Japan has started to allow business travel to/from certain nations in Asia and Oceania. All tourists are barred from entering the country at present, but there have been reports in the Japanese media of a reopening plan. 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: November 23, 2020 (this page is updated every Monday)
- At present, all foreign nationalities are barred from visiting Japan now as tourists.
- Japan recently lowered its restrictions for the following countries: Australia, Brunei, China (including Hong Kong and Macau), New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Viet Nam. This makes it possible for VISA HOLDERS (not all travelers) from these countries to enter Japan. See below for details.
- There have been reports in the Japanese media of a plan to reopen to tourists in the spring, but few details have emerged (see this Japan Times report).
- Japan had a resurgence of cases that started in July and peaked in early August. Cases declined after that and are now holding steady.
- At the time of writing, travel is freely permitted inside Japan. Obviously, this is only of concern for those already in the country.
- We will update this page weekly on Mondays, Japan time.
Latest Japan Coronavirus News
- Japan Times: Weekly COVID-19 Updates and Bulletins Roundup – November 21st
- Japan Times: Details on Japan Starting to Reopen
- Japan Times: Japan Considering Waiving Quarantine for Olympic Visitors
- Japan Times: Japan to Waive Quarantine Restriction for Some Business Travelers
- Japan Times: Japan Considering Ways to Reopen to Tourists
- BBC News: IOC Says Olympics Going Ahead No Matter What
- Reuters: Tokyo Olympics: Organisers announce schedule for rearranged Tokyo Games
Is Japan Open for Travel Now?
At present, almost all non-Japanese are barred from visiting or transiting Japan. In early October, Japanese media carried reports of a plan to reopen to tourists in April, in preparation for the Olympics (see this Japan Times report for details), but details are unclear.
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. Travelers from these countries can now travel to Japan IF they have a visa, which basically means business visas or residence visas (ie, not tourist visas). We expect Japan to relax restrictions on tourists from these countries relatively soon. Please check the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs 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
Flights to Japan Currently Operating
Here are cities with direct flights to Japan and the airlines that operate them. Most flights to go 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: United, American, ANA, Japan Airlines
- Los Angeles: United, American, ANA, Japan Airlines
- Chicago: United, American, ANA, Japan Airlines
- Dallas/Fort Worth: American, Japan Airlines
- New York: United, American, ANA, Japan Airlines
- London: British Airways, Japan Airlines, ANA
- Paris: Air France, Japan Airlines, ANA
- Frankfurt: Lufthansa, ANA
- Helsinki: Finnair, Japan Airlines
- Istanbul: Turkish, ANA
- Sydney: ANA
- Bangkok: Japan Airlines
- KL: Malaysian, ANA, Japan Airlines
- HCMC: Vietnam Airlines, ANA, Japan Airlines
- Hong Kong: Cathay, Japan Airlines
- Taipei: China Airlines, Japan Airlines
- Singapore: Singapore Airlines, ANA, Japan Airlines
- Seoul: Korean Air, Japan Airlines
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 2,300 new cases a day, according to the Japan COVID-19 Tracker. Many of the new cases are occurring in younger people and have been tied to bars and clubs. Japan has had around 1,011 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)