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!