Japan Reopening to Individual Tourists: Rules & FAQ
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that Japan will continue to reopen its border to foreign travelers. Starting on October 11, 2022, Japan will resume visa-free travel and accepting individual tourists.
Japan will also lift the cap on daily arrivals, which is currently set at 50,000 per day. Kishida’s announcement was brief, and did not include any other details about changes to pre-arrival testing or any other requirements that might be instituted for inbound individual tourists. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in questions and confusion, with many inquiries we couldn’t answer.
On September 26, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan provided details of its full-scale individual tourism reopening, taking effect October 11, 2022. Thanks to this we now have tentative answers or at least better clarity to most of these questions. (We write ‘tentative’ because MOFA has contradicted itself with past policies on self-guided and guided tour reopenings. Every is subject to change until it takes effect on October 11.)
In a nutshell, Japan will allow visa-free entry for visitors from 68 countries and regions. While some commentators have called this a restoration of Japan’s pre-COVID border policies, that’s not entirely accurate. There will be some hoops to jump through, such as providing proof of vaccination or pre-arrival testing.
With that out of the way, let’s dig into the details of Japan’s reopening to individual tourists, in easy-to-read FAQ form…
What happens if I arrive October 10 or earlier?
If you are visiting prior to the new rules taking effect on October 11, you are subject to the ERFS system and self-guided or guided tour group requirements. See the ‘New Border Measures’ that took effect September 7 on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan website.
We will not be discussing any prior rules in this post. Everything covered here pertains to individual Japan travel starting October 11, 2022. If you have questions about visiting before then, please contact your travel agent or responsible receiving party in Japan.
Is a travel agency required to sponsor the trip, book accommodations or airfare?
Is pre-arrival testing required?
If you’ve received 3 doses of a WHO-recognized vaccine, pre-arrival testing is not required.
If you have not been triple vaccinated, a negative test certificate received within 72 hours before departure is required.
Which vaccines does Japan recognize?
According to the latest update, COVID-19 vaccines listed in the World Health Organization (WHO) emergency use list will all be accepted.
This would be a change from the status quo, as Japan currently only recognizes the following vaccines:
- COMIRNATY / Pfizer
- Vaxzevria / AstraZeneca
- Spikevax / Moderna
- COVAXIN / Bharat Biotech
- Nuvaxovid / Novavax
- JCOVDEN / Janssen
What if my first vaccine was Johnson & Johnson?
If the first dose was Johnson & Johnson (JCOVDEN/Janssen on the list above), one dose is considered equivalent to two doses.
You will still need a third booster shot.
What if I have only received two rounds of vaccination?
You’ll be required to undergo the aforementioned pre-arrival testing.
What if I’m traveling with kids who aren’t eligible for vaccination?
Currently, if a child under the age of 18 does not have a valid vaccination certificate, but is accompanied by and living with a parent/custodian who does have one and is responsible for the child’s actions, the child can receive a special exemption (not required to submit negative COVID test certificate) and will be considered as having a valid vaccination certificate like the parent/custodian.
Also, if the custodian does not have a valid vaccination certificate but enters Japan with a negative COVID test certificate, a child of preschool age (generally under 6 years old) is considered exempt from the need to have a negative certificate.
Note: this is based on current rules under the Fast Track system. This is subject to change–we’d recommend keeping an eye on this section of the official FAQ if this is applicable to you.
Are visas required?
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, visitors from these 68 countries and regions (including the United States, Australia, United Kingdom, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, France, Italy, and Spain) will no longer have to obtain a visa.
This restores the visa exemption arrangements that existed for short-term stays before COVID-19. Typically, a short-term stay is 90 days, though there are some exceptions, such as 15-day limits for visitors from Indonesia and Thailand.
Are there any limits on daily entries?
As noted above, the daily cap of 50,000 will be eliminated as of October 11, 2022.
However, there is essentially an unwritten limitation–airline capacity. With travel restrictions in place for so long, many airlines reallocated their fleet and limited staffing to other routes. For those global carriers, it won’t simply be a matter of flipping a switch and restoring routes to Japan.
Our expectation is that the airlines scaling up and pent-up demand will play out on roughly equivalent timelines. For example, since the reopening announcement, there has been no surge in prices for routes between Los Angeles and Tokyo between now and March 24, 2023. One-way flights are still widely available for ~$400 (outside of peak holiday travel times).
Additionally, All Nippon Airways announced that it will increase flights on several North American and Asian routes from the end of October 2022. According to ANA, the changes will bring North American routes back to about 90% of the pre-COVID level.
Similarly, Japan Airlines announced that it will increase international flights. JAL’s new budget carrier Zipair will also increase routes from the West Coast of the United States in late 2022.
Will the MySOS app still be used?
As before, it’s recommended–but not required–that you download the app prior to traveling and upload pertinent vaccination and/or test records.
If pre-registration is not completed via the MySOS app prior to arrival, travelers will need to complete a “comprehensive” review procedure at the airport. (Air quotes around “comprehensive” as we’ve heard reports of this being rather cursory by Japan standards. There’s also the question of how sustainable this is at scale with an increasing number of foreign arrivals.)
How will my vaccine record be reviewed?
As noted above, you can upload your record and passport into the MySOS app or website prior to traveling.
Once all required information has been submitted and document review is complete, the MySOS screen will turn blue and you’ll receive a QR code. This is all that will be needed upon arrival.
If you opt against uploading into the MySOS app prior to traveling, your vaccine card or certificate documents will be inspected upon arrival. Multiple firsthand reports of recent visitors to Japan during the self-guided reopening phase indicate that this is more time-consuming.
I don’t know about anyone else, but my vaccine card is a mess of handwritten notations and stickers–there’s little consistency to how different vaccine centers and pharmacies in the United States recorded each inoculation. With this in mind, and to avoid issues and expedite the process, we will be using the MySOS app.
Is travel insurance required?
It does not appear so.
While not all details have been released, the latest MOFA update clarifying the reopening rules does not indicate that travel insurance will be required.
Are monitoring or other apps required for traveling to Japan?
Is quarantine required upon arrival?
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan will dismantle its on-arrival COVID-19 testing and self-quarantine protocols on October 11, 2022.
Currently, travelers entering from places deemed high-risk are required to take a test and quarantine depending their vaccination status.
Will Japan continue its current risk-grouping system?
Based on what MOFA has released thus far, it appears unlikely. While MySOS will remain available and continue offering QR code clearance, that’s probably it.
Currently, entry into Japan, health monitoring, quarantine, and other rules are dictated according according to the grouping (red, yellow, and blue categories) of the countries/regions in which the entrants stayed before the day of arrival to Japan. With arrival testing and quarantine rules being dropped, so too is the risk-grouping system.
Can individual tourists use public transportation in Japan?
With the elimination of arrival testing and quarantine rules, everyone allowed to enter Japan will be able to use public transportation immediately from the airport.
What are Japan’s face mask rules?
Japan does not have legally-enforceable mask mask mandates or rules. Like so much of the culture, masking is part of Japanese etiquette or the social contract. Masking remains nearly universal in Japan when other individuals are in view.
With that said, here is the government’s official guidance via the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare:
- Outdoors: You do not need to wear a mask outdoors when you are approximately 2 meters apart from others or when you are not talking at a distance of less than 2 meters.
- Indoors: You do not need to wear a mask indoors when you are approximately 2 meters apart from others and when you are not talking.
- For Children: Children don’t need to wear masks at a distance of approximately 2 meters from others. All preschool children are not required to wear a mask.
Here’s a nice graphic from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare illustrating current government mask guidance:
This is what we would encourage you to follow, and will be doing ourselves.
Our expectation is that following “only” the government guidance might result in some side-eye or stares, but little else. The Japanese are typically nonconfrontational, opting instead for passive-aggressive slights to which foreign visitors are mostly oblivious.
Of course, you are a guest in another country, so it is appropriate to act accordingly. In our view, that is done by following the letter of official public health guidance and any rules that private businesses might have in place. Irrespective of your beliefs, that’s what you agree to when entering the country and patronizing those establishments, respectively.
However, this does not extend to behavior that lacks any scientific basis and is simply social signaling (according to public polling in Japan, that’s precisely what outdoor masking is at this point). Your mileage may vary.
Can you book my travel, prepare itineraries, arrange MySOS documents or [insert other service request]?
Unlike virtually every other Japan travel planning site (it would seem), we are not affiliated with a travel agency. Nor do we commission customized itineraries or whatever other services other sites might provide. We’re just a couple that loves traveling and sharing our experiences–everything here is free. Check out our Japan Self-Guided Itineraries or comprehensive city planning guides for more info. You can also feel free to ask specific questions in the comments (within reason), and I’ll try to offer help as time and travel allow!
That’s a wrap on this Japan reopening FAQ, at least for now. We anticipate there being some unanswered questions, and we’ll do our best to answer anything you might post.
Just keep in mind that MOFA has not provided complete clarity and is likely to release more documents (hopefully some of which are in English) in the weeks to come. (For reference, the self-guided and unguided tours each got voluminous FAQs that were published shortly before those policies took effect.)
As mentioned previously, will be reporting from Japan extensively in the coming weeks about our experiences, what it’s like as a foreign visitor in 2022 (and early 2023), what has changed, crowd conditions, expenses of visiting Japan in 2022-2023 with the weaker yen, and much more. So, if you’re looking for details about how this plays out in practice, we’ll have that relatively soon.
We are eager to revisit our favorite places, see friends in Japan for the first time in over two years, and continue creating free planning resources. We’re beyond ecstatic about this great (but overdue) news, but also go in knowing that things will be different, in ways both good and bad. Stay tuned as we monitor for further updates and details about the full reopening, and share more of our experiences in Japan!
Again, if you’d like to be notified as soon as more details are released, subscribe to our free email newsletter for ongoing updates and alerts:
If you’re planning a visit to Japan this year, check out our Japan Fall Colors Forecast & Autumn Foliage Viewing Guide to get started on planning your trip to visit Japan’s popular fall foliage cities, including Kyoto, Tokyo, Mount Fuji, Miyajima, Hiroshima, Himeji, and Nara. That also offers tips for avoiding crowds and strategy for visiting the best temples, shrines, and evening illuminations.
If you’re planning a trip to the Japan, check out our other posts about Japan for ideas on other things to do! We also recommend consulting our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto and Ultimate Guide to Tokyo to plan.
Will you visit Japan from October 11, 2022 now that individual, visa-free travel will be allowed once again? Or are you still waiting for more restrictions to be lifted? When do you think of this announcement? Any thoughts or tips of your own to add? Any questions? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!
As I dreadly expected, the airline (Aeromexico) I purchased my tickets with for going to Japan in December cancelled the flights even after the reopening announcement.
I’m now fighting the airline for a full refund.
Yet I’ve purchased new tickets with ANA and we’ll be arriving at Narita on Dec 15th.
Can’t wait anymore after 2 years of forced delays.
Is it still recommended to use the mySOS app for proof of vaccination? Where I live it’s possible to generate a vaccination record that also has the letterhead of the local authorities and states in English that this has been issued by the local health department. In theory it should be very clear and fast to analyse, but with Japan you never know…
mySOS has been replaced by ‘Visit Japan Web’ which is available at https://vjw-lp.digital.go.jp/en/
I have downloaded and bravely completed the MySOS app twice. It is a typically Japanese rigmarole, made even worse by digitalisation, and it has had me swearing in frustration. The first time, after “being reviewed” for several days, my application was rejected, with an extremely laconic “explanation” obscurely suggesting the reviewer did not know which country the code “DE” (as printed on my EU vaccination certificate) signifies. And that had made my certificate invalid. I did it all over again from scratch, submitting exactly the same documents, and this time my application was approved within minutes. Perhaps a different person reviewed it. The whole thing is an outrageous, unnecessary hassle. It may speed up getting through immigration (we’ll see about that) but it doesn’t take that long to check one passport and one vaccination certificate, does it? Certainly less long than I have spent struggling with the MySOS app.
Thanks so much for your answer about face masks in onsens. That’s a great relief!
I am confused about the MySOS app. We will be travelling to Tokyo on October 20 and, following your advice given in this post, tried to register our COVID vaccination info on the app using a mobile phone. The first few pieces of required information were easy enough, but then we did not have information to input regarding COVID test results and quarantine plans (as those things won’t be required after October 11), and the form did not let us complete the registration. How do we proceed?