On September 14th, 2022,
Travelling to Japan under current Covid-19 restrictions
Is Japan open for tourism?
Anyone without Japanese residency who wants to travel to Japan for tourism is required to travel on a “package tour” with a fixed itinerary. The itinerary must be managed by a licensed Japanese tour operator, such as Adventure Hokkaido, who are responsible for ensuring guests follow covid-19 safety rules and providing translation support in the event of a guest developing covid-19 symptoms while traveling.
“Package tours” are split into two categories, tours with or without a guide. The major difference is guided tours require a guide to travel with you from the day you enter the country to the day you leave. Tours without a guide allow you to explore freely during the day, but you still must stick to your planned itinerary. Mysteriously, un-guided tours require flights to be booked with a travel agent, although this can be a different agent to the one operating the tour.
|Guided Tours||Tours without a guide|
|Flights to Japan||No restrictions||Must be booked with a travel agent|
|Itinerary||Fixed in advance||Fixed in advance|
|Accommodation||Booked by travel agent||Booked by travel agent|
|Day to day travel within Japan||Must travel with guide at all times||Unrestricted|
|Interpretation support||Provided by guide||Provided by Japanese travel agent|
|Visa||All non-Japanese visitors are required to get a visa before travel|
Even if you are coming for a guided tour, if you also want to travel un-guided before or after your tour then the trip is classified as “Un-guided” and the current guidelines require flights to be booked with a travel agent.
Getting a visa
Prior to Covid-19, Japan had a visa waiver allowing many people to visit Japan without applying for a visa before travel. However, Japanese immigration suspended this policy when the first border restrictions were put in place and all nationalities are required to get a visa prior to travel.
When applying for your visa you will be required to present an “ERFS certificate” from the travel agent you booked your trip with. This certificate confirms you are registered with the “Entrants, Returnees Follow-up System” and can only be issued to people traveling on a tour with a registered travel agency.
Citizens of Canada and the USA can apply online for an e-visa. For nationals of all other countries, you will need to visit your nearest embassy or consulate. For both applications you will need to provide a photo and the “Certificate for Completion of Registration to the ERFS system” provided by your travel agent.Depending on the embassy or consulate, you may also be required to show additional information such as your itinerary, list of travellers, travel agents contact details, and proof that you have a guide. A reputable tour agent will be able to provide all of these for you.
The tourist visa is valid for 90 days, which means you should apply no earlier than 90 days before the day you plan to depart Japan. For example, if you plan to visit for 14 days, you should apply no earlier than 76 days before you fly to Japan.
While the official processing time for visas is 5 working days, many of our guests have reported it taking longer. Some waited 2 months for their visa, so make sure you apply early! We have seen visas granted faster in some countries when when an accredited agency applies on behalf of the traveller, although this increases the cost of your visa.
Before you travel
Take out travel insurance that covers Covid-19 related medical costs
You are required to have travel insurance that includes coverage for medical costs if you become infected with Covid-19. Some travel insurance policies don’t cover Covid-19 so be sure to double check your policy details.
Be careful where you travel in the 14 days before departure
Regardless of your nationality, if you are have not been vaccinated for Covid-19 and have visited a “yellow zone” country, one that the Japanese government determines at moderate risk, then you will be required to quarantine for three days on arrival to Japan.
Anyone who has visited a “red zone” country is also required to quarantine even if they are vaccinated. However, there are currently no countries classified as “red” as of September 7th 2022.
Get a vaccination certificate, or a Covid-19 test if you are not vaccinated
If you have had 3 or more doses of an approved vaccine, you are no longer required to get a Covid-19 test. Instead you will be required to register a vaccine certificate.
Unvaccinated travellers are required to submit a certificate of a negative Covid-19 test conducted within 72 hours of departure. See the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare website for more details on the required test certificate.
Install the “MySOS” app and optionally complete the fast track registration
The government uses the MySOS app to track health updates if needed. You will likely need to show the app to immigration. If you are arriving at an airport that has “Fast Track”, currently Tokyo Narita, Haneda, Chubu, Kansai and Fukuoka, you can also register your vaccine certificate or negative test on the MySOS app to speed up the immigration process once you arrive.
While registering for “Fast Track” is not officially required, some of our guests reported being being mistakenly refused check-in for their flight until they registered for “Fast Track”. Given there is some confusion around the rules, we recommend getting everything set up in advance just in case.
Register with Visit Japan Web
You also need to register with Visit Japan Web. You can also input immigration details in advance to speed up the process once you arrive. If you have already registered your details on the MySOS app, you can use the app to submit them to Visit Japan Web.
Once you are in Japan
If you are traveling un-guided you will need to have a phone with a data SIM card so your travel agent can stay in touch with you. They will contact you after you land to confirm they have a communication line and to explain the current infection prevention measures. If you are traveling with a guide, your guide will brief you on the measures.
Broadly speaking, the current measures are:
- Wearing masks indoors and on public transport
- Regularly sanitise your hands
- Social distance
- Monitor your health
Taking your mask off
Currently you are required to wear a mask when indoors and on public transport. Once outside you can take your mask off unless you are talking in close proximity to others. You are also allowed to take your mask off to eat and to bathe in onsen hot-springs, although in these situations you should limit how much you talk while your mask is off.
It’s worth the challenge
Sadly Covid-19, and the border restrictions it has brought, has made traveling to Japan challenging. However, the popular sights are currently quiet and Hokkaido’s great outdoors is as refreshing as ever. Rest assured that once you are here, Japan’s welcoming Omotenashi hospitality is still going strong. It’s a great time to come if you can.
A local tour operator like Adventure Hokkaido is best placed to help you through the bureaucracy, we speak the language and understand the situation on the ground.
We can host inbound travellers on our guided tours