Japan has opened its borders to tourists on guided tours © Getty Images
Japan has opened its borders to tourists on guided tours © Getty Images

Japan is finally allowing tourists in - but its entry policy is super strict

TripFalcon June 29, 2022

Last Update: 2024-01-22 12:31:33

Japan has finally opened its borders to tourists — however the entry policy is anything but straightforward with international visitors required to be accompanied by a local guide for the duration of their stay.

If you've long-dreamed of visiting the neon-bright neighbourhoods of Tokyo or the once-in-a-lifetime attractions of Kyoto as a tourist, you can only do it as part of a guided tour. For the time being anyway.

Japan's entry rules

Japan opened its borders on Friday (June 10) to foreign tourists from most nations, but only for those who will be accompanied by local guides "from entry to departure" on package tours, the tourism board said. Tourists must also wear masks and adhere to other COVID-19 measures as the country stages a cautious return to tourism after two years of strict border restrictions.

"Tour guides should frequently remind tour participants of necessary infection prevention measures, including wearing and removing masks, at each stage of the tour," the Japan Tourism Agency. "Even outdoors, the wearing of masks should continue in situations where people are conversing in close proximity." 

There's also a daily limit to the number of tourists who will be allowed into the country, about 20,000 per day, and all visitors are required to take out insurance to cover medical costs should they contract COVID-19. They'll also need to present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their departure date and install the MySOS app, where they can register their test results.

Before the pandemic, Japan offered visa-free entry to visitors from some 68 countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, South Korea, and Malaysia, but for now, "everyone needs a visa," according to the Foreign Ministry, regardless of where they are coming from.

How tourists can apply for a visa to visit Japan

Visitors can apply for a certificate for registration to ERFS (Entrants, Returnees Follow-up System) through the travel agency they've booked their tour with. Once that's processed, they'll receive a document that they can take to their local Japanese embassy or consulate to obtain a visa, or apply for the visa directly with the tourism agency. The turnaround time is generally five working days after the documents are received and accepted.

Japan's COVID-19 vaccination requirements

Japan categorizes countries into blue, yellow or red based on their COVID risk. Travelers from blue countries do not have to show proof of vaccination. Blue countries include the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Argentina, Mexico, and more.

Travelers from yellow and red countries are subject to additional entry requirements such as testing upon arrival and quarantine.

When can tourists travel to Japan?

Officials say it will take some time before foreign visitors can come to Japan for independent tourism like they were permitted to before the pandemic.

A spokesperson for the tourism board told Lonely Planet that they still "have no indication or update on when [independent] tourism may resume." 

Source: lonelyplanet