Here's what you need to know if you want to travel to Japan right now.
There are few countries in the world that have been as cautious as Japan about relaxing border restrictions. For the past two years, the Asian nation has been mostly closed to foreign arrivals. In fact, even when it hosted the Tokyo Olympics, spectators were not allowed in the country—one of the biggest events of the year was limited to athletes, their teams, and journalists. So, the travel industry and travelers cheered when it announced in May that it was running a trial of “test tourism” to abet the return of tourists soon.
In a bid to restart tourism, Japan conducted a trial and admitted 50 tourists from Australia, Thailand, Singapore, and the U.S. All visitors were triple vaccinated and were chaperoned by government-approved travel agencies. Trial participants were admitted under a special visa, rather than the typical tourist visa. Findings from the trial provided the roadmap for Japan’s next phase.
The Next Phase: Conditions Applied
On June 10, the country will open up to tourists from 99 countries. However, there is a catch: leisure travelers can only visit as part of a tour with a travel agency licensed in Japan. Individual travelers are not allowed.
Tourists are expected to follow all the rules set by the government tourism agency, including wearing masks, using sanitizers, and buying private health insurance. Travel agencies are asked to avoid crowded areas and accompany their group everywhere, and they are tasked to explain to visitors that not following these guidelines can get them kicked out of the country.
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Reuters reported that the guidelines mentioned, “Tour guides should frequently remind tour participants of necessary infection prevention measures, including wearing and removing masks, at each stage of the tour.” Masks are also encouraged outdoors when people are in close proximity.
The country has drawn up entry restrictions depending on the category (Blue, Red, Yellow) assigned to the country of departure. Visitors arriving from a country that’s on the Blue list won’t need to quarantine or get tested; those on the Yellow list can forgo testing and quarantine requirements if they’re vaccinated; and travelers flying from a Red category nation will need to get tested and self-isolate. Every traveler needs to have a negative RT-PCR test taken not more than 72 hours prior to departure. The United States is currently in the Blue category.
On March 1, 2022, the country started allowing students, business travelers, and foreign residents. The cap for daily arrivals was 10,000; it has been doubled this month. But 20,000 arrivals is still a fraction of what Japan was used to before the pandemic: the country welcomed around 32 million foreign visitors in 2019—87,000 per day—who spent $38 billion on travel-related activities (as per Nikkei Asia).
It’s still not known when the country will fully open to tourists and further relax its guidelines. It’s taking slow and cautious steps to protect the world’s oldest population as it has all through the pandemic.