Japan’s Road To Open Borders

Niseko yotei

Japan’s rocky road to open borders has not been without excitement. As we get closer to winter and the borders inch ever wider, the team at Rhythm are keeping their fingers on the pulse of the latest updates to keep you up to speed.

Note: this article will be updated as news is announced.



*LATEST* Japan To Open For Independent Travellers In October

Friday 23, September – Prime Minister Kishida announces that Japan will open for fully independent travel from October 11.
Travellers will no longer require a visa or itinerary obtained through a Japanese Travel Agent, and the daily arrival cap will also be removed completely.

These changes will allow travellers to enter the country almost as they did pre-pandemic.

What is required to enter Japan from October 11?
First, determine if your country is in the BLUE category here. The following applies to countries from this category.

  • Before departure, tourists should present EITHER A) a negative PCR test within 72 hrs of travel, or B) a vaccine certificate indicating three doses of an approved COVID vaccine.
  • RECOMMENDED: Install the Fast Track app and fill out the details before departure to speed up the process at customs. 
  • RECOMMENDED: Ensure your travel insurance covers COVID-related issues. 

If your country is not in the Blue Category, you can enter your country and vaccination status here to learn more about whether any quarantine measures are required.



Japan To Raise Daily Entry Cap From 20,000 to 50,000 and Permit Tourists on Non-guided Tour Packages

Wednesday 31, August – Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announces that starting September 7, the daily arrival cap will be raised to 50,000. In a major step for international tourism, visitors will be permitted on Unguided Package Tours meaning it is no longer necessary to be a part of a chaperoned tour group.
Some new steps are in place for travel:

  1. Accommodation and flights should be booked through a Licenced Japan Travel Agent who will provide an ERFS certificate and act as your emergency contact throughout the trip
  2. Apply for a Temporary Tourist Visa with local embassy or consulate
  3. Get travel insurance which covers covid related health issues
  4. Present a vaccine certificate (x3 shots) or negative PCR test before flying



Pre Departure Testing To Be Scrapped For Thrice Vaccinated Travellers

Wednesday 24, August – It is announced that from September 7, pre-arrival testing will no longer be mandatory within 72 hours of travel for those with vaccination certificates demonstrating three doses of an approved vaccine. This move paves the way for smoother inbound tourism, and also reduces the inconvenience caused to Japanese nationals and residents who are currently free to travel internationally.



Domestic Go-To Travel Incentives To Resume

Friday 19, August – Go-To Domestic Travel subsidy is planned to resume on September 1.
Although not directly related to the border, incentive programs to encourage domestic travel are a big indicator that the government is keen to see people actively travelling across prefectures again. Re-activating local tourism is a major milestone on the path to independent travellers entering the country.



Upper House Elections Called, Cases Rise In Japan

Sunday 10, July – Kishida Government winning upper house elections was a date many travel industry experts were watching as securing the election could hasten the road to international borders reopening for FIT tourism – despite low public support. Unfortunately, Japan enters a 7th wave and puts a halt on domestic travel campaigns and any announcements pertaining to the border.
The silver lining is that no previous steps to relax the border are paused.



Tourists Permitted On Guided Tour Groups

Friday 10, June – In the first significant step towards reopening for tourism, the government allows tourists on guided tour packages to enter the country.
Reception is lukewarm, however, as the recent years of strict lockdowns and monitoring leave the majority of travellers thirsty for freedom and the spontaneity of freely independent travel.
Neighbouring China is under strict lockdown which prevents the Guided Tour industry to enjoy this market.


Quarantine Rules Relaxed, Daily Entry Cap Raised to 20,000

Wednesday 1, June – A colour code system is introduced to categorise countries by covid risk and the associated quarantine time. Blue countries are considered low-risk and may forego quarantine on entry.
Daily entry number now raised to 20,000 after some intermittent increases over the past three months.



PM Kishida G7 Summit Announcement

Thursday 5, May – While attending the G7 Summit in London, the Prime Minister of Japan indicates that he would like to gradually open the country back up for tourism in line with other G7 countries. This is welcome news as Japan’s strict border measures have drawn criticism – especially from the struggling tourism industry.



Japan Allows Foreign Nationals to Enter with Student and Business Visas  

Tuesday 1, March – Student and Business Visa holders are permitted to enter the country along with Nationals and Residents at a daily limit of 5,000 total. Borders have remained closed for two years, and since a spike in November only Japanese Nationals and Residents have been permitted to enter at a daily cap of 3,500.



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