Travel to Japan will soon become just a little bit easier

The country has scrapped pre-departure testing – and may soon admit solo travellers for the first time since 2020

Ed Cunningham
Sophie Dickinson
Fuji Five Lakes
Photograph: Shutterstock

It feels like we’ve been waiting for Japan to open for a long, long time. After two years of being completely banned, travellers are finally being allowed back into the country – albeit with a lot of restrictions. Here’s what you need to know. 

Can I visit Japan right now?

The current stage in Japan’s reopening is being described as a period of ‘test tourism’. The country reopened in April to some overseas residents, business travellers and foreign students, who have to be sponsored by a schools or employer.

Then it opened up its borders to limited numbers of international tourists – but only as part of organised tour groups, and with strict pre-departure testing rules.

There’s also a cap of 20,000 arrivals per day, and only those from a list of 106 countries (see that list in full here) can enter.

Currently, all visitors entering Japan have to produce a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure. The quarantine rules are slightly complicated, too, and depend on your departure country. Countries are split into three categories: ‘red’, ‘yellow’ and ‘blue’ (see the full list of countries here). If you’ve had three jabs and you’re travelling from a ‘red’ or ‘yellow’ list country, you’ll need to quarantine for three days. If you’re coming from a ‘blue’ list country, you won’t need to quarantine. Both the UK and USA, for example, are both on the ‘blue’ list. 

This ‘test tourism’ phase is being analysed by the government before deciding when the country will resume normal levels of tourism. While individual tourists remain barred from visiting Japan, if you don’t mind being part of a tour company, you are free to go on that trip of a lifetime!

When will Japan’s travel rules change?

From Wednesday September 7, travellers entering Japan who are fully vaccinated (including a booster dose) will no longer be required to take pre-departure tests. 

On top of that, some Japanese news outlets are reporting that the country could be about to increase its daily cap of tourists entering the country from 20,000 to 50,000, effectively doubling the number of people able to visit. 

Even after September 7, you’ll still need a signed copy of this form (promising to comply with local Covid rules), and a completed online questionnaire. Once at the airport in Japan, you need to take another PCR test and download a health monitoring app.

When will individual travellers be allowed to travel to Japan? 

At the moment, you can only travel around Japan as a tourist as part of a group tour. However, apparently the government is considering allowing individual travellers – through trips will almost certainly still need to be entirely organised through a travel agency. If approved, this could come into effect as early as September. 

Despite all these complicated rules, regulations and rumours, there’s a decent chance that visiting Japan as an individual traveller might get a whole lot simpler very, very soon. The rules are changing regularly, so keep an eye out for updates and start planning that trip of a lifetime.

UPDATE: Japan has now reopened to most travellers.

Looking for inspiration? Here’s our ultimate guide for things to do in Japan

Plus: you’ll soon be able to spend six weeks in Thailand, visa-free.

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