Latest on Japan travel restrictions: Entry, events & more

Images: PIXTA
Images: PIXTA

Latest on Japan travel restrictions: Entry, events & more

Live Japan

Countries all around the globe have also been easing up travel restrictions. Naturally, many have also wondered if and when they could travel to Japan again. The rules and details around visiting Japan can be a little complicated to understand.

Several restrictions for entering the country changed on September 8, and from October 11, independent travelers will be able to enter Japan, with no restrictions on number of daily entries, and no short-term visa.

Based on government information, we'll explain everything you need to know about Japan travel restrictions, from entry conditions and necessary documentation, to mask requirements and the current state of Covid-19 in Japan.

Who can enter Japan? What are the conditions for entry?

In response to the spread of Covid, Japan has been deploying entry restrictions and strengthening its quarantine system for foreign nationals who wish to enter Japan.

However, effective September 7, 2022, the government has eased its border control measures by raising the daily limit from 20,000 to 50,000.

Currently, foreigners who fall under any of the following special circumstances are allowed to enter the country.
1. Foreign nationals newly entering Japan for short-term stays (under 3 months) for business/employment;
2. New entry for a short stay for sightseeing purposes (when a travel agency, etc. is responsible for receiving the applicant); or
3. Foreign nationals newly entering Japan for long-term stays

In point 2 above, "sightseeing purposes" was previously limited to foreigners entering from countries/regions in the "blue" category (see the "Entry Status into Japan" section below). From September 7, 2022, entry is permitted for foreigners from all countries/regions.

In addition, entry of foreign tourists on unaccompanied package tours was not permitted until now. After September 7, 2022, entry is permitted for all countries. However, individual travelers are not allowed to enter, and visas remain mandatory for all visitors.

Additionally, on September 23, Prime Minister Kishida announced that from October 11, the majority of border control measures will ease. This includes getting rid of a limit of daily arrivals to Japan, allowing individual tourists to freely enter the country, and getting rid of the need for a short-term stay visa.

Revision of Restrictions on New Entry of Foreign Nationals (Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW)/in Japanese)
COVID-19: Current Japanese Border Measures (Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW)/in English)

Status of Entry into Japan: What do I need to enter Japan? What are Japan's entry procedures?
If you meet the above entry conditions and wish to enter Japan, various documents and procedures are required.

In addition, since midnight on July 28, 2022, quarantine measures have been implemented by classifying countries/regions into three categories, Red, Yellow, and Blue, based on the New Border Measures (30).

(*For details on this classification, please refer to Upon arriving in Japan (3) below.)

Image based on 'Border Measures', Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare website

Until now, all persons returning to or entering Japan from overseas, regardless of region of stay and nationality, were required to submit a Certificate of Testing for COVID-19 within 72 hours prior to departure.

As of September 7, 2022, returnees and entrants with a Vaccination Certificate (3 doses) are no longer required to submit a test certificate within 72 hours prior to departure (see above chart).

For those who do not have a Vaccination Certificate (3 doses), submission of a Certificate of Testing for COVID-19 within 72 hours prior to departure is still required.

Next, certain documents and procedures are required. For convenience, we've arranged them into the following sections: (1) Pre-departure (from home), (2) Departure, and (3) Upon Arrival in Japan.

(1) Pre-departure (from home):
The following preparations are required of all entrants to Japan.

・Installation of MySOS - A health and location monitoring app
MySOS has two functions. First, for those who need to wait after entering Japan, current location data, health status report are collected, and the Health Monitoring Center for Overseas Entrants (HCO) will make a video call to entrants. The second is the Fast Track (pre-quarantine procedures) function (see below).

・Installation of COCOA - A contact confirmation app
You can receive a notification if there is a possibility that you have had close contact with a positive person.

・Application for Fast Track - System letting you handle some quarantine measures ahead of entry
It is recommended to register and apply for Fast Track, which simplifies entry procedures by letting you complete specific quarantine procedures electronically (via app or Web) before entering Japan.
This includes registering documents required for quarantine procedures at entry into Japan.
Fast Track works in concert with the MySOS app, where you can complete the questionnaire, register your Pledge, and submit your vaccination certificate or test certificate for a test taken less than 72 hours before your flight departure.
The app's screen will change from red to blue or green when the screening is completed. Application must be made at least 6 hours before scheduled arrival in Japan.

*This is for passengers entering Narita International AirportHaneda Airport, Central Japan International Airport, Kansai International Airport, and Fukuoka Airport.
*A smartphone is required for all of the above. If you do not have one, you can rent one (for a fee) when you enter Japan.

Sources & Details:
Carrying a Smartphone, Registration, and Use of Required Apps (MHLW; in Japanese, English, Simplified Chinese)
To Anyone Entering/Returning to Japan Who Is Required to Quarantine Requirements During Designated Quarantine Period (in English)
Fast Track (in English)

(2) Departure
Present the MySOS app screen you have pre-registered with the airline you will be using, or present a "Certificate of Negative Test Result for Covid" or undergo a Covid test, depending on your own circumstances.

(3) Upon arrival in Japan
1. Present the MySOS app screen

Show the app screen together with your passport to the quarantine officer.
2. Submit Pre-departure test (*Required for some entrants)
If you do not have a valid vaccination certificate, submit a "COVID-19 Negative Test Result Certificate" from a test conducted within 72 hours prior to departure.
3. Submission of Vaccination Certificate (*Required for some entrants)
Confirm the type of valid vaccine as specified by the Japanese government and submit it to the quarantine officer.

For details:
Vaccine Certificate for Quarantine

4. Submission of Questionnaire (Required for some entrants)
If Fast Track is not available, you must complete the questionnaire in advance. Please answer the web-based questionnaire, generate a QR code, save the QR code as a screenshot or print it out, and present it at the time of quarantine.

WEB Questionnaire

5. Submission of a written pledge (Required for some entrants)

Those who are eligible to stay at the accommodation secured by the quarantine station or to wait at home, etc., are required to submit a written pledge that they will not use public transportation and will wait at home, etc., during the waiting period. Please use the prescribed format found on the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare website for the written pledge.

Waiting at accommodation facilities secured by quarantine stations and submitting a written pledge (MHLW; in Japanese, with English version available)

Regarding the time required for quarantine and other entry procedures, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (MHLW) states on its website:
"Due to the increase in the number of passengers entering Japan, quarantine procedures at airports are taking time depending on the time of arrival."

"We ask for your understanding of the quarantine procedures and recommend that you make your reservations for public transportation (connecting flights, etc.) to get to your home, etc. at least 5 hours after your flight arrival time, and if you are arriving later in the evening, please plan ahead by staying overnight in the vicinity of the airport. If you are arriving later in the evening, please plan your trip well in advance by staying overnight in the vicinity of the airport. The company also reminds passengers to make their reservations at least five hours after their flight arrival time.

Do I need to quarantine in Japan? What are the conditions and duration?

Countries and regions around the world are divided into three color groups, in order of ascending Covid transmission risk: blue, yellow, and red. According to this, inspection and waiting measures are determined at entry.

Blue - Lowest risk group; 128 countries/regions
With a vaccination certificate, no pre-departure Covid test, Covid test on arrival, or standby is required. Without a vaccination certificate, a pre-departure Covid test is required, but no test/waiting upon arrival is required.
・Representative countries/regions: Italy, Indonesia, UK, Australia, Korea, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, Taiwan, China, Germany, France, USA, Hong Kong, Malaysia.

Yellow - Reduced risk group; 73 countries/regions
With a vaccination certificate, no pre-departure Covid test is required, and no Covid test/standby on arrival is required. However, if you do not have a vaccination certificate, a Covid test on arrival is mandatory. You must wait at home for 3 days (if tested and confirmed negative on the third day of waiting; otherwise, 5 days).
・Representative countries/regions: India, Vietnam, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, etc.

Red - Highest risk group; currently none
With a vaccination certificate, no pre-departure Covid test is required, but Covid testing on arrival is mandatory. Quarantine at home for 3 days is required (if tested and confirmed negative on the 3rd day of waiting; 5 days if not tested).
If the applicant has no vaccination certificate, Covid testing upon entry and inspection upon arrival is required. The applicant must wait in quarantine accommodation for 3 days (if the test is negative on the third day of waiting, the waiting period is lifted).

・Representative countries/regions: None

How many Covid cases are in Japan now? How many people are vaccinated in Japan?

As of September 8, 2022, the cumulative number of positive cases was 19,761,733, and the number of deaths was 41,840.

For vaccination status, 81.5% (104,147,784 doses) of the total population completed the first vaccination; 80.4% (104,147,784 doses) for the second dose; and 64.9% (81,767,374 doses) for the third dose.

The fourth dose is being administered sequentially to those aged 60 and over, those aged 18 and over with underlying medical conditions, and those who their doctors deem to be at high risk of severe disease. The current vaccination status is 23.49% (29,746,663 doses).

In addition, for children aged 5 to 11 years, the government has started to apply an "effort requirement" (stating they must make an effort to receive the vaccination), based on certain scientific findings under the Omicron strain outbreak.

Still, as with routine vaccinations such as rubella, it is not mandatory, and parents or guardians may choose whether their child receives the vaccination.

Until now, the government has been monitoring all persons infected with Covid. To reduce the burden on the healthcare system, it has decided to limit the number of persons reported to those at high risk of severe illness, such as the elderly.

The total number of cases was reviewed in four prefectures on September 2, 2022. From September 26, all prefectures will, in principle, limit the number of cases reported to those eligible for notification.

Do I need to wear a mask in Japan?

In Japan, many people wear masks both outdoors and indoors. Japanese people had little resistance to wearing masks before Covid, and even when Covid began spreading, mask mandates were not imposed. Instead, people naturally wore masks in response to calls from the government and experts.

In May 2022, the government recognized that "it is not always necessary to wear masks outdoors as long as people are sufficiently distanced from each other," and indicated that it will consider future infection control measures (including masks) based on the infection situation and the opinions of experts.

Regarding the wearing of masks by children, the government does not recommend that infants under 2 years of age wear masks (even if social distance cannot be maintained) and does not uniformly require children over 2 years of age and before school age to wear masks, even if social distance cannot be maintained.

Even indoors, the government states that masks are not required in places where there is little or no conversation, such as reading in a library or viewing art. Nevertheless, the majority of people in Japan wear masks.

With the arrival of summer, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) is calling for "unmasking," especially in outdoor activities, since wearing masks in hot and humid summer environments increases the risk of heat stroke. In summer 2022, which saw temperatures of 35°C or above, in situations where there was little or no conversation outdoors, such as in parks, some people were seen removing their masks.

Are restaurants and facilities open?

Restaurants and facilities are required to shorten their hours of operation when the government has issued a directive to prevent the spread of Covid.

But since March 21, 2022, when the measures were fully lifted, facilities have not been required to shorten their hours.

When entering a restaurant, disinfect your hands with the sanitizer at the entrance. Once seated, order your food and drink, remove your mask, and enjoy your meal. Some restaurants may require you to take your temperature at the entrance or may have clear partitions at each table.

It is also recommended to eat in small groups as much as possible and to eat in silence to prevent droplet infection. Many schools, kindergartens, and other educational facilities are rigorous in their practice of silent eating.

What about transit - are there any restrictions on travel within Japan?

There are no restrictions on land, air, or sea travel. However, depending on the situation, passengers may be urged to refrain as much as possible from non-essential travel to emergency and priority action areas.

In the summer of 2022, Japan celebrated its first Obon holiday in three years without uniform travel restrictions.

The number of people traveling domestically was 175% of the previous year and 96.7% of that in 2019, with an estimated 70 million people (JTB survey), indicating a growing need for travel.

In addition, fall 2022 has many consecutive holidays and national holidays, and the number of travel bookings for September to November is strong at 243% vs. the previous year (HIS survey).

However, thorough adherence to "new travel etiquette" is being requested, such as wearing masks on public transport and planes, opening windows in public transport, and refraining from conversations on public transport and planes.

Are there any events or festivals being held?

Compared to last year, many events and festivals in 2022 were held for the first time in several years while taking measures against infection. Events included Fuji Rock Festival '22, Sendai Tanabata Festival, Aomori Nebuta Festival, and Akita Kanto Festival (three major festivals in the Tohoku region).

Many famous overseas artists, such as Maroon 5, are expected to visit Japan from fall 2022, and festivals and events held every year are also expected to be held in various parts of the country while taking infection control measures.

Major events and festivals to be held
Kishiwada Danjiri Festival (Osaka Prefecture)/October 2, 8, 9, 2022

The Kishiwada Danjiri Festival in Kishiwada City, Osaka Prefecture, is known for its heroic festivities. The must-see "Danjiri Hikigyo" will be held for the first time in three years on the same scale as before Covid. The festival is held outdoors, with masks, disinfection, temperature checks, and other thorough infection control measures in place.

Kawagoe Festival (Saitama Prefecture)/October 15 & 16, 2022
The festival will be held for the first time in three years, and the scale of the event will be decided in stages due to the unpredictable infection situation.

Maroon 5 WORLD TOUR 2022/2022 December 3, 4 & 6
Maroon 5 comes to Japan for the first time in 3 years on its "Maroon 5 WORLD TOUR 2022". Their first dome tour, the concert will be full of hit songs.

AVRIL LAVIGNE Love Sux TOUR 2022 JAPAN/2022 November 7, 9, 10, 12, 14
Avril Lavigne's tour in Japan, which had been rescheduled due to Covid, will be held in November 2022.

Entering the age of "With Covid"

New Covid infections are still happening around the world. In Europe, while a number of countries have eased mask mandates and other restrictive measures, in July 2022, the highly infectious Omicron strain subtypes "BA.4" and "BA.5" became pandemic, and in Asia, the number of infections continues to rise.

In Japan, since the first case of Covid was confirmed on January 15, 2020, the country has regulated itself by declaring a state of emergency and enforcing priority measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

Although outbreaks of different strains, such as Omicron and Delta, continue to occur, we have entered an era of "with Covid," in which people live while adopting a "new lifestyle" that thoroughly implements infection control measures, such as wearing masks and avoiding the "Three C's (closed spaces with poor ventilation; crowded places with many people; and close-contact settings).

However, the number of entries per day has increased from 20,000 to 50,000. For sightseers, entry was allowed only with a tour conductor, but the regulations are gradually being relaxed, such as allowing entry without an accompanying tour guide.

In addition, on September 23, Prime Minister Kishida announced that from October 11, Japan will get rid of a limit of daily arrivals to Japan, allow individual tourists to freely enter the country, and get rid of the need for a short-term stay visa.

At the same time, from October 11, a domestic travel subsidy program will be launched across the country, in order to help stimulate local travel within Japan. Also, the “Prefectural Citizens Discount” program will be extended to October 10, to help encourage travel. The program offers discounts and privileges to prefectural residents when staying at hotels and inns in the prefecture where they live.

In South Korea, tour bookings to Japan have increased due to the easing of entry requirements, including the exemption of both Japan and South Korea from the Covid test prior to entry into the country. According to Hana Tour, Korea's largest travel agency, the average daily number of reservations for the week of August 29-September 4 was more than five times higher than the previous two weeks.

Tourist destinations throughout Japan, which had been quiet, are eagerly awaiting visitors. In response to the deregulation, souvenir stores have been displaying more products for foreigners and adding English-language displays.

Japan is moving forward to accommodate tourists again. Please plan your visit to Japan without forgetting to take precautions against infection.

Information as of September 26, 2022


Via Live Japan

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