At present, all tourists and business people are barred from entering the country. Japan has tightened restrictions due to the new Covid-19 variants. The Olympics are still on, but foreign visitors will not be able to attend. On the upside, the government is preparing a vaccine passport system for its citizens, in hopes of permitting international travel in the future. 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: May 10, 2021 (this page is updated every Monday)
- At present, all foreign nationalities are barred from visiting Japan now as tourists.
- Japan is experiencing a fourth wave of virus, with cases rising particularly in the Osaka region.
- Six prefectures – Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Aichi, and Fukuoka – are presently under a state of emergency, which has closed shopping centers, theaters, and bars, and shortened the operating hours of restaurants until the end of May.
- The Tokyo Olympics will be held in July and August but foreign visitors will not be able to attend.
- Vaccinations have started in Japan. 2.2% of the population is fully vaccinated, but vaccine passports will be issued when international travel resumes.
- 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.
Latest Japan Coronavirus News
- Japan Times: Weekly COVID-19 Updates and Bulletins Roundup – May 1
- Japan Times: JAL to Cover Medical Costs of those Infected with Covid-19
- Japan Times: Japan Expands Border Control Measures
- Japan Times: It’s Official – No Foreign Visitors Can Attend Tokyo Olympics
- Delta: Delta Resumes Detroit Nagoya Flight
- Japan Times: Suga Declares Emergency in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo
- Japan Times: Japan to Introduce ‘Vaccine Passports’ for International Travel
Is Japan Open for Travel Now?
At present, almost all non-Japanese are barred from visiting or transiting Japan.
On October 30, Japan lowered travel restrictions for Australia, Brunei, China (including Hong Kong and Macau), New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. However, due to the rise of the new variants, these programs have been temporarily suspended. 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?
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.
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
- San Francisco: ANA, Japan Airlines
- Los Angeles: United, American, ANA, Japan Airlines, Delta
- Chicago: Lufthansa, American, Japan Airlines
- Dallas/Fort Worth: Japan Airlines
- New York: United, American, ANA, Japan Airlines
- London: British Airways, ANA, Japan Airlines
- Paris: ANA, Japan Airlines
- Frankfurt: Lufthansa, ANA, Japan Airlines, Finnair, British Airways
- Helsinki: Finnair, British Airways, Japan Airlines
- Istanbul: Turkish Airlines, ANA
- Sydney: ANA, Japan Airlines
- Bangkok: Thai, ANA, Japan Airlines, Zip Air, Ethiopian Air
- KL: Malaysia, ANA, Japan Airlines
- HCMC: no direct flights at present
- Hong Kong: Cathay, HK Express, ANA, Japan Airlines
- Taipei: China Airlines, Scoot, ANA, Japan Airlines, Eva Air
- Singapore: Singapore Airlines, ANA, Japan Airlines
- Seoul: Korean Air, Asiana, Jeju Air, T’way Air, Zip Air
Here are links to Japanese airlines COVID-19 countermeasures pages:
Hotels Emphasizing Safety and Hygiene in Japan
If you stay in a hotel before flying to Japan and then stay in a hotel after arriving, you are likely to notice a huge difference, particularly if coming from North America. In Japan, all staff will be wearing masks, hand sanitizer will be widely available, social distancing will be clearly enforced, and your temperature will likely be taken when you check in. The fact is, they’ve got this stuff down to a science in Japan. But even with all hotels instituting good health practices, there are some that really stand out (click the links for the details on their COVID-19 countermeasures):
Mandarin Oriental Tokyo guest room
Japan Coronavirus Information
At the time of writing, Japan has been experiencing around 5020 new cases a day, according to the Japan COVID-19 Tracker. Japan has had around 4970 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)