Blog Update!

Back in July I made the decision to no longer maintain Jose’s Japan Tips. However, I’ll be crawling out from time to time – and time permitting, of course – to post useful information for those who are interested.

This week I posted to my blog about two YouTube channels dedicated to Japan and Tokyo travel worth checking out. In the near future I might try to update some older articles about entry into Japan as the information is already old… maybe “deprecated” would be the proper term. I’ll keep you all posted and let you know when these are updated. Thanks very much!

Recommended YouTube Channels for Japan Travel Tips

I’m once again crawling out of my hiatus for this quick post about two small yet amazing YouTube channels that you really need to check out.

As Japan once again welcomes international travelers for tourism, there are so many “YouTubers” that are out there to express their love for the country, and their interest in helping others have a safe and pleasant trip. While a number of them are so popular that the creators have made a business out of it (making me feel that there are more sponsored plugs than there is content), today I would like to offer my recommendations for two budding YouTube channels who genuinely want to help you travel around Tokyo and offer their travel recommendations in general: Harblife and Tokyo Kenchan.


Created at the end of May 2022 and with over 5,000 subscribers, this YouTuber posts frequent videos about hidden gems in Tokyo and, most importantly, the latest travel procedures when entering Japan. One of my favorite videos is this one, where he and his partner explain the importance of using the Japanese government’s digital apps to smooth your entry process into Japan following the lifting of the COVID entry ban. On a recent return to Japan, where he is a permanent resident, Harblife decided to see what would happen if he did not use the government app (Currently, this is Visit Japan Web) AND if he did not declare that he had three COVID-19 vaccinations – which meant that he would need to get a negative PCR test within 72 hours of flight departure. His partner, on the other hand, registered her vaccine and quarantine details ahead of time. Needless to say, the difference between the two is night and day.

Harblife’s videos are straight-shooting, and with open captions that make it easy to understand what he is talking about. I am hoping to take some of his suggestions that he offered for side trips in this video, for example, if I decide to go back to Japan for a fifth time.

Tokyo Kenchan

This YouTube channel with nearly 1,800 subscribers is run by Japanese native Kengo. It was created in April 2021, but most of his content has come out only within the last few months. In a very simple and conversational style, Kenchan covers various topics such as how to get around Tokyo and Kyoto, as well as a number of ideas for day trips. One of my favorite videos explains where you can get amazing Tokyo views for free. In one of his most recent videos, he also suggests ten day trips you could take out of Tokyo.

Click on the links in the headers to visit each of these channels. I hope you’ll look at these two channels, give them a like and subscribe, and consider their advice as you prepare for your next trip to Japan.

As a footnote, I was not directly asked to promote these sites. These recommendations are my own.

New Japan Entry Rules starting October 11

On Tuesday, October 11, Japan will finally reopen their borders to all foreigners for visa-free travel, including independent tourism, for the first time since the onset of the COVID pandemic 2 1/2 years ago. Quarantine based on vaccination status and arrival location will also be ending. Below I’ll break down what you’ll need to do before entering the country.

I may sound like Captain Obvious here, but the first thing you should do is make sure you have a valid passport with at least six months before expiration. Passport processing times are taking longer than usual these days, so if you don’t have a passport or your current one is about to expire, take the time now to make the necessary arrangements with your nation’s passport issuing agency.

The second thing you’ll need to do is verify that your nation has visa-free arrangements for short-term entry into Japan. Most developed nations will have a visa exemption, but check Japan’s official list just to be sure. If you don’t see your nation listed, you’ll need to apply for a visa prior to departure through your local Japanese embassy or consulate.

Next, you will need to verify your COVID vaccination status. Japan requires a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of the flight’s departure to Japan. However, if you have what Japan deems to be a valid vaccination certificate, the pre-departure test is not required. This means, for Japan’s purposes, you’ll need to have been vaccinated with at least three doses of any COVID vaccine approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). If your first vaccination was the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine, then you’ll need just one additional shot (total of at least two doses). Of course, the best thing to do is to make sure you are up to date with any COVID vaccinations at least two weeks before you travel to Japan, in accordance with guidance from your government’s health organization.

The next thing you’ll need to do is to download the MySOS app, available from your smartphone’s app store, and fill in the information before departure. The MySOS app will collect your health information and your vaccine status or PCR test results. Once the information has been verified, show the MySOS app screen to the quarantine officers upon landing in Japan. You may still need to have your physical or digital proof of vaccination with you, so be sure to take it during your travels. Note that the use of MySOS is strongly recommended to reduce your waiting times at the Japanese border. However, some airlines (from what I’ve seen on their websites) are requiring that you complete the MySOS app information before your departure.

Another service that is strongly recommended is Visit Japan Web, which you can use to electronically fill out the required immigration and customs declarations. Once you have filled out the information, show the QR code to the immigration officer and to the customs declaration terminal. As of this post, a new version of the Visit Japan Web service will be available shortly that can be used for arrivals following the opening of the borders.

Make sure to bring your face masks and buy some in Japan if you need them. While Japan technically has guidelines on preventing the spread of COVID and not hard-set rules, almost everyone in Japan adheres to them. This includes the wearing of face masks in most situations. Many businesses and sightseeing locations will ask people to wear face masks. Please do your part… in fact, as part of the entry procedures into Japan you may be asked to sign a pledge to adhere to the anti-infection measures. There are also news reports that the Japanese government will empower Japanese hotels and lodgings to enforce the COVID guidelines (including wearing masks), going so far as to refuse service to anyone who does not follow them.

These are some of the major things you’ll need to know as Japan re-opens to the world. One more thought: While you might be attracted right now by the weak Japanese yen, do keep in mind that costs are going up in Japan as many industries struggle from events ranging from the COVID pandemic to the geopolitical situation between Ukraine and Russia. Right now there is a high fuel surcharge on many airline tickets going to and from Japan being charged by most airlines. The fuel surcharge is nearly $870 for a round-trip ticket, regardless of whether you’re flying economy or first class, and regardless of whether you’re paying with cash or your hard-earned frequent flier points. You may wish to sit down and do your research to find out the flights that work best for your schedule and your wallet. The formula of how the fuel surcharge is determined is something I really don’t agree with, but that’s just my personal opinion. Flights to Japan are also sure to be in high demand. Hopefully airlines will add more flights in the months ahead to make things a little easier, and the fuel surcharge will go down somewhat.

I may post some more updates time permitting, but as I have said in the past I don’t intend to actively post as I’ve done before. If you have any questions, let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them!

Update: Japan Border Reopening

Update: It looks like the border reopening has been set for October 11.

Well it seems it didn’t take too long since my last post, but we interrupt my permanent hiatus to inform you that the Prime Minister of Japan has announced plans for Japan to further ease border restrictions next month. He announced this last night at a dinner in New York City, where he has attended the United Nations General Assembly.

More details are yet to come, but as of right now it’s *expected* that if you have had three COVID shots and are coming from a country or territory that has a visa exemption with Japan for short-term travel, you will be able to enter Japan without testing, quarantine or travel restrictions! This is what is being widely reported by media outlets.

I am still not planning to actively contribute to this page, especially right now as I have more things that I have to worry about… recently I suffered a fall in my summer home, broke my hip and underwent a hip replacement surgery. However I did want to pass along the good news that one of our favorite countries now appears to be taking steps to reopen to independent tourism!

Once I have additional details I’ll pass them along.

My Last Post (or is it?)

December 2022 Update: I’ve decided to post intermittent updates from time to time (and time permitting) that may be useful to prospective travelers, as well as update posts with old/out-of-date information. See this post for more details.

September 22, 2022 Update: While I have no plans to actively continue posts, it does appear that at this point Japan is close to reopening the borders, and so I’ll be posting more details about the new entry requirements when they become available.

The original post from July 2022 follows below:

Today I’ve made the difficult decision to permanently close Jose’s Japan Tips. As of today there will be no further contributions to either my blog or to my Facebook page.

I have regrettably reached the point where I can no longer offer meaningful travel advice and tips at a time when restrictions on inbound tourism to Japan continue with no end in sight… unless you’re traveling on an expensive package tour and chaperoned, as is the present case.

I plan to leave my Facebook page up for the foreseeable future, and will keep the WordPress blog up until at least the end of the year (when my paid subscription is due to expire). While I have no further plans to post, I do remain available to answer any questions you may have about travel to and around Japan, time permitting.

Thanks for your support of this blog and page over so many years. I still love Japan, and hope that you will have the opportunity to visit or return to the country when the Japanese government decides to allow it.

Update on Japan’s Quarantine Measures

Updated on February 28, 2022 to reflect Japan’s definition of “fully vaccinated” for quarantine purposes, and rules on public transportation.

Following up on last week’s post regarding the opening of Japan’s borders to foreigners for purposes other than tourism, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has posted an update to their web page concerning Border measures to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

If you can fully read and understand all of the measures on that web page, you deserve an award. It’s extremely complicated with a myriad of rules and regulations that are both recently updated and left over since the onset of the pandemic.

What the page does specify, however, is how quarantine will be handled for arrivals starting next month.

Currently, all international arrivals are required to quarantine for seven days. Either three or six of those days, depending on where the traveler has stayed in the last two weeks, must be spent at a government quarantine facility while the remaining time is spent in self-isolation at a hotel or residence of the traveler’s choosing. These rules are regardless of whether or not someone is vaccinated.

Starting on March 1st, the Japanese government will change the quarantine rules based on two criteria:
* Where the traveler has been in the last two weeks, and
* Whether or not the traveler is fully vaccinated against COVID-19

IMPORTANT NOTE: Japan defines “fully vaccinated” as having received a full series of COVID-19 vaccinations AND a booster shot. For the full series, Japan recognizes the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson&Johnson vaccines. For the booster, Japan recognizes Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

If a traveler is arriving from a country or territory that has been designated by the Japanese government as high risk for COVID-19 (or in the government documentation, at risk for the Omicron variant):
* If not fully vaccinated, the traveler must spend three days at a quarantine facility and must take a test after three days.
* If fully vaccinated, the traveler must spend seven days in home quarantine in principle, however quarantine can end after a minimum of three days and a negative COVID test result.

If a traveler is arriving from a country or territory that has been designated by the Japanese government as low risk for COVID-19:
* If not fully vaccinated, the traveler must spend seven days in home quarantine in principle, however quarantine can end after a minimum of three days and a negative COVID test result.
* If fully vaccinated, no quarantine is required.

Public transportation restrictions:
If quarantine IS NOT required, there are no restrictions on the use of public transportation.
If home quarantine is required, public transportation is allowed only to and from the location of quarantine using the most direct route. This applies for the duration of the quarantine.
If facility quarantine is required, I infer from the posted regulations that the use of public transportation will only be allowed after finishing the quarantine.

As always I’ll share more updates as they become available and understood!

Japan’s Revised Border Measures (No Tourists for now)

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has officially announced the new border measures for foreigners who would like to enter Japan, which will take effect from March 1, 2022. Foreigners will be permitted to enter Japan for purposes except tourism (which is what many had expected).

Here’s what border measures will look like starting on March 1st:
– Daily arrival caps (Japanese citizens and foreigners alike) will be increased to 5,000 per day
– Foreign arrivals will be required to be under the supervision of a person or an organization responsible for the visit. Tourists will still be denied entry for the time being.
– Quarantine will remain at seven days, however, those who test negative for COVID-19 after three days and meet certain other conditions will be eligible to end their quarantine early
– Those who have received three shots of a COVID-19 vaccine AND are arriving from a location deemed low-risk for COVID by the Japanese government will not have to quarantine at all

Note: There will probably be some other requirements forthcoming that are not in the initial news reports. I will do my best to update this article as additional information becomes available.

It is a fine line that Prime Minister Kishida has been toeing with regard to the border issue. Public support for the strict border measures seems to be softening in Japan; 81% of respondents in a December NHK poll supported the border restrictions, but an NHK poll released earlier this week showed that number dropped to 57%.

A number of businesses and institutions have welcomed the eased border restrictions. Some have complained that the cap of 5,000 daily arrivals is too low, as there is a backlog of around 400,000 foreigners—including some 147,000 students—waiting to enter the country, according to government numbers. Some political observers were also quoted as saying that opening the borders to tourism before an Upper House election in July would be “difficult.”

I, for one, am happy and relieved that Japan is reopening the spigot slowly, and finally allowing those who absolutely need to travel to the country to do so – especially the students that will go on to help shape many futures. I am eagerly looking forward to more updates as the situation hopefully continues to improve.

As always, I’ll provide further updates on the border measures as necessary. Otherwise, I don’t anticipate writing many posts… especially about travel tips, as there is still no tourism to be had.

Thanks for your continued support of this blog!

Japan Expected to Announce Easing of Borders

2/15/22 Update: Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to announce the new border measures on Thursday, February 17 (Japan Time). There is a mix of new regulations being considered; I’ll post what is officially announced as soon as I learn the details.

Happy New Year everyone, and welcome to the first post of 2022! Today I wanted to share a very quick update that Japan is expected to announce the easing of border measures for foreign nationals as soon as this week, which will likely take effect after the current restrictions expire at the end of February.

There has been growing pressure and international criticism on Japan’s border policy towards foreigners, as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus spreads domestically in Japan. Some have cried “xenophobia” and “neo-sakoku” (referring to Japan’s isolation policy from 1603 to 1868), while within Japan many have expressed support for the border measures.

I expect that Japan, like a few months ago when the borders opened up for a little while, will not initially permit tourists. Once again, I expect that students, business travelers and those who will be staying in Japan for a longer period of time (i.e. skilled workers) will be given first priority.

There is no word yet on what will happen with quarantine rules. Currently, the quarantine is 7 days for anyone allowed in (Japanese nationals, permanent residents, special circumstances), with a portion of that time likely to be spent at a government quarantine facility. Those waiting to enter Japan that have been interviewed by various newspapers have said that they would be more than willing to follow the country’s measures. There is speculation in the press reports that Japan might reduce the quarantine under certain circumstances, as was the case for business travelers last autumn.

Once the border situation becomes clearer, I’ll post another update. As always, thanks for your support!

Omicron: Japan Closes Borders Again

Not much to say in this update: Due to the discovery of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus, Japan is immediately closing its borders to all foreigners once again, undoing an easing of measures that had been implemented almost a month ago.

This follows measures being implemented around the world to put the brakes on travel after the discovery of the new variant in South Africa. However, in Japan’s case, it’s not just restrictions on those coming from South Africa and surrounding countries… all foreigners are now denied entry once again, except arrivals due to special circumstances at the discretion of immigration authorities.

We await to find out in the coming weeks the impact of the omicron variant. Stay tuned…

Update: Japan Slowly Easing Quarantine

UPDATED November 6 with information announced by the Japanese Government

Hello blog readers! Today I am breaking the hiatus a bit to report on some good travel news coming out of Japan.

Per multiple news sources including Japan Times and Kyodo, later this month (November 2021) Japan is expected to ease quarantine for certain arrivals. Those who are entering Japan for business purposes, or staying in Japan for at least three months (i.e. students, technical work) will be allowed. Such arrivals will be asked to quarantine for 3-14 days upon arrival in the country, with fully vaccinated business travelers eligible for the reduced three-day quarantine.

This is wonderful news for those who have been wanting to visit Japan, especially those who have been wanting to go since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March 2020, Japan has virtually closed its borders to foreigners, save for a short period of time this past winter. Now, COVID cases within Japan are low and the vaccination rates are high: Over 75% of the population, according to estimates by Reuters.

Some of my friends and family have been asking when Japan might reopen its borders to vaccinated arrivals, given that some other countries are lifting travel restrictions. You may have seen in the news that other Asian nations, including Thailand and Singapore, are almost completely lifting the quarantine requirements for all foreign arrivals.

I expected that Japan would probably not make any changes until around now at the earliest, given that the Lower House election for the national government was just held. I also do not expect Japan to be as bold as their Asian neighbors. Rather, I expect them to take a “baby step” approach, in line with what they had attempted to do last winter before the borders were closed again. Given this slow turn of the spigot I predict that fully vaccinated tourists, or other similar short-term visitors, will be among the last to be permitted entry.

To recap: The new entry rules, as reported, will mean that fully vaccinated foreigners arriving for business purposes (staying three months or less) will be required to quarantine for three days after landing. Long term arrivals allowed into the country (staying at least three months) will need to quarantine for 14 days; those fully vaccinated can exit quarantine with a negative test result after 10 days. All other foreigners will still be banned in principle from entering Japan, except those allowed under exceptional circumstances. It’s also important to note that whereas some countries are permitting those with World Health Organization-approved vaccines to be eligible for reduced quarantines, in Japan’s case only vaccines approved by Japan will be eligible. As of this writing, these include the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines. Those with other vaccines such as Johnson & Johnson, Covishield, Sinopharm or Sinovac will not be eligible for the reduced quarantine.

Of course, once you are in Japan you’ll be expected to follow Japan’s health-related measures to reduce the risk and spread of COVID-19.

Foreigners with resident status returning to Japan will also be eligible for a reduced quarantine of three days if they are fully vaccinated as described above.

I hope to pass along further updates with regards to Japan’s travel and quarantine measures – hopefully good updates – when they come over the news wires or are officially announced.

As always, thank you for your support of this blog over so many years. Please reach out if you have any questions and I’ll try to answer them.