Unlocking the World

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

CNN staffUpdated 11th June 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 June 10.
(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 lauded for containing the virus during the first wave but has since seen a surge in cases, with a major spike in November and December.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced on February 9 that all foreign nationals would be barred from entering the country, but did not specify a start date or give details about how this would be implemented. The Tokyo Olympics are still scheduled to take place in July despite protests.
Eight people involved with the Olympic torch relay have tested positive for Covid. On May 2, Japan reported 5,900 new infections and the number of patients with "severe symptoms" hit a record high of 1,050.
Although all foreign nationals have been barred from attending the Olympics in summer 2021 and are mostly unable to enter the country, Japanese authorities announced that they are considering testing any foreigner entering the country for the newer coronavirus variants.
Japanese officials have announced plans to vaccinate all the Olympic and Paralympic athletes who come to the country to compete in the Games. However, the rollout of vaccines across the country has been slower than expected, and large swaths of the national signup database crashed on May 12.
Currently, 10 prefectures are under emergency measures: Aichi, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Hokkaido, Hyogo, Kyoto, Okinawa, Okayama, Osaka and Tokyo. These will remain in place until at least June 20.
Meanwhile, social controls in Gunma, Ishikawa and Kumamoto prefectures are being lifted as cases there diminish.

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, with 152 countries on its prohibited list.
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. Consult MOFA for the latest information.
Prime Minister Suga announced on January 14 that the borders would close to all foreign nationals, although there were no specifics on beginning and ending dates. He also did not specify whether this would apply to foreign citizens with Japanese residency.
On May 24, the US State Department issued a travel warning against its citizens visiting Japan. It was a Level 4 warning, the highest on the scale. It has since been dropped to a "Level 3: Reconsider Travel." It's currently unclear how this will affect members of the American Olympic team who have plans to travel to Japan this summer.

What are the restrictions?

Travelers from permitted destinations must undertake a 14-day quarantine, although it is possible to request a PCR test on arrival. A negative result allows you to finish quarantine.
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.

What's the Covid situation?

After low infection rates in the first wave, Japan has seen a sharp increase in cases, which have steadily increased since a state of emergency was lifted in March.
As of June 10, Japan had reported roughly 768,300 confirmed cases of the virus and 13,800 deaths.
The vaccine rollout has been slow compared with others in Asia because of a shortage of medical professionals and a lack of syringes. To boost vaccine numbers ahead of the Olympics, the Japanese government has rolled out some workplace vaccination programs and recruited dentists, retired doctors and others in the medical field to assist with giving them out.
The Health Ministry formally approved two Covid-19 vaccines (Moderna and AstraZeneca) on May 21. Both are approved for anyone 18 and older.
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

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