Travel to Japan – What’s Next?

9/30/2020 Update: Since this was posted, Japan’s Ministry of Justice has published revised guidelines for entry into the country. Any foreign nationals entering Japan under the revised guidelines must be sponsored by a Japanese business or organization that can provide assurance of COVID-19 prevention measures (i.e., ensuring that the arriving person will be quarantined).

It seems like it has been ages since I last published a post here on my travel blog. Unfortunately, we are still in the midst of a pandemic that is choking our world and delaying many well-deserved holidays and vacations. COVID is still a threat as of this writing, and my thoughts and prayers are with those that have been affected, especially the first responders that continue to put themselves on the line.

If COVID wasn’t a thing, I would be in Japan this coming December. Soon after the threat of COVID became a reality, Japan slowly closed its borders, enacting one of the strictest entry bans in the world: No foreign nationals who have stayed in most countries and territories affected by the virus – 159, as of this writing – are being allowed to enter Japan in principle, except for extraordinary circumstances. Those foreign nationals who lived in Japan and left the country were generally not permitted to come back.

In recent months, Japan has begun to allow some foreigners to enter or re-enter the country. Foreigners with permanent resident status in Japan were allowed to re-enter Japan earlier this month. In recent weeks, business travelers and long-term residents from certain Asian countries where the virus was deemed to be under control were permitted to enter Japan.

Those allowed to enter Japan are required to follow a strict framework:

  1. Apply for permission (i.e. permit) to enter or re-enter Japan from the local Japanese embassy or consulate.
  2. Take a COVID PCR test within 72 hours of departure, and receive proof of a certified negative result.
  3. Take a second COVID PCR test after landing at an airport in Japan with a negative result.
  4. Self-quarantine at a residence, hotel, or other designated facility for 14 days, avoiding the use of public transportation (certain short-term business travelers do not have to quarantine if they submit their travel plans to the Japanese government in advance).
  5. Install a contact tracing app on their smartphone.

In the last week, the new Japanese government led by new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was formed. Suga was the Chief Cabinet Secretary for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who stepped down for health reasons. Suga appears to be placing a priority on revitalizing the economy, telling a government panel on September 25 that it is “indispensable to resume international travel.” To that end, Japan has decided that starting in October, entry restrictions will be lifted on all foreign nationals who will enter the country for purposes other than tourism or short-term stays. (source: Kyodo News)

Those who intend to stay in Japan for at least 90 days for professional purposes (i.e. students, medical, cultural, sports-related activities) will be permitted to enter Japan, provided they follow the new protocols for permit application, COVID testing, entry and quarantine. They must also be sponsored by a Japanese business or organization that can provide assurance that COVID prevention measures will be followed, such as adherence to quarantine.

Entry into Japan for tourism will still not be permitted for the time being, as will stays of less than 90 days unless it is for business purposes.

This news is a positive step for foreigners wishing to go to one of the most beautiful places in the world. However, absent of further mitigation and treatment of COVID-19, it will likely be some time before Japan reopens its gates to international tourism.

In the coming weeks I hope to share my thoughts on some things you can check out when visiting Japan… when it is permitted and it is safe to do so.

Stay health and safe, and thanks so much for your continued support of this blog.