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Japan reopening details: What you need to know now

Sept. 22, 2022
6 min read
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Editor’s note: This post was updated Sept. 29 with new information and will continue to be updated as additional details are confirmed.

On Sept. 26, Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which governs entry requirements, officially announced that as of midnight local time on Oct. 11, "foreign nationals enter[ing] into Japan for a short-term stay for tourism will be no longer limited under package tours." On the same date, according to the website, a visa will no longer be required for visitors from 68 countries, including the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Current Japan visa requirements and tour restrictions will remain in place until Oct. 11.

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Japan is one of the last remaining nations with strict COVID-19-related bans and restrictions on general tourism.

While supervised group tours to Japan have been available for the past few months, the restrictions on travel discouraged many people from booking trips. If the plan to reopen more fully moves forward, Japan will welcome back individual tourists and resume visa waivers, among other changes.

Travelers should be mindful that the Japanese government has not yet supplied complete details for the reopening, including COVID-19-related entry requirements. Given prior announcements of plans to reopen for tourism that proved quite limited, TPG recommends travelers await full details from the Japanese Consulate before booking a trip.

Read on to find out the available details of the announcement and what it might mean in terms of planning your long-awaited trip to Japan.

Japan reopening details

In his Sept. 22 press conference in New York, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said individual tourists will soon be welcomed to Japan without the requirement of visas or group tours, as reported by the Japan Times.

JAPAN NATIONAL TOURISM ORGANIZATION

Following the Prime Minister's announcement of reopening, the visa website for the Embassy of Japan and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website have each added brief notes confirming the Oct. 11 reopening plan.

U.S. travelers planning a trip should consult these websites for the latest information prior to making any travel arrangements.

According to these government websites, Japanese entry requirements will return to pre-COVID-19 policies, with tourists from the U.S. and 67 other countries permitted to visit Japan for up to 90 days without a visa.

However, travelers still must provide proof of vaccination (including a booster shot) or a negative COVID-19 PCR test to enter the country without quarantine, according to the Embassy of Japan's website. Visitors will still be "required to upload either a pre-departure COVID-19 testing result or a valid vaccine certificate through Fast Track/My SOS."

Consult the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare visitor webpage for the latest COVID-19-related entry requirements.

The cap on daily visitors to Japan, which had recently risen from 20,000 to 50,000, will also be lifted as of Oct. 11 to allow an unrestricted number of foreign entries, according to the latest information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

And while the Japanese government has not mandated mask-wearing, expect it to still be strongly encouraged and privately enforced at hotels and shops around the country. "About 98% of Japanese are still wearing masks," Kenny Onishi, general manager for tour operator Intrepid Travel in Japan told TPG in an interview. Mask-wearing "may be required to enter some stores and restaurants, and some may check your temperature," according to Onishi.

Related: Japan reopens for tour groups

How to plan a Japan trip now

Honshu, Japan.  TRAUMLIK FABRIK/GETTY IMAGES

Assuming unrestricted visa-free tourism returns to Japan in October as scheduled, expect there to be a huge uptick in flight, lodging and tour reservations.

"We're absolutely delighted to hear this," Julie McCormack, program director for Asia for the MT Sobek tour operator, told TPG on a call to discuss Kishida's announcement. "We've been hoping for this for a long time. Japan had been such a good destination for us before [COVID-19]."

Even though signing up for a group tour may no longer be required for entry to Japan, many visitors typically combine a group tour with a few days on either end of the visit for individual travel. Plus, Japan's eased travel restrictions will mean that tours will have increased access to people, places and activities that might have been curtailed during the pandemic.

So, if you're interested in having a guide for at least part of your trip, try to confirm those plans as soon as possible.

Tour operator Intrepid Travel is hustling to meet pent-up demand in Japan with a flurry of additional trip offerings. It currently has tour groups on the ground there now. These trips have regular schedules allowing guests free time to explore independently as they were able to do before the pandemic, according to Intrepid's Onishi. The company already has 241 Japan tour departures planned for 2023, exceeding its total of 230 Japan trips completed in 2019.

With a crowded market for tour companies, expect some to offer enticing "return to Japan" deals to help relaunch tours. But be aware many people who have had tours canceled in the past due to visa restrictions will have priority for obtaining tour space with some operators during prime periods, like next spring's cherry blossom season.

A strong dollar versus the yen will also make travel within Japan more affordable for Americans. The recent exchange rate of 142 yen to $1 set a 24-year low for the currency.

Kishida also announced the launch of a travel discount program within Japan to help promote tourism, but these benefits will only be available for residents of Japan, according to a Kyodo News report.

Consult the Japan National Tourism Organization website for the latest details on any potential discount programs and other details for foreign tourists.

Related: Using points and miles for a trip to Japan

Bottom line

If Japan does finally reopen to tourists without strict group travel or visa requirements, expect to see a surge of demand for travel to the country. Book as soon as possible, and keep your eyes open for attractive package deals from tour operators eager to rebuild their businesses.

But, given prior false alarms on Japan's reopening, be sure to confirm the latest visa details with the Japanese Embassy or Consulate websites prior to making any nonrefundable reservations.

Featured image by NOMAD OUTING/GETTY IMAGES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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