Hiking and Adventure Sports Insurance
One of the most common inquiries I get from my readers is about hiking insurance. Do I need it? Quite possibly. Is it necessary over travel insurance already purchased at home? Maybe as some travel insurance policies stipulate hiking under 2000 metres altitude. Are there local companies that you’d recommend for people coming from abroad? There are a couple, but you need at least a rudimentary grasp of Japanese plus the help of Google Translate as their websites are only in Japanese. What is the cost of a helicopter rescue in Japan? Deploying a helicopter for example in Saitama Prefecture costs ¥60,000 per hour. To mention but a few.
If there is any doubt as to the need to take out hiking insurance I suggest first reading this post “Hiking in Japan: Why Insurance Matters” which cites an average rescue cost of ¥398,000 ($3,500 USD). Also, according to this Japan Times article there were 2,495 mountaineering accidents across Japan in 2016, including 319 people who died or were never found, while 1,133 were injured.
For long term stayers there are quite a few hiking insurance providers which offer everything from search and rescue right through to hospitalisation expenses, indemnity liability, death and disablement and trekking and outdoor activities while abroad. Five of the major players in the industry are showcased below. For short term visitors to Japan embarking on a hiking adventure I highly recommend taking out an insurance policy which covers at least search and rescue. The two local outfits who offer short term insurance coverage are Yamakifu with affordable short-term plans ranging from 1 to 4 days. The other is YAMAP with monthly plans varying from 500 to 1,850 yen depending on the coverage required.
Hiking insurance providers in Japan at a glance
|Insurance Provider||Annual fee||Insurance period||How to apply||Activities covered||Other details|
|Montbell||From ¥8270 for a basic "climbing" and ¥2930 for a basic “outdoors”||1 / 3 / 5 years||Online||Varies according to the plan||Search and rescue up to ¥5 million / hospitalisation / death and disablement / indemnity liability|
|Nihon Hiyo Hosho||¥4000||1 year||Online||Hiking / mountaineering and various outdoor sports||Search and rescue up to ¥3 million|
|Yamakifu||¥4000 yen to ¥10000 yen||1 year and short term 1-4 days||Online||Varies according to the plan||Search and rescue up to ¥5 million / indemnity liability|
|jRO (Japan Rescue Organization)||¥2160 plus a one-time joining fee of the same amount||1 year||Online||Hiking / mountaineering and various outdoor sports||Search and rescue up to ¥3.3 million|
|YAMAP||¥4950 to ¥18250||1 year and monthly||Online||Hiking / mountaineering and various outdoor sports||Search and rescue up to ¥3 million / death and disablement / indemnity liability|
# 1. Montbell hiking insurance
Clothing and equipment behemoth Montbell provides comprehensive insurance coverage underwritten by AIU Insurance. They offer two plans, an “outdoors” and “climbing”. The outdoor plan (general injury insurance) covers activities such as trekking, hiking, camping, cycling and skiing while the climbing plan (comprehensive insurance) covers full-fledged mountaineering. On top of this Montbell proffers a bewildering 90 different coverage types ranging from one to five years with the more expensive plans covering hospitalisation expenses, indemnity liability, death and disablement. The annual premium for a basic plan “climbing” is 8,270 yen which can be purchased on the internet and is valid from the afternoon of the next day.
Pros: Some plans cover trekking and outdoor activities while abroad. A wide variety of plans to select from.
Cons: Expensive when compared with other insurance providers.
# 2. Nihon Hiyo Hosho hiking insurance
Nihon Hiyo Hosho or Nihiho offers affordable “rescue cost insurance” for hiking and various outdoor sports including rock climbing, trail running, backcountry skiing, snowboarding, canoeing and mountain biking. The 4,000 yen annual fee covers expenses required for search and rescue including helicopter callouts up to 3 million yen. Policy starts from midnight on the day following payment.
Pros: Relatively inexpensive at 4,000 yen or only 333 yen per month.
Cons: Death and disablement, hospitalisation and indemnity liability are not covered.
# 3. Yamakifu hiking insurance
Yamakifu based out of Chiba is one of the few outfits that also offer short term hiking insurance. The basic annual fee is 4,000 yen and covers search and rescue expenses up to 5 million yen. There is also a plus members category for 7,500 yen which includes indemnity liability, limited hospitalisation expenses and outpatient care. The expert members fee costs 10,000 yen and covers mountaineering and ice axe use. The “one time” short term insurance ranges from day trips (660 yen) up to 4 days (1,600 yen) and provides coverage similar to the plus members category.
Pros: The plus and expert plans cover mountain climbing or hiking while abroad. Competitive rates and good coverage combined with short-term plans. Some plans cover injuries caused by natural disasters.
Cons: Need to submit a hiking plan to guarantee you are fully covered.
# 4. jRO hiking insurance
With over 63,000 paid up members jRO (Japan Rescue Organization LLC) is one of largest search and rescue insurance providers in Japan. Along with hiking and mountain climbing it also provides coverage for trail running, rock climbing, sports climbing, bouldering, skiing, snowboarding, mountaineering, canyoning, caving and mountain biking. Members are required to pay a one-time joining fee 2,160 yen, plus an annual fee of the same amount. Search and rescue expenses are covered up to 3.3 million yen using part of the funds put up by the members against accidents.
Pros: Low annual fee. Membership benefits include discounts at some mountains huts.
Cons: Doesn’t cover death and disablement, injury, hospitalisation and indemnity liability.
jRO (Japan Rescue Organization)
# 5. YAMAP hiking insurance
YAMAP the SNS service for climbers in Japan now also offers hiking insurance. They offer three levels of insurance which can be paid either in either yearly or monthly instalments. The basic plan costs 4,950 yen (500 yen / monthly) and includes search and rescue expenses up to 3 million yen. The more expensive plans contain indemnity liability and payments if admitted to hospital. The insurance provides coverage for hiking, mountain climbing, trail running, cycling, skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, canoeing and kayaking.
Pros: Yearly and monthly plans available. No added premium for professional guides. Insurance also covers domestic travel and accidents caused by natural disasters.
Cons: Indemnity liability limited to 10 million yen.