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Disclaimer: We at Voyapon try our best to provide you with the most up-to-date information on Japan’s travel regulations using reputable news reports and information directly from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. However, the situation is constantly changing, and our article should not be used as legal advice. Please reach out to your nearest embassy or immigration bureau for the most recent information related to your situation.

On October 1st, the Government of Japan had partially reopened its borders to foreign travelers entering the country for business purposes or seeking mid to long-term resident status. The announcement came after the consistent decrease in COVID-19 infections since the last spike in summer 2020. However, new measures announced by the government on September 25th exclude tourist visas and Working Holiday visas. As of January 13, 2021, travelers on a Business and Resident track are also banned from entering Japan, meaning only Japanese and resident foreigners are allowed re-entry. The latter remain affected under the current coronavirus entry ban on 152 countries.

From March 19, 2021, airlines are limiting the number of arrivals to 2,000 per week, with foreign carriers limited to 80 individuals per flight, down from 100 on March 11th

In response to the mutation of COVID-19, the Japanese government imposed stricter entry regulations on December 26, 2020, and are continually being updated in 2021. These include the following areas:

In general, since December 26th, foreign nationals with a status of residence will still be allowed to enter Japan.

In the case of foreign residents, re-entry restrictions were only lifted on September 1st (until then, only travelers with special circumstances were allowed to return and each case was handled on a case-by-case basis) after months of protests by many of those affected. Current residents may return on the condition that a negative Coronavirus (COVID-19) PCR test is provided. The test must have been performed within 72 hours prior to departure and the results must be handed along with a signed document from a valid medical institution. Once in Japan, a 14-day quarantine must be followed and public transportation must not be used.

Kansai International Airport
Kansai International Airport. The effects of the drastic drop in tourism in Japan has been felt across all areas during the year that was expected to have its best results. |© Coniferconifer

Although Working Holiday Visas are excluded from the reopening of Japan’s borders, some embassy websites have stated exceptions where travelers can still enter Japan with a valid working holiday visa. The Embassy of Japan in Australia website has these conditions for the Working Holiday Visa: If you were issued a visa before April 3rd, 2020, have not yet entered Japan, and the visa is still valid, you will need a Written Pledge to enter Japan. The UK and New Zealand have similar conditions on their embassy website. However, please contact your embassy directly for the most up-to-date information regarding conditions with the working holiday visa. In addition to rules regarding PCR tests and quarantine, you will need a written pledge signed by a Japanese company to be accepted. By signing the pledge, the company is responsible to uphold your quarantine when you arrive in Japan. Please check with your embassy for more information.

As for the most recent move, it comes as part of several measures aimed to gradually ease the travel restrictions and progressively reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the local economy ahead of the Tokyo Olympic games, postponed to 2021. According to Government sources, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said during a meeting that in order “to revitalize the economy, it is indispensable to resume international travel”.

New rules for visa applications starting January 2021

Japan’s newest visa restrictions come in addition to the nation’s concern of COVID-19 cases in its capital. On October 1st, 2020, Tokyo prefecture was included in the “Go To Travel” subsidy package for domestic tourism that had been running for the rest of the country since August. In December 2020, the campaign was suspended due to rising cases of COVID-19, though is expected to continue in summer 2021.

Travelers in Atlanta Airport
The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed mask wearing from a mainly Asian phenomenon into a global obligation in public spaces. | © Chad Davis

The “Business Track” or “Resident Track” that was available since July 2020 has been suspended in January 2021. These two programs were available to some Asian countries in the summer of 2020, and on October 1, 2020, the worldwide citizen was incrementally permitted to enter Japan with the “Resident Track” program if they fulfilled the required conditions. However, as of January 14th, these two tracks have been suspended until further notice. 

Visa application according to the current regulations

The application for the following types of visas is suspended until further notice: Working Holiday Visa (please contact your embassy for possible exceptions and additional information), short-term business (up to 90 days), and long-term visas that require a Certificate of Eligibility. This regulation does not apply to the Spouse or Child of Japanese National visa. In urgent cases, family members of Japanese citizens can apply for a temporary or long-term visa.

Can foreign students and workers enter Japan from January 2021?

No. As of January 2021, the “Resident Track” program is suspended including applications to the following list of visa categories:

  • Professor 
  • Artist
  • Religious Activities
  • Journalist
  • Highly-Skilled Professional
  • Business Manager
  • Legal/ Accounting Services
  • Medical Services
  • Researcher
  • Instructor
  • Engineer/ Specialist in Humanities/ International Services
  • Intra-company Transferee
  • Nursing Care
  • Entertainer
  • Skilled Labor
  • Specified Skilled Worker
  • Technical Intern Training
  • Cultural Activities 
  • Student
  • Trainee
  • Dependent
  • Designated Activities
  • Long Term Resident
  • Spouse or child of Japanese National
  • Spouse or child of Permanent Resident
Passengers warh a Korean Air airplane in Narita Airport
Passengers observing a Korean Air aircraft in the transit area of Narita Airport. Air traffic restrictions are gradually being lifted as COVID-19 cases are referred | © Jorge Díaz

Exceptions to the rules

However, those who qualify for the “Spouse or Child of Japanese national” and “Spouse or Child of Permanent Resident” visa categories will be exempt from the written pledge. Instead, they must submit a copy of relevant family records (marriage certificate, birth certificate, etc.) along with the COE at the time of application. As for those who fall under the category of Japan-EU Economic Partnership Credentials (EPA), a Certificate of Eligibility is not required at this time. Lastly, those individuals that are traveling to Japan for diplomatic or official purposes, will not be subjected to this list of procedures.

Departures area in Narita Airport
Departures Area at Narita International Airport. The government has its eyes set on the progressive increase of tourism in Japan. | © i nao

Airlines currently traveling to Japan


At the moment, this is the list of airlines that can fly to Japan:

AsiaEurope and OceaniaAmerica, Middle-East, and Africa
Japan AirlinesBritish AirwaysAir Canada
All Nippon AirlinesIberiaUnited
Cathay PacificLufthansaAeromexico
China EasternAustrian AirlinesAmerican Airlines
Air IndiaKLMEmirates
China AirlinesAir New ZealandTurkish Airlines
Singapore AirlinesAir FranceEtihad Airways
Eva AirLOT Polish AirlinesEthiopian Airlines
Jet AirwaysQantas AirlinesPIA
Malaysia AirlinesSWISSQatar Airways
Philippine AirlinesFinnairSriLankan Airlines
Thai AirwaysAeroflot
Air China
Garuda Indonesia
Vietnam Airlines
Tianjin Airlines
Korean Air
China Southern

However, it should be taken into account that the fact that the mentioned airlines have available flights to Japan, does not mean that there isn’t any risk of possible cancellations. The current situation is still volatile. Therefore, in order to minimize potential issues, it is advisable to take every possible precaution when booking flights and to check the cancellation policies.

Rules to follow after landing in Japan to avoid Coronavirus infection

Once all of the above has been carried out, travelers entering Japan (both nationals and foreigners) must undergo another PCR test at the airport and place themselves under strict quarantine measures at home for 14 days. Likewise, it is also possible to stay in a hotel, holiday apartment, or company apartment. It should be noted that the use of public transportation is prohibited when leaving the airport. It will be necessary to either have accommodation arranged nearby or to travel by private transport.

Since there are no guidelines about specific places you will need to stay during your quarantine period, you will need to find and arrange a location for yourself. It is best to use a vacation rental and hotel search engine like CozyCozy, which can search all types of available accommodations. This way, you might be able to find an option that you are most comfortable in, since you’ll be confined there for quite a long period of time.

All of the measures described until now can be understood in light of the context of the progressive decline of infections detected during the last month. To monitor the latest updates, it is possible to consult the media coverage in English or the almost real-time Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus tracker. The decrease in new cases has allowed almost all entertainment or restaurant establishments to resume their activities. Also, most tourist attractions went back into operations to take advantage of the pull of the government’s stimulus package. However, occupancy or business hours are still subject to some limitations in order to maintain social distance and prevent outbreaks from spreading again.

Shitennoji Temple in Osaka
Sign announcing the temporary closure of Shitennoji Temple in Osaka to prevent spreading infections. Most of the temples and tourist attractions that had closed during spring have now resumed their activities | © peter-rabbit

Actions to be taken before departure and upon arrival in Japan

The new measures stipulate that a negative COVID-19 test must be presented within 72 hours before departure to Japan. After arrival in Japan, another COVID-19 test will be conducted at the airport quarantine stations and individuals may be subject to a 14-day quarantine at specific facilities designated by the chief of the quarantine office (limited to accommodation facilities designated by the quarantine office). Since March 19, airline companies will prevent those without a negative test result certificate from boarding the flight. People who submit a negative test result must go into a 14-day quarantine at their place of residence.

PCR test
PCR testing is mandatory for all travelers within 72 hours of flight departure. | © US. Pacific Fleet

For travelers from countries or regions where new coronavirus variants have recently been discovered are required to self-isolate at facilities designated by the government for three days. They must get tested again on the third day after arrival, and if negative, may complete their 14-day quarantine at their place of residence.

Travelers Must Install Three Apps

As of March 18, travelers must install three apps on their smartphones before their arrival to Japan. For those without a personal smartphone must rent one at the airport.

  1. Cocoa (iOS and Android), the Japanese government’s Covid-19 contact tracing app
  2. OSSMA (iOS and Android), the Japanese government’s location confirmation app
  3. Skype

To avoid spreading COVID-19, it is requested to refrain from using public transportation, including trains, buses, taxis, and national flights.

Special information for people from countries or regions where new coronavirus variants have recently been discovered

To avoid the spread of the coronavirus mutation, special measures apply to people and citizens from countries or regions where new coronavirus variants have recently been discovered. As of March 26th, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Ireland, Israel, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Austria, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Slovakia, Denmark, Germany, Nigeria, France, Belgium, Estonia, Czech Republic, Pakistan, Hungary, Poland, Luxembourg, Lebanon, Ukraine, and the Philippines will be denied entry into Japan until further notice. Check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the most up-to-date list of countries/regions included within this suspension.

Since  January 14, 2021, people from these countries and regions of concern who have the status of permanent residence in Japan have to go into a 3-day quarantine at a location designated by the quarantine office chief (booked accommodation of the quarantine office) upon their arrival in Japan. Another COVID-19 test must be conducted on the third day of quarantine. Those who can provide a negative test result are allowed to spend the remainder of the 14-day quarantine at their home, instead of the accommodation designated by the quarantine office chief.

What can tourists expect in the coming months?

The Japanese government’s main objectives are to avoid another cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and to regain international tourism as soon as it is safe to do so. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is continually updating entry procedures into Japan, which is dependent on the COVID situation both globally and within Japan’s borders.

Japan’s borders will not open for tourists before 2021 spring

For the moment, it seems that Japanese authorities are not considering opening the borders of the country for tourists before spring 2021. The government plans to open the borders gradually, for business trips and other mid to long-term visas initially, and tourist visas secondly. This progressive reopening of the borders should give enough time to organize large-scale tests in the airports and look carefully at the evolution of the world’s pandemic situation.

A reopening of the borders for tourists, still hypothetical, in April 2021 would allow a gradual resumption of international tourism a few months before the beginning of Tokyo’s Olympic Games, scheduled for July 23, 2021.

According to government communication reported by the famous Japanese press agency Jiji Press, here would be the requirements for the entry of international tourists in Japan:

  • A negative PCR test before the departure
  • Another PCR test at the arrival
  • No quarantine is needed, but the obligation to install three apps for a smartphone and to use it to indicate their state of health every day for 14 days.

These requirements would stay effective at least until the end of the Olympics, in August 2021.

Original article published on 04/10/2020 | Last update on 02/04/2021

Toshiko Sakurai

Toshiko Sakurai

I shoot (with my camera!), therefore I am. I paint with light and try to put letters together to the best of my abilities. I arrived in Tokyo from Barcelona the autumn of 2017 and since then I've devoted myself to capture the city corners while riding my bicycle. When I'm not carrying my camera, I'm usually defying the culinary ortodoxy mixing styles from everywhere I've ever lived.

12 Comments

  • Avatar David Kritzinger says:

    Hello, just wanted to ask where you got the info that the Working Holiday Visa is excluded from because I could’nt find anything about that.
    Thank you

    • Mika Senda Mika Senda says:

      Hi David,

      Since March of this year, the validity of all single and multi-entry visas (Working Holiday Visa is a single-entry visa) was suspended to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which you can find here: https://www.mofa.go.jp/ca/fna/page6e_000199.html

      In August, new border entry measures opened up to foreign nationals with a valid re-entry permit (https://www.mofa.go.jp/ca/fna/page4e_001074.html), then again just recently for those travelling for business or those seeking a short or long term residence status: (https://www.mofa.go.jp/ca/fna/page22e_000921.html)

      The short of it is: There is no mention of when tourists and working holiday visa holders will be able to apply/reapply for an entry visa within these new border-entry guidelines, so we have to assume that the rules for single/multi-entry visa haven’t changed since earlier this year.

      As vague as that may sound, these new border measures seem to be changing by the minute, so the best we can do is watch for any new announcements made regarding these new border measures.

      You can keep an eye on new announcements on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs page here: https://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/index.html.

      Hope that is helpful!

  • Avatar Cynthia says:

    Hello, thank you for the information!
    Is it wise to purchase the airplane tickets now for April 2021 ou should we wait?
    Thank you

    Cynthia

    • Mika Senda Mika Senda says:

      Hi Cynthia, thank you for your question!
      As always, we try to give you our best advice based on the information we have at the moment. In regards to travel in 2021, Japan’s travel restrictions are continually changing due to the evolving global status of Covid. As you may already know, a State of Emergency issued in January to a handful of prefectures has been extended, restricting even travel within the country. It’s likely that travel to and from the country will be restricted until further notice, so it may be wise to postpone any travel plans (especially in April, as it’s less than two months away) until the travel restrictions have been lifted.

      Keep an eye out for updates in this article, and in particular, to information regarding travel guidelines for those on a short-term “travel” visa. Let us know if we’ve answered your question.
      Thank you!

  • Avatar Maddy says:

    It said tourist visa second. I live in the United States which Is visa exempt for japan. I have my passport and necessary documents. Would I be counted as the second group or would I need to apply for a tourist visa? I plan to stay to for about 85 days in japan

    • Mika Senda Mika Senda says:

      Hi Maddy, thanks for your question. Under normal circumstances, you’d be automatically issued a tourist visa upon arrival to Japan since you are from a country that is visa-exempt (meaning you don’t need to apply for a visa at your embassy before you arrive in Japan). The current situation hasn’t changed that, so yes, you’d be a part of the second group. However, please note that Japan hasn’t lifted their travel restrictions on short-term visitors yet, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is continually updating their travel restrictions.

      Let us know if we’ve answered your question. Thanks!

  • Avatar Suganya says:

    Hi,
    Iam from India and have COE issued on Jan.
    Please let me know whether there is possibilities to get dependent visa by April.

    Thank you

    • Mika Senda Mika Senda says:

      Hi Suganya,
      Our best advice is to reach out to your embassy and ask them directly. Since Japan’s travel restrictions vary from country to country, and guidelines are continually changing, it’s best to get the most up-to-date information pertaining to your own country directly from them, or online at your country’s embassy website.

  • Avatar Hussain Ali says:

    I’m from Kuwait and my wife is Japanese tried to come to Osaka with my wife and son but the embassy refused to give me and son Visa to enter even under the “special circumstances”

    • Mika Senda Mika Senda says:

      Hi Hussain,

      We’re sorry to hear about your difficulties!

      You’re right in that a spouse or child of a Japanese national is considered one of the four conditions covered under the Special Exceptional Circumstances outlined by the Ministry of Justice (http://www.moj.go.jp/isa/content/001338898.pdf) that are permitted a landing permit. However, it appears that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is requesting that a spouse or child of a Japanese national are required to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility or full copy of the family register/certificate of residence/residence card in order to qualify for this exception. (https://www.mofa.go.jp/ca/fna/page22e_000921.html). They’re also reserving the right to deny landing dependent on each case’s unique situation, so unless they explain the reasoning for your denial in Osaka, this can be an especially frustrating time for individuals like yourself and your son. Those “unique” situations are listed on the Ministry of Justice pdf we linked above.

      We hope you and your son are safe despite your unfortunate situation and hope it’s resolved sooner than later. If you’re able, please keep us afloat on your case!

  • Avatar Stuart J. says:

    What about individuals who have been fully vaccinated? Any exceptions for them coming to Japan?

    • Mika Senda Mika Senda says:

      Hi Stuart,

      At the moment, exceptions only apply for those with proof of residency, is a permanent resident or a Japanese national, and is a spouse or children of a Japanese national/ permanent resident (with some stipulations for all mentioned). Persons who are fully vaccinated are not exempt and still need to qualify for one of the above. Usually, anyone (including those who have been vaccinated) would have to apply for a visa, and currently, many of those (eg. working holiday, long-term that require a COE, etc.) visa applications are suspended until further notice.

      Let us know if we’ve answered your question!

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