).

      We will be living in Tokyo for a year now and so far are enjoying very normal and below average radiation :-)


  4. Hi there, I am planning a trip in December 2016 to Japan – mainly Tokyo, Osaka or Hokkaido. And wondering if the radiation level now is safe to travel? I have plans for kids though and it is quite a concern but would very much want to visit!!

    • Natural background radiation levels in Japan are usually much lower than elsewhere in the world (i.e. on average twice lower than in Europe).

  5. Hi
    I was very interested in the places that were visited.Also, it may very well be the case that the measurements that were taken were true.However, by holding your Geiger counter away from any source ie in the air means very little as any radioactive particles are not
    present there.Any radioactivity is lurking at ground level!
    I suggest that to get more accurate readings and knowledge that the detector be wrapped in a bag and placed on the ground especially around drainage areas where contaminants concentrate.
    I think that you’ll find the readings are a lot different.
    Is Japan safe or not? The emissions from Fukushima are ongoing and that must be a concern.Still, distance from the plant means that there is little danger for those people on a short sightseeing visit to Japan.
    For the people of Japan I think it is much more of a problem.

  6. Hello!

    Thank you very much for your interesting post!

    Actually, at the moment I am studying in Japan for one year (Kyoto) and whilst I know the radiation levels are low here, I am still very careful with food (I don’t eat where they don’t specific from which prefecture it comes from and I do not eat cheap fish at cheap sushi places).

    I wondered if you perhaps have any reliable sources on food in Japan regarding nuclear matters? :>

    • Hello Jessica!

      Unfortunately the Geiger is not fit to read radiation in food.
      Checking the prefecture your food comes from is a good idea.
      I am just thinking that with fish it is a much more difficult affair. Don’t cheaper sushi joints get their fish from the same spots in the sea?

      Thanks for stepping by : -)

  7. I will be going to yamagata with my brother. I saw that radiation is a little higher there when you passed it. I will be there for 3 days. Just a little worried if it safe.

    • We found radiation levels to be within average ranges.
      If you are concerned, I would recommend to get a Geiger Counter and check for yourself.
      Happy travels!

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