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!

Down goes the ANA fuel surcharge

ANA, one of Japan’s two major international airlines, has announced decreased fuel surcharges on International fares, in line with what JAL announced last month. The fuel rates can be found at this link. Like JAL, the ANA fuel surcharge will drop to US $173 on flights between Japan and many long-distance destinations such as North America, Europe and Oceania. This fuel surcharge will not take effect, however, until February 1st. Fares on ANA ticketed/purchased BEFORE February 1st will still be subjected to the higher US $259 fuel surcharge on the routes listed above.

It pays to wait, especially if you are considering ANA’s new Houston-Tokyo route launching later this year.

A few Christmas gifts from ANA and Japan Airlines

I have some interesting news to report from the two Japanese airlines, All Nippon (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL), which are sort of a little Christmas gift for those interested in using those airlines to fly to Japan… though you are going to have to wait one or two months if you want to take full advantage.

Star Alliance carrier ANA has announced wonderful news that they are going to increase their free checked baggage allowance from one piece of luggage to two pieces. This is a revision from a policy announced last year that reduced the free checked baggage allowance. But don’t itch to get your ANA tickets right away.. the policy applies only to economy tickets purchased on or after January 8, 2015. So if you purchase a ticket prior to that, you will still be allowed only one free checked bag. The new two bag policy is wonderful news for those who want to bring home more souvenirs from Japan, given the weakness of the yen and the new tax refund policy for foreigners. The new policy matches the current policy of JAL and a few other carriers, but keep in mind that ANA’s checked bags in Economy must weigh no more than 23 kg/50 lbs each, and size must not exceed 158 cm/62 inches for the total of length, width and height.

On another ANA-related story, they will be launching nonstop service from United’s hub in Houston to Tokyo in June 2015.

You may have heard in the news that while crude oil prices have reached a 5 year low, many airlines are still keeping their fuel surcharges high and are not dropping them … prompting some in the US congress to consider launching an investigation. But if you are a fan of Oneworld’s Japan Airlines, you will be happy to know that they are the first airline to reduce their fuel surcharges. JAL monitors fuel costs every two months and revises their fuel surcharge policies on that same frequency. They recently announced that they will be amending fuel surcharges for tickets issued between February 1 and March 31, 2015. This means of course, if you purchase your ticket BEFORE February 1, you will still be subject to the higher fuel surcharge. Examples: The current fuel surcharge of US$259.00 for flights from North America, Europe and Oceania to Japan will be reduced to US$173.00 in February and March. The surcharge from Hawaii would drop from US$166.00 to US$105.00, and the surcharge from the Philippines would drop from US$80.00 to US$49.00.

Whether it’s the new two bag allowance on ANA or the reduced JAL fuel surcharges (one would expect ANA to follow suit on that, too), good things come to those who wait…. to purchase their tickets.