It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Over 2 years and a half have passed since international tourists without a visa could enter Japan freely. This week after much speculation and several false alarms, the Japan borders open again to individual travel on October 11th. Japan has had some of the world’s toughest border restrictions to prevent the spread of Coronavirus since shutting borders down in spring 2020. Only in recent months were tourist allowed to travel in Japan provided that you travelled as part of a package tour with an escort. However this restriction will be removed on Tuesday and the additional welcome news is that Coronavirus travel requirements were already loosened in September. Read on for the key changes and what you need to know when travelling to Japan this autumn.
Japan borders open: Key details
- Visa-free, independent travel will be permitted for over 60 nationalities from October 11th 2022. The full list of nationalities can be found on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan website here.
- If you are a citizen of a country on the list, you do not need to apply for a visa to Japan before travelling. As before the Coronavirus restrictions you can fly to Japan and you will receive a 90-day tourist visa on arrival.
- Quarantine and arrival testing at the airport has been eliminated for travelers from the “blue” group countries. This includes the USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand and most of the EU. Again the full group blue country list is on the MOFA website here along with the groups yellow and red.
- Triple vaccinated travellers from the UK now do not require a negative PCR test before flying. The first two doses can be AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Moderna vaccines (or one of Johnson & Johnson) and the additional (third) booster shot can be from Pfizer or Moderna.
- Please note that currently AstraZeneca is not accepted as a valid booster.
- If you cannot prove you are triple-vaccinated as detailed above, then you must take a PCR test within 72 hours before your flight and show a negative certificate in the approved format.
- Another important change found on the JNTO site is that “Single entry visa and multiple entry visa issued by Embassies, Consulate-Generals, and Consulates of Japan in all countries or regions whose validity has been temporary suspended will take effect again from 12:00am (Midnight/JST) on October 11, 2022”.
- Before booking any travel arrangements we would recommend double-checking the latest Japan border measures which can be found on the MOFA website here.
How to enter Japan: Fast track by following the steps below
JNTO have put together an easy to follow guide for visiting Japan after October 11th split into 3 sections – before departure, at the airport and after arrival which you can find here. The main requirements and recommendations before flying to Japan are:
- Reviewing the latest visa requirements for your country for the latest updates
- Preparing a valid vaccination certificate OR a Covid-19 negative certificate
- Any Covid-19 test must be conducted within 72 hours prior to your departure.
- If you take a Covid-19 test, ensure the certificate is valid as per the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare’s requirements here.
Recommended items for Fast track into Japan now borders are open
- Installing the MySOS app to speed past airport quarantine after arrival. MySOS is used to store all your vaccine and health details on one app.
- After installing MySOS, follow the app instructions for uploading your relevant vaccination or Covid certificate. The screen on your app will turn from yellow to blue once the review is complete. It may take several hours for your certificate to be processed.
- Creating an account on the Visit Japan website. You’ll then receive a QR code after registering and adding in your details. Showing this QR code at Immigration and Customs will reduce the amount of time you spend for each process.
- Making sure you have comprehensive travel insurance. Although it won’t be speeding up your entry into Japan, it will protect you financially in the case of unforeseen circumstances.
At the airport
When you get to quarantine simply show your MySOS app with the blue screen showing. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can print out a copy of the dedicated screen from the MySOS website.
At Immigration and Customs show your QR Codes that you receive from the Vist Japan website or app. This will speed up the process at Narita, Haneda, Kansai, Chubu, Fukuoka and New Chitose Airports.
What to expect after arriving in Japan
Fask masks are absolutely the norm in Japan even if they are not legally mandatory. Japanese people started wearing them a long time before the Coronavirus pandemic in order to prevent themselves and others from getting viruses and infections. The advice of the Japanese government is to wear face masks on public transport or in crowded areas. Since they are inexpensive and easy to find at pharmacies across Japan, we would strongly recommend buying some for your trip as you will find they are mandatory at most major tourist attractions. Some restaurants or taxis will also ask you to wear a mask although this is generally softly enforced and keep in mind the etiquette is to wear a mask when speaking to restaurant or cafe staff.
A weak yen especially compared to the dollar. In September the yen was weaker than 140 yen to the dollar for the first time in a quarter century. And despite a dip in the pound, the exchange rate is typically still in the 155 to 165 yen to the pound range. Japan is often considered an expensive country for travel. However this weakened yen along with low inflation in Japan will certainly lead to the feeling of cheaper trips.
More QR Codes and less use of cash for payments. Japan is widely known as a cash based society. However surveys show more than a 40% decrease in cash usages since 2021. There have been several Covid-19 waves in Japan with the recent seventh wave having the highest infection numbers recorded. This has led to an increasing number of options for payments as well as more QR codes in restaurants and cafes.
Cashless Payment options
While the most popular app PayPay requires a Japanese phone number to use, there are two other options for tourists. The first is Line Pay which is a digital payment system operated by Line – the famous messaging service app. Even if you don’t know Line, you’ll probably have seen the Line characters already. Line Pay is free to use but you need to have the Line messaging app to set it up. After you have set it up, simply top up your balance with cash at convenience stores. You can then use Line Pay at store, restaurants and for online shopping.
A second option is using an IC card. These are mainly cards used for public transportation including trains and buses. But that’s not all. You can also use them to pay for things at convenience stores, vending machines along with ome stores and restaurants. The main IC cards are Suica and Pasmo. You can top them at stations, convenience stores or through your mobile phone. To buy a new card, simply pick one up at a pretty much any train station ticket machine for a 500 yen deposit.
What’s new now Japan borders are open?
One of the big attractions that opened while the borders were closed was of course Super Nintendo World. It’s a world first with augemented reality rides based on Mario Kart and Yoshi’s Adventure. There’s also a treasure-hunt style interactive attraction where you retrieve keys to defeat Bowser Junior. Being part of the USJ Osaka theme park it gives one more reason to visit if you weren’t already going for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Another opening that has been causing excitement for children and adults alike is Ghibli Park. This theme park will open its doors in Aichi Prefecture on November 1st. Rather than rides or attractions, you’ll be able to explore the architecture and studio exhibitions that reveal the secrets behind major Studio Ghibli films like My Neighbour Totoro.
The last recommendation is not something new. However as it is held once every 3 years, it is well worth considering if you are in Japan before November 6th. The Setouchi International Art Festival is held on a dozen island in the Seto Inland sea and includes both indoor and outdoor artwork such as the Red Pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama on Naoshima island.
It’s truly exciting to know that we can travel again to Japan now borders are open again. However remember that there are a lot of like minded people who have been waiting patiently and some not so patiently to visit Japan. Plane tickets, accommodation, and tours – especially for 2022 – are booking up fast. We would suggest checking Booking.com for hotels in Tokyo and Kyoto first. Remember that Ryokan will typically be more expensive than hotels and as there are fewer rooms, you’d probably want to make this a priority especially if you are thinking of staying in Hakone.
You may also have questions on the best way to travel in Japan and how to build your itineraries to truly experience all that Japan has to offer. While we are happy to help provide information on the website and are building out a travel section, if you are looking for award-winning experts specialising in Japan travel and with a team on the ground in Japan, we would recommend getting in touch with InsideJapanTours.