An overview of hiking insurance providers in Japan.
Do you really need hiking insurance in Japan? Well, if you want to avoid paying $4000 USD for a helicopter rescue, then the answer is yes... "But is hiking really that dangerous? I probably won't need it" - this is both correct and incorrect. You don't need hiking insurance, and indeed I have hiked many mountains without insurance, and for easy hikes without technical terrain you can probably skip the insurance. But honestly speaking, this is not a wise decision. You cannot predict an accident, and the consequences of an accident far out-way it's low probability.
If you have a mild accident while walking down the street or driving a car, it's quite easy to get to hospital or simply get home to recover, but on the mountain these simple situations can become serious. If you trip on the pavement in the street, no worries, but if you trip on a rock on exposed terrain, then the fall can lead to significant injuries. Even simply rolling your ankle can result in a serious sprain that turns a 4 hour descent into an 10 hour ordeal which means you would have to spend the night on the mountain, and perhaps there's also a storm forecast later that evening. The next thing you know it's dark, the weather is bad, and you're freezing cold - hiking insurance solves most of these problems by covering you for helicopter rescues, plus the insurance itself is relatively cheap, usually around ¥4000 for an annual membership.
And the statistics on rescues is also pretty interesting. According to data from the Japanese government, there is an average of more than 2,000 mountain rescues each year, with helicopter rescues accounting for roughly 40% of these incidents. The most common reasons for rescues in Japan are:
Accidents and injuries
Adverse weather conditions
So here is an easy run-down of the best hiking insurance providers in Japan, you can sign up for these online using their websites.
The Best Insurance For Short-Term Periods
Yamakifu is the only provider here that offers insurance for short periods, in case you only want it for the weekend. For Yamakifu, you must submit a hiking plan in order to be covered.
Price range: ¥660 - ¥4000
Period: 1-4 days or 1 year
The Best Insurance For Extra Coverage
Montbell is the most expensive option on this list, but they also offer the most comprehensive insurance and the widest range of options. They're a good option if you want to include other outdoor activities such as cycling.
Price range: ¥8270
Period: 1 or more years
Nihon Hiyo Hosho
The Best Insurance For Basic Coverage
These guys are good if you simply want a full year of coverage for rescues and don't care about the extras.
Price range: ¥4000
Period: 1 year
The Best Insurance For Long-Term Residents
Covers a wide range of activities and has a lower annual fee after your first year. But they don't offer coverage for extras such as hospital visits.
Price range: ¥4000
Period: 1 year
Considerations For Choosing Your Insurance
When looking at all these options it's helpful to think about what you need and want from your coverage, these usually come down to:
Additional activities (skiing, cycling, etc.)
Extras (Hospitalisation, et.c)
One last consideration is your current level of insurance. Don't forget that while a lot of travel insurance covers some of these activities, they might not cover helicopter rescues, you might be excluded from coverage if the mountain is over a certain height, or they won't cover you if you're hiking during the winter months.
Hiking insurance is essential for any outdoor enthusiast, especially in Japan due to the variety of terrain and unpredictable weather conditions. But thankfully, it's nice and cheap with an average cost of ¥4000 per year. If you have any questions or info you would like to add, leave a comment below.