At present, all tourists and business people are barred from entering the country. The Olympics start on July 23, but foreign visitors will not be able to attend. The state of emergency has been lifted for most prefectures. Here are all the details on travel restrictions, flights, hygienic hotels, outbreak information and safe travel tips.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple with cherries in full bloom: f11 photo / Shutterstock.com
Last update: July 19, 2021 (this page is updated every Monday)
- At present, all foreign nationalities are barred from visiting Japan as tourists or on businesss.
- Tokyo is under a new state of emergency until August 22.
- The rate of positive cases has been increasing slightly in Japan in recent weeks.
- The Tokyo Olympics will be held in July and August but foreign visitors will not be able to attend.
- Vaccinations are ramping up in Japan: 32% of the population has received at least one dose and 20% is fully vaccinated.
- The government has announced the creation of a vaccine passport system for Japanese travelers to be rolled out by the end of July.
- We will update this page weekly on Mondays, Japan time.
- Japan is closed now, but will reopen in the future. Now is the time to start planning a trip to Japan. Contact Chris Rowthorn to start planning.
- Want to be alerted as soon as Japan announces reopening? Scroll down and sign up for our newsletter.
Japan Reopening Odds (personal opinion/explanation below):
- October 2021: 60%
- November 2021: 65%
- December 2021: 70%
- spring 2022: 80%
Commentary by Chris
Around the world, many countries have been easing restrictions, including parts of Canada, the UK and most American states. Japan has been moving forward with their vaccine passport program and has been negotiating with 10 countries to accept it. Meanwhile, vaccines are being rolled out fast and over 30% of Japanese have had at least one shot. However, cases have been rising in Japan and the government just announced that no spectators (Japanese or foreign) will be allowed at the Olympics.
Perhaps most importantly, the UK and Singapore recently hinted that they are going to live with covid, treating it as an endemic disease, rather than trying to eliminate it completely. This is a welcome shift in thinking and, if it catches on, might mean some way back to normality, variants or no variants. Likewise, Thailand has reopened Phuket on July 1 and intends to reopen the entire country this fall.
On the downside, case counts are rising in many parts of the world, including Japan, and some countries are talking about re-imposing some lockdown measures.
At this point, it seems highly unlikely that Japan will reopen before the end of summer. A fall opening still seems possible, but that depends on two things: Falling case counts and low hospitalizations. If things are like last fall, Japan will start by reopening business travel with countries with low cases. After that, they may consider opening to tourists.
Latest Japan Coronavirus News
- Japan Times: Weekly COVID-19 Updates and Bulletins Roundup – July 17
- Japan Times: It’s Official – No Foreign Visitors Can Attend Tokyo Olympics
- Japan Times: Japan to Start Vaccine Passport System by End of July
- Nikkei Asia: Japan Lobbies Countries to Accept Its Vaccine Passport
- Japan Times: Japan in Negotiations with Ten Countries to Accept Vaccine Passport
- Japan Times: New States of Emergency in Japan
- Japan Times: No Fans at the Olympics
- Japan Times: Top Covid Advisor Signals Change of Course for Japan
Is Japan Open for Travel Now?
At present, almost all non-Japanese are barred from visiting or transiting Japan.
Japan recently announced the creation of a vaccine passport system so that Japanese people can travel abroad. The system is to be up and running by the end of July. The Nikkei Asia (a Japanese media company) said of this: “Japan will ask other countries to ease entry requirements for holders of its COVID-19 vaccination certificate while exploring reciprocal moves for incoming travelers as part of a push to revive international travel.” This has raised hopes that Japan will start to ease restrictions on foreigners entering the country, but no firm details have been released yet.
Please check the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) page for the latest details. Because that page is quite confusing, you may also want to call the Japanese embassy or consulate nearest you.
Passports and visas
Japanese Government Visa and Travel Restriction Pages
Details on current Japan visa and travel restrictions can be found on the three Japanese government sites below (the first is the most user-friendly).
- JNTO Coronavirus and Travel Page
- Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs Visa and Travel Restriction Page
- MOFA Phased Business Travel Reopening Page
What Will You Need to Enter Japan When It Reopens?
Although Japan has not formally announced how and when they will reopen to tourists, we can guess about what a reopening will look like based on how they’ve been reopening to foreign residents and business people. Based on this information, you can start to make some sensible preparations for the time when Japan does actually open its doors again. Here are some key points:
- A negative COVID test will likely be necessary within 72 hours of boarding your flight to Japan. You’ll almost certainly be asked to show proof of this when you check in for your flight, and you’ll have to show it to Japanese immigration upon arrival. At this point, there are two acceptable tests: the PCR test and the CLEIA quantitative antigen test. You might start researching where you can get such a test on this timetable, including airports where such testing services are available.
- You’ll probably be required to install an app for monitoring on your phone while in Japan. It appears that Japan will use the LINE messaging app. You could always install this now just to be ready.
- The Japanese government websites are confusing and self-contradictory regarding COVID-related issues. You may do better by calling your local Japanese embassy or consulate to find out the latest details.
- We are not sure if Japan will require proof of COVID vaccination to enter the country. We will keep you posted on that.
- If worst comes to worst, you want to be sure that your travel insurance policy. World Nomads policies do cover COVID treatment. For more details, visit our travel insurance page.
We will continue to monitor developments around opening closely. As soon as Japan announces the details, we will publish them here. We aim to give full details on entry requirements, application procedures, and actual experiences with entering Japan, so check back frequently.
Flights to Japan Currently Operating
Here are cities with direct flights to Japan and the airlines that operate them. Most flights go to Tokyo (Narita or Haneda), but a few flights from Asia also go to Kansai (Osaka, Kyoto). Most flights here are not daily, but a few times a week.
At present, this information is only relevant to Japanese citizens and permanent residents due to travel restrictions. We expect this situation to change soon and we will update every Monday.
Japan Airlines planes at Narita International Airport: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com
- Vancouver: Air Canada, ANA, Japan Airlines, American Airlines
- San Francisco: United, American, ANA, Japan Airlines
- Los Angeles: United, American, ANA, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines
- Chicago: United, American, ANA, Japan Airlines
- Dallas/Fort Worth: American, Japan Airlines
- New York: United, American, ANA, Japan Airlines
- London: British Airways, ANA, Japan Airlines
- Paris: Air France, ANA, Japan Airlines
- Frankfurt: Lufthansa, ANA, Japan Airlines, Finnair, British Airways
- Helsinki: Finnair, British Airways, Japan Airlines
- Istanbul: Turkish Airlines, ANA
- Sydney: no direct flights at present
- Bangkok: Thai, ANA, Japan Airlines, Zip Air, Bangkok Airways
- KL: Malaysia, ANA, Japan Airlines
- HCMC: no direct flights at present
- Hong Kong: Cathay, Hong Kong Express, ANA, Japan Airlines
- Taipei: China Airlines, EVA, Scoot, Starlux, ANA, Japan Airlines
- Singapore: Singapore Airlines, ANA, Japan Airlines
- Seoul: Korean Air, Asiana, T’Way, Zip Air, Ethiopian Air, ANA, Japan Airlines
Here are links to Japanese airlines COVID-19 countermeasures pages:
Hotels Emphasizing Safety and Hygiene in Japan
Almost all hotels in Japan are taking extreme precautions to make their properties as safe as possible. Other forms of accommodation are also taking extensive safety measures. Click the links below for the details on their COVID countermeasures.
Mandarin Oriental Tokyo guest room
Japan Coronavirus Information
At the time of writing, Japan has been experiencing around 3,400 new cases a day, according to the Japan COVID-19 Tracker. Japan has had around 6,620 cases per million people, which is a fraction of the case numbers seen in North America and much of Europe.
Here is a useful link for the latest coronavirus numbers on Japan:
People wearing masks in Kobe: Hinochika / Shutterstock.com
Tips for Safe Travel in Japan
Here are some useful tips to ensure a safe trip during these unusual times.
- Masks are available at drug stores, supermarkets and some department stores. You can also pick them up at airports in Japan. If you can’t find them, you can simply ask someone: “masuku arimasu-ka?” (Do you have masks?) or show them this: マスクを探しています。
- Hand sanitizer is available at most places that sell masks (see above).
- If you want as much distance around you as possible on trains, consider green cars, especially on the shinkansen.
- Many restaurants in Japan offer private rooms, which are called “koshitsu.” Your hotel concierge can help you locate such restaurants and reserve them for you.
- Consider visiting popular destinations early in the morning or just before they close in the late afternoon. Or, consider visiting off-the-beaten-track destinations.
- Avoid crowded areas. Here are some tips on how to avoid the crowds in Kyoto.
Kyoto in cherry blossom season: f11 photo / Shutterstock.com
More Useful Information
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Kyoto guide
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Kyoto
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Buy a data-only SIM card online for collection when you arrive at Kansai International Airport (for Osaka and Kyoto) or Tokyo's Narita Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass – here's my explanation of why it's worth it
- A prepaid Icoca card makes travelling around Kyoto easy – here's how
- Get travel insurance for Japan - World Nomads is well-regarded (and here's why)