Japan will reopen to free, independent travel on October 11. So, finally, after two and a half years, travelers from many countries will be able to visit Japan without applying for a visa in advance. With that in mind, much of what is written below only applies until October 11.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple with cherries in full bloom: f11 photo / Shutterstock.com
Last Update: September 28, 2022 (this page is updated every Monday)
- Visa-free, independent travel will be permitted for many nationalities from October 11. Until then, you will need an ERFS certificate. For more details, see How to Enter Japan on a Package Tour Using the ERFS System.
- Quarantine and arrival testing have been eliminated for travelers from so-called “blue” countries (including most developed nations like the USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand and most of the EU).
- Covid vaccine proof will not be required for travelers from “blue” countries. This means you do not have to be vaccinated to enter Japan if you come from a “blue” country.
- The pre-departure covid test requirement has been dropped for triple-vaxxed (ie, boosted) travelers. Children traveling with such travelers are also exempt from the test, whether or not they’ve been vaccinated.
- We will update this page weekly on Mondays, Japan time.
- Now is the time to start planning a trip to Japan. Contact Chris Rowthorn to start planning.
Commentary by Chris
Visa-free, independent travel to Japan starts again on October 11. Citizens of 68 countries will get visa-free travel to Japan. Here’s the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs visa-free travel list. Citizens of those countries do not need to apply for a visa in advance; they merely have to fly to Japan and they will be given a 90-day tourist visa upon arrival (note that there are few exceptions which are listed on the MOFA site). You may still need a negative Covid test within 72 hours of flying to Japan (see details below).
Until October 11, you will need an ERFS to visit Japan (unless you are entering on a kinship visa). Americans and Canadians living in their own countries who have an ERFS certificate can apply for a tourist visa to Japan using the eVISA system. If you’re from another country, you probably don’t have time to apply and you should postpone your trip until after October 11. For more information of the ERFS system, please see How to Enter Japan on a Package Tour Using the ERFS System.
Given that Japan is just about to reopen, it’s time to start planning a trip. In fact, you should act fast: the crowds are going to return, but it will take several months before we get back to the jam-packed conditions of 2019. And, to top it off, the yen is now at multi-decade lows. So, you’ll be able to have the place mostly to yourself and everything will seem positively cheap!
Not only that, airfares from some countries to Japan are now freakishly cheap: I’m seeing roundtrip economy fares from LAX to Tokyo in October and November for as low as US$547 on legacy carriers (and business class for as low as US$1,596 on Zipair). I’m seeing economy fares from Vancouver to Tokyo for as low as CA$897. You may want to act fast to lock those in.
For more great Kyoto airfare and hotel bargains, see our Kyoto Travel Bargains page.
If you need an ERFS certificate or want to start planning a trip to Japan, visit my consulting page to book a Zoom consultation.
What You Need to Do Now
If you’re planning a trip to Japan, there are some things you should do now. There is a lot of pent up demand for travel to Japan, so plane tickets and accommodations should be a priority.
- Buy plane tickets: Check best deals here.
- Book hotels and ryokans: Get the best rates here.
- Buy travel insurance: Get a quote here.
- Book some walking tours.
- Buy a Japan Rail Pass: Order one here.
- Buy a Suica card: Get one here.
- Buy a SIM or pocket wifi: Order one here.
How to Enter Japan on a Package Tour with the ERFS System
Until October 11, if you want to visit Japan as a tourist, you will need to enter Japan as part of a package tour offered by a travel company legally registered in Japan. They will issue you a document called an ERFS that you take or send to the nearest Japanese embassy or consulate (or use the eVISA system if you’re American or Canadian). For all the details, please visit our How to Enter Japan on a Package Tour Using the ERFS System.
Kyoto in cherry blossom season: f11 photo / Shutterstock.com
The eVISA System
If you’re a citizen of the United States or Canada and you’re living in your own country, you can apply for your visa online using Japan’s new eVISA system. This makes the entire process much faster and easier. For more details, see our Getting a Short-Term Visa Using Japan’s eVISA System page.
Do You Need to Be Vaccinated to Enter Japan?
Japan has instituted a color scheme to classify countries as blue, yellow or red. Travelers from blue countries do not have to show proof of covid vaccination, do not have to be tested on arrival in Japan, and do not have to quarantine on arrival. Blue countries currently include the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. For the full list of countries on the blue, yellow and red lists, see the MOFA page on covid restrictions.
Details of “Kinship Visa” Entry
Close relatives of Japanese nationals and foreign permanent and long-term residents of Japan can now enter Japan provided they apply in advance.
It’s rather confusing, but the Japan Times reports the following people can visit Japan on a kinship visa:
- Family members within the first degree of kinship to teijūsha (long-term foreign residents) who want to come to Japan to visit their family. (First-degree kinship is defined as children and parents, while second-degree kinship refers to siblings, grandparents and grandchildren.)
- Family members within the first and second degrees of kinship to Japanese nationals and permanent residents who want to come to Japan to visit their family.
So, here’s the gist: If you have a Japanese relative living in Japan, you can probably visit. And, if you have a spouse, parent or child who is living in Japan as a permanent resident (eijusha, 永住者) or long-term resident (teijusha, 定住者) you can visit (one of those things must be written on their residence card). Not all foreigners living in Japan are classified as long-term or permanent residents. Many people on student or work visas are not long-term residents. The easiest way to check is to get your contact in Japan to look at their residence card (on which their status will be written in English and Japanese).
Here are some key points:
- If you qualify for a kinship visa, you can visit for social (ie, non-emergency) purposes and you are free to travel anywhere in the country.
- Your relative in Japan will have to supply some paperwork. Japanese nationals will have to supply a koseki-tohon (family registry). Permanent and long-term residents will have to supply a copy, scan or photo of their residence card and juminhyo (residence certificate). Note that the relative does not have to live in Japan.
- If you are a first-degree relative of Japanese citizen, even if the citizen doesn’t live in Japan, you can visit on kinship visa. But you will still need a koseki tohon of the Japanese citizen issued within three months in order to apply.
- You do not need health insurance to enter Japan on kinship visa, but it’s strongly recommended.
- The whole application process takes around 5 or 6 weeks, but you may be able to move things along a little faster.
- Relatives of US service members in Japan under the Status of Forces Agreement can enter Japan using this system.
The Japan Consulate in Los Angeles has an excellent fact sheet on the kinship visa process.
The Japan Consulate in Seattle has a good checklist of the materials you must submit.
Finally, the government has announced that acquaintances and relatives up to the sixth degree can visit Japanese nationals and long-term foreign residents to provide medical care or attend a wedding or funeral. For details, contact the nearest Japanese embassy or consulate.
Latest Japan Coronavirus News
- Japan Times: Weekly COVID-19 Updates and Bulletins Roundup – September 29
- Japan Times: Japan to Reopen to Independent Tourists
Do You Need a Covid Test and Insurance to Enter Japan?
If you are triple-vaxxed (ie, boosted), you do NOT need proof of a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of boarding your flight to Japan. All others must show such proof. However, for a child below the age of 18 who is traveling with their parents, this is the policy:
“For children under the age of 18 who do not hold a valid vaccination certificate three times. If they are accompanied by a guardian such as a parent who has a valid vaccination certificate and who will supervise the children, they will be regarded as holders of valid vaccination certificates, the test certificate will be exempt as their guardian. In this case, his/her screen will be Yellow, but he/she can use Fast Track.”
This form lists the Covid tests accepted by the Japanese government.
If you are entering Japan as a tourist, you will need to have medical/travel insurance that covers Covid. World Nomads offers a very reasonable plans that cover travel to Japan.
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 some flights also go to Kansai (Osaka, Kyoto). Most flights here are not daily, but a few times a week.
Japan Airlines planes at Narita International Airport: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com
- Vancouver: Air Canada, ANA, Japan Airlines, American Airlines
- Seattle: ANA, Japan Airlines, Delta, American, United
- San Francisco: United, American, ANA, Japan Airlines
- Los Angeles: Zipair, United, American, ANA, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines
- Chicago: United, American, ANA, Japan Airlines
- Dallas/Fort Worth: American, Japan Airlines
- Atlanta: Delta
- 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: ANA, Japan Airlines
- Bangkok: Thai, Bangkok Airways, Thai AirAsia X, ZIPAIR, ANA, Japan Airlines
- KL: Malaysia, ANA, Japan Airlines
- HCMC: Viet Jet Air, Vietname, VietJet Air, ANA, Japan Airlines
- Hong Kong: Cathay, Hong Kong Express, ANA, Japan Airlines
- Taipei: China Airlines, EVA, Scoot, Starlux, ANA, Japan Airlines
- Singapore: Singapore Airlines, ZIPAIR, ANA, Japan Airlines
- Seoul: Korean Air, Asiana, Ethiopian, ANA, Japan Airlines
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 200,000 new cases a day, but the numbers have started to decline. Hospitalizations and mortality remain relatively low.
Here is a useful link for the latest coronavirus numbers on Japan:
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)