Unlocking the World

Travel to Japan during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

CNN staffUpdated 25th November 2021
Japan offers a heady mix of the cutting edge and deeply traditional.
Editor's Note — Coronavirus cases remain high across the globe. Health officials caution that travel increases your chances of getting and spreading the virus. Staying home is the best way to stem transmission. Below is information on what to know if you still plan to travel, last updated on November 22.
(CNN) — If you're planning to travel to Japan, here's what you'll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The basics

Japan was initially lauded for containing the virus during the first wave but has since seen several surges in cases.
On September 22, Japan's health ministry agreed to loosen entry restrictions for visitors to the country who can show proof of being fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Travelers will have to show proof of getting the Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccines, as they are currently the only ones accepted in Japan.
Eligible travelers will no longer have to endure a 14-day quarantine -- instead, they can do 10. At the end of the 10-day period, they must take a PCR test. If that test comes back negative, the person is then able to move about freely.
Following a sliding number of cases, restrictions in the Tokyo area have loosened. More than 100,000 restaurants and bars in the capital have been certified, meaning they and their employees have been judged safe enough to resume normal business hours.
Establishments that are not certified must stop serving alcohol by 8:00 p.m. and close by 9.

What's on offer

A heady mix of the cutting edge and deeply traditional, Japan remains a major draw for travelers from all over the globe. Whether participating in a traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto, scouring Tokyo's Akihabara district for tech bargains or soaking in a hot onsen in the forests of Tohoku, this is a country that leaves its mark on all who visit.

Who can go

Japan has some of the most stringent travel restrictions in the world.
Visitors from Australia, Brunei, China (including Hong Kong and Macau), New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam may enter the country, although those traveling from China and South Korea can only arrive into the country via Tokyo Narita airport. Additionally, those traveling for study, work or to join family (subject to visa requirements) may enter.
That said, there are many exceptions and the rules change constantly. The government reserves the right to change these regulations if and when new variants are detected or other countries have spikes.
As of September 19, visitors from the following countries no longer have to spend three days in government quarantine in addition to 10 days of self-isolation: Andorra, Belarus, Cambodia, Fiji, Finland, France, Ireland, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malta, Namibia, the Netherlands, Oman, Thailand, Tunisia, the United States, and Zimbabwe.
Consult MOFA for the latest information.

What are the restrictions?

Those traveling under Japan's revised business travel rules will need to provide proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure, signed and stamped by the laboratory where it was taken. While they will not need to self-isolate, they will need to provide details of their movements for the following two weeks and not use public transport.
Japan is entirely free of the "state of emergency" or "quasi-state of emergency" designations as of October 1. That is the first time since April that not a single prefecture will be in one of the categories.
Under these states and quasi-states, prefecture governments were allowed to make restrictions about things like crowd sizes and restaurant hours. With those designations lifted, it is possible for venues like bars, malls and cinemas to reopen.

What's the Covid situation?

As of November 22, Japan had reported 1,725,850 confirmed cases of the virus and 18,343 deaths. These numbers don't include any positive cases connected to the Olympics or Paralympics. More than 76% of the population is fully vaccinated.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato confirmed to local media that his team is exploring options for "vaccine passports." Business travelers would be prioritized for these at first.

What can visitors expect?

While much of Japan remains open for business, cities are far quieter than usual and the government has the right to request the closure of businesses in areas of high transmission. Masks must be worn in public.

Useful links

Our latest coverage

Osaka is now home to the world's first -- and so far only -- Super Nintendo World, where visitors can put on virtual reality glasses and play a real-life version of Mario Kart.
Fukushima is ready for tourists again, while you can practice shirin yoku, or forest bathing, in Kyoto's Sagano Bamboo Forest.
For something a little less idyllic, there's a museum dedicated to poop in Yokohama. Or get stuck into the renowned food scene, with record-breaking snow crab and $185 steak sandwiches.