Japan announces limited reopening plan — hope for an eventual return of tourism?

Feb 21, 2022

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Although most travelers, including tourists, will remain restricted from entering for now, a limited number of students and business travelers may return to Japan starting March 1, Japanese officials announced. It’s another positive step toward an eventual reopening of what has been one of the countries most notoriously difficult to go to during COVID-19.

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Passengers walk through Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport. (Photo by Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Images)

Late last week, the Japanese government said that foreign students, technical trainees and business travelers will be eligible for entry to Japan in limited numbers starting March 1, per the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

Currently, visitors who have been in any of 159 countries and regions, including the United States, within 14 days prior to entering Japan are banned from entry, excluding “special circumstances” approved by the government. These travelers must apply for a visa, except those who currently hold a reentry permit.

“Please note that due to the impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the visa approval procedure may take longer than usual,” Japanese officials say. “Foreign nationals who are entitled to enter Japan as those with special exceptional circumstances are required to apply for an appropriate visa at Embassies or Consulates or Consular Office of Japan in your country/region.”

All travelers to Japan, regardless of age, must submit results of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departing from their origin country.

“The terms ‘nasopharyngeal’ or ‘saliva’ must be listed as the sample collection method,” per both the embassy and Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to documentation issued by the latter, the following test types are currently accepted:

  • Nucleic acid amplification test (RT-PCR, LAMP, TMA, TRC, Smart Amp and NEAR).
  • Next generation sequence.
  • Quantitative antigen test (CLEIA/ECLEIA) and not a qualitative antigen test.

Read more: Japan and Singapore deemed world’s most powerful passports; US doesn’t make top 5

“Failure to complete the prescribed form as required by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare may result in being denied entry to Japan,” according to the embassy, which notes that travelers are expected to “complete documentation, download several smartphone applications, and clear immigration” upon arrival.

Acceptable proof of COVID-19 vaccination includes the white card issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state-issued vaccination records, including from Louisiana, New York, Maryland, Virginia and Washington.

Additionally, travelers must take a second test upon arrival, and starting March 1, authorized travelers from the U.S. will need to quarantine for three days at a government-designated facility, regardless of vaccination status, before submitting a third test on day three.

“Quarantine officials will arrange regular phone or video calls with travelers during their self-quarantine period to ensure compliance,” according to the embassy.

Because of this quarantine, incoming travelers are prohibited from using public transportation, including domestic flights, taxis and rail services, upon entering the country for the duration of their quarantine period.

Quarantine rules do not apply to passengers transiting through a Japanese airport, excluding those staying overnight.

“Those who have received three vaccine doses and arrive from a country where the coronavirus is not spreading rapidly will be able to skip the quarantine altogether,” according to reporting by Nikkei Asia, though this information has not been confirmed.

Although Japan briefly welcomed back some people in 2020, this limited reopening beginning March 1 suggests Japan is inching closer toward a full reopening for tourists.

Related: It’s about to get a lot easier to visit Singapore

Editor’s note: This is a developing news story.

Featured photo of Tokyo by Matteo Colombo/Getty Images.

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