Japan Reopening to Individual Tourists!

For nearly two years, we’ve been chronicling every update to Japan’s border closure in When Will Japan Reopen for Individual Tourists? We have great news: Japan will finally reopen to individual travel in October 2022!

During a press conference in New York after his appearance at the U.N. (and before a speech at the New York Stock Exchange), Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that Japan will continue to ease its border controls. 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 did not include any other details about changes to pre-arrival testing or any other requirements that might be instituted for inbound individual tourists.

While this should be viewed as a full reopening, we must stress that not all details are presently known. We know many of you have questions, but we do not yet have answers. This is official, but the accompanying guidelines to clarify the specifics have not yet been released.

If you’d like to be notified as soon as more specifics are released by Japan’s government, subscribe to our FREE email newsletter updates!

As with the past border relaxation measures, it’s likely that that Japan Tourism Agency (part of the government’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport & Tourism) will release more guidelines and FAQ about visitor expectations in the coming days.

It’s also likely that the current red, yellow, and blue grouping system will remain.

See above for how this impacts arrivals based on country of origin. (Over 80% of countries are in the blue category, including all of North America and most of Europe; most remaining nations are in yellow.)

During the press conference, Kishida also indicated that the government will restart its nationwide “Go To Travel” subsidy program on October 11, 2022. Currently, the “Go To Travel” program targets residents traveling within their own prefectures and discounts travel to nearby destinations. The upcoming change will expand the program to destinations nationwide, offering up to 11,000 yen per person per day in discounts and coupons.

“I hope as many people as possible utilize the program, which would support tourism and entertainment industries,” Kishida said during the press conference. The government had planned to relaunch the “Go To Travel” program this summer but was forced to suspend it due to Japan’s seventh wave of infections.

Since May, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has promised to bring Japan more in line with the Group of Seven advanced economies. His repeated refrain has been that Japan “will continue to consider how the measures should be by taking into account the infection situations at home and abroad, and border control measures taken by other nations.”

After much “careful consideration” and “evaluating the situation,” as well as growing calls from the business lobby and politicians within Japan, the government is finally following through on Kishida’s promise.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that Japan would allow the entry of self-guided tour groups and raise the daily arrival cap to 50,000. Japan also no longer requires incoming travelers to show a pre-departure negative COVID-19 test, provided they have been vaccinated three times.

That move was Japan’s most significant move since reopening to guided tours in June, a step that did not move the needle on visitor numbers in a meaningful way. Many commentators, including us, did not believe the move to allow self-guided tourists who book as part of packages would actually do much to help Japan’s battered tourism sector. Comments from government officials only days after that decision corroborated this perspective.

The announcement of Japan reopening to individual tourists as of October 11, 2022 should help address that, and start to reverse Japan’s tourism slump. A record 31.9 million tourists visited Japan in 2019, with over 2 million visitors a month. Boosting tourism was core to the late former Prime Minister Abe’s economic revitalization plan, and both subsequent prime ministers have indicated their intentions to maintain continuity with those plans

Under Abe, Japan’s travel industry had been buoyed by inbound demand. The country was on pace for another strong year as of early 2020, with the Tokyo Olympics expected to accelerate further growth. Of course, that did not happen–numbers plummeted and the border closed.

Last year, only 245,900 foreign visitors entered Japan, the lowest figure since comparable data became available in 1964. That drop of over 99.2% is the sharpest decrease on record according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

Japan’s attempts at reopening via tours haven’t made much of a difference, and were possibly only symbolic measures to assuage the public that the country could reopen safely. Foreign arrivals totaled only 169,800 in August, which is 6.6 times higher than those in August 2021 but that ‘exponential growth’ is unimpressive when zooming out. The arrival number is down 93.3% from the same month in 2019.

Despite the aforementioned numbers, Japan is maintaining its goal of attracting 60 million foreign visitors by 2030.

More notably, the Japan National Tourism Organization has set 2024 as its goal for recovering to 2019 international travel levels. Both of these announcements have been surprising given the current border closures. These prior goals were driven by greater accessibility, barrier-free travel, and marketing campaigns during the Olympics.

This could be at least partially offset by the weaker yen, which has fallen about 25% year-to-date. The Bank of Japan has intervened by selling dollar-denominated assets to buy the yen in an effort to prop-up the Japanese currency’s free-fall, a first in 24 years. Despite this, the yen is still hovering around its lowest level since 1998.

Even this intervention is unlikely to reverse overarching trends. The Bank of Japan has reaffirmed a commitment to ultralow monetary policy, whereas the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks in the West have hiked interest rates repeatedly–and have signaled intent to continue doing so through 2023. These divergent approaches will mean the effects of the yen intervention might be limited, unless the BOJ changes its dovish stance.

As more Japanese consumers are feeling the pinch of inflation, there has been growing criticism that the weak yen is the culprit. Already mired with controversies around the Unification Church and Abe’s state funeral, this is something unwanted for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

One way to partially offset this, and for Japan to take advantage of the weaker yen, is by kickstarting inbound travel to the country.

More government leaders and business groups have been more vocally outspoken about this in recent weeks, including Kishida himself. “It’s important to bolster our earning power by promoting farm exports and inbound tourism…to enjoy the merits of the weaker yen,” Kishida told a government panel.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara (pictured above) said something similar on Fuji TV, noting that “amid the weakening yen, inbound travelers will have greatest economic effect.”

With this full reopening, Japan is expected to see spending by inbound tourists recover to about 2.5 trillion yen ($17.5 billion) in a year, or around half of the pre-pandemic level in 2019, according to economists at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc.

That is partly because a weaker yen makes traveling overseas to Japan cheaper and boosts the appetite for spending. Given the Japanese currency is trading past 140 versus the U.S. dollar, a traveler is estimated to spend around 190,000 yen for a trip, up roughly 20 percent from approximately 160,000 yen in pre-pandemic 2019 when the currency was around 109.

The strength of the dollar means greater purchasing power when traveling to Japan. Intuitively, this might suggest that international visitors will spend less in their own currency due to the discounted yen, history has shown the opposite to be true. When the exchange rate is more favorable to them, visitors splurge on upscale accommodations, luxury goods, dining, and more. It’s believed that a weaker yen can also attract more affluent visitors.

“Past data show when the yen weakens, foreign tourists tend to step up spending during their stay in Japan on cosmetics, souvenirs and other items,” said Naoto Sekiguchi, an economist at SMBC Nikko Securities. The consensus among economists is that a revival in inbound tourism would help improve the current account balance and affect the dollar-yen pair because demand for yen-buying will increase.

Still, the recovery in the number of inbound tourists is expected to be slow for a couple of factors. First, there’s the reality that very few people take last-minute international trips. While Japan is reopening in time for the popular autumn leaves season, it’s doing so with less than two-months’ notice.

While many readers here have expressed a desire to return to Japan ASAP, this is not representative of the broader tourism market. Normal travelers are not anxiously awaiting this news; most have already booked their fall travel plans to other destinations. Many have already booked spring, as well. The lag between booking and traveling is larger for international travel than domestic destinations.

Even those who are interested in Japan may hesitate upon doing research and learning what’s expected of them. Whereas much of the world has moved on from COVID, health theater measures and social pressures remain strong in Japan.

Just yesterday, Fuji News Network revealed that the government will submit a bill that would revise the law governing hotels and inns, allowing them more power to enforce infection measures. In particular, this would allow hotels to refuse entry to guests who do not wear masks and follow other measures to control infection. This news came seemingly as a precursor to the announcement that individual travel to Japan would resume.

Mask-wearing is ubiquitous in Japan, plexiglass dividers are common in restaurants, and other measures that were abandoned over a year ago in many other countries are still in place.

While Japanophiles might do whatever is necessary to return, rules like this will likely give many other more casual visitors pause.

In addition to that, tour groups are unlikely to return in large numbers anytime soon. This is somewhat ironic, as these visitors have already been welcomed back for several months now as part of the monitored program discussed above.

One big reason tour travel will be slow to recover is their demographics and primary country of origin. Visitors from China are unlikely anytime this year and into 2023 due to strict antivirus restrictions by Beijing, which still has a zero-COVID policy. When high-spending Chinese tourists will return to Japan is anyone’s guess, based both on zero-COVID and their own views about the rest of the world at this point.

Like so many of you who have followed this closely, we will be returning to Japan this year, in time for autumn leaves season.

As mentioned previously, we have had a November trip on the books for a while, but began firming up details and booking more–including nonrefundable aspects–in the last two weeks as the rumors of a full reopening grew more credible.

We took the leap because we were confident in the rumors, and also to beat whatever rush there might be in booking prime accommodations during fall colors season. We’re using points for some stays while traveling throughout Japan, and award availability tends to be limited.

As a general matter, for the reasons discussed above, we are not expecting a huge surge of inbound visitors through the end of 2022. More likely, the impact of this announcement will start being felt during sakura season in 2023. (Updated crowd forecasts and other planning resources will be coming soon.)

We 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.

We are eager to revisit our favorite places, see friends in Japan for the first time in over two years, and continue creating this site’s wealth of 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.

Your Thoughts

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!

Free Money-Saving eBook & Japan Email Updates

Want to receive free updates on when Japan will reopen for travel? Subscribe to our email newsletter for the latest news & instant alerts.

Subscribers also receive a totally free copy of our Japan on a Budget eBook. This will save you significant money on accommodations, attractions, temples, groceries, transportation, and even Michelin-rated restaurants!

If you want a copy of this totally free eBook and Japan reopening updates, all you need to do is subscribe to our newsletter! You will receive a link to download the eBook and periodic emails when there's news to share.

We respect your privacy.

73 replies
« Older Comments
  1. Strider2k
    Strider2k says:

    Thank you for all the information and updates you have provided. It was very helpful in trying to work out when I could visit Japan again. I have now booked two trips (my situation does not allow for me to travel for to long at a time), November 4 (arriving the 5th) through 16, and again December 6 (arriving the 7th) through 15. Will keep watching for a new updates before I travel. I had originally had my trip booked for May 2020, so glad to be able to finally actually go. These will be my third and fourth trips to Japan, having been before in 2013 and 2019 to attend events, but only had limited time for sightseeing on those trips.

    Reply
    • K-Rin
      K-Rin says:

      @ScottE My understanding is that this is only required to avoid quarantine measures for “Yellow” and “Red” countries. Travelers from “Blue” countries do not need to show anything.

    • Scott E
      Scott E says:

      I read it as travelers from blue countries will be exempt from testing upon arrival and quarantine starting Oct 11. However, they will still be required to show proof of vaccination or negative PCR test before departure.

    • Scott E
      Scott E says:

      I reread all the docs and attachments again. The blue, yellow and red distinctions are being eliminated, but the authorities may test if they suspect a traveller is ill.

      As for vaccination or PCR test proof, it states:

      “However, all returnees and immigrants shall be required to submit either the vaccination certificate (3 times) on the World Health Organization (WHO) emergency use list or a certificate of negative test received within 72 hours before departure.”

      I interpret the “three times” to mean three vaccinations.

  2. AJ
    AJ says:

    I really appreciate all the detailed updates and was excited to finally get this news. I have been waiting since my last canceled trip in 2020 and am looking forward to returning. I will be very happy to read your reports from your trip this fall, to hear how it is now. I do not think I will be booking anytime soon, as I am not interested in 100% mask wearing and plexiglass everywhere on a trip that is always very special to me. I hope to return to Japan for a visit that does NOT feel like every single person needs to be masked off, sprayed down and isolated from each other. Thanks again.

    Reply
  3. Juan
    Juan says:

    Hello everyone,
    I want to share here my experience today at the Japanese Consulate office in Vancouver, Canada when applying for a Visitors Visa.
    My wife and I live in Canada but don’t have a Canadian passport yet, just our Colombian passport, so we still needed a visa to enter Japan.
    So we saw yesterday the good news about the border restrictions release, and as my wife and I have been preparing for the trip for so long, we had all the documents ready and headed to the consulate to submit our visa application.
    Unfortunately, they didn’t accept our application because there is no clear process definition yet, so we, that still need a visa will have to wait for further details, and the EFSR is still mandatory.
    BUT the guy next to us in the line, that didn’t know about the lifting of the restrictions, had all the papers and a Canadian passport, when he was presenting them, the lady told him he doesn’t need to request any visa and didn’t accept the documentation, she said just bring your passport with you if the trip is on or after October 11th.
    So not sure what is going to be the full scenario for people from countries that are not exempt of a visa, for now, we will have to wait.
    Hope this experience could be helpful to others.
    Good luck and safe travel!

    Reply
    • Laura
      Laura says:

      Thank for for this information. My husband has an Indian passport so also needs a tourist visa and we weren’t sure what the updated measures were for those who still need to apply for a visa. Seems like we will have to wait a bit longer to find out

  4. ABAREBUGYO
    ABAREBUGYO says:

    Contrary to all this, two years ago I planned to sit out all this virus bellyhoo in Australia and then return to Japan. A ticket selling mob called KIWI.com scammed me and many others and we are STILL waiting for our refunds. So I got stuck in Japan whilst this virus thing killed my eBay antique biz. Well I am still trying to hang in there I must admit, getting stuck here ain,t that bad! I mention this on my YouTube channel for years of these dam woes. Soldier on. ABAREBUGYO

    Reply
  5. Miguel
    Miguel says:

    Hi. First of all I would like to send my thanks and appreciation for the last 2 years extremely well reasoned and informed posts, which were a big help for me.
    I would like to share our personal situation out of curiosity for you. All taking into account that this was a first-world issue, that there are real problems our there and this was not one of them.
    In a nutshell…
    My wife won 2 World Business class tickets to any KLM destination in the centenary celebration of the firm in our hometown, Madrid to be used within 3 months. This was October 2019. Because she was 1 month shy of giving birth, KLM was kind enough to extend the validity to the whole 2020.
    We booked for December 2020 hoping to travel to Tokyo and introduce the baby to our friends. Our contact in KLM handling these very special class tickets is really high in the company and was not easy to reach. Changed were not easy as there were very few flights, even less award tickets available and eventually we needed to buy an extra ticket for our daughter when she turned 2, so it has been even harder coordinating 2 separate reservations, ours and hers. Not to mention the expense of the third ticket, becoming more expensive with each change made in the dark of when would be possible to fly…
    KLM has been extremely nice at all times, but we were warned that our last reservation flying out on November 8th had to be the last one.
    The last few months have been stressing, with the fear of losing the tickets and the trip.
    I don´t need to explain how happy we are now.
    So, to Travelcaffeine and to everyone who was reading along the way, my warmest regards, and the best of luck for your travels.
    Happy Trails

    Reply
  6. GBSanDiego
    GBSanDiego says:

    Our June tour was cancelled. So we had already rebooked for June 2023. We are three and have our flights already booked with miles. Already booked arriving hotel with points before our tour starts.

    Super excited, to say the least.

    BTW – I found your sight around May timeframe and extremely fortunate to have done so. I signed up for your opening updates and I can’t say enough how helpful your reports are. I have read everyone of them even as of now. Even though our tour doesn’t take place until June of next year. I wasn’t even sure if that was going to happen.
    Keep up your amazing work!!

    Reply
  7. Micki Carroll
    Micki Carroll says:

    My favorite breaking news in 31 months! Thank you! Do you think there will be any “GO to Teavel”-type incentives for foreigners, or is that too much to hope?

    Reply
  8. Charizard
    Charizard says:

    Hi, does anyone know if this date of 11th of October came directly from the mouth of the prime minister? I cannot find a direct quote saying that anywhere… Also does anyone think it’s possible that they will ask vaccinated people to quarantine, or add such rules for this reopening? Thanks a bunch!

    Reply
  9. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    So excited! Our ski trip in January, delayed for a year, is going to happen. Can’t wait and glad I found award tickets last January to make it happen!

    Reply
« Older Comments

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *