Spent the last few years dreaming about Japan? You’re not the only one. And while you might have a handle on your itinerary and food bucketlist, you can’t neglect the far more boring parts of arriving in Japan.
Do you need a visa? What about vaccinations? Can I bring vegemite? These are all important things to know before hopping on the plane. You really don’t want to be turned back at the border afterall. So here’s everything you need to know to make arriving in Japan as smooth as possible.
NOTE: While we do our best to ensure information provided here is accurate, things can change. We always advise checking official sources like the Visiting Japan website and your nearest Embassy of Japan for the most up-to-date information.
On October 11 2022, Japan reopened to international tourism. People arriving in Japan generally do not need to quarantine. However, they must provide either a Vaccination Certificate showing three doses of a W.H.O approved vaccine or proof of a negative COVID-19 Test . The specifics for each can be found below.
You can use paper copies, or digital copies uploaded to Visit Japan Web. Keep in mind that it’s now common for airlines to check these documents when you check-in for your flight.
Concerned about what to do if you catch COVID-19 while traveling in Japan? Check out this article .
Vaccination Certificate (or proof of vaccination)
If you have a Vaccination Certificate or record of vaccination you may be able to use it to enter Japan. It does not have to be issued by the Japanese government, but it must meet the following requirements:
- Be issued by a government or medical institution (or equivalent).
- Be in Japanese or English. It may also be considered valid if it is accompanied by a Japanese or English translation.
- Clearly show your name and date of birth (or other information that can be used to verify your identity, such as your passport number).
- Clearly show administration of three doses of a vaccine on the Emergency Use Listing of the World Health Organization . It’s not necessary for the three doses to be of the same vaccine as long as all three are on the list. The vaccine name/manufacturer and date each dose was administered should also be on the certificate.
Negative COVID-19 Test
For those who do not have valid proof of vaccination, you must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test. While at first this might seem like the easier option, there are a number of requirements:
- Your name, date of birth, test result, and the name of the medical institution must be shown on the document.
- The test must be taken within 72 hours of flight departure . The date the sample was taken and the date the result was issued must be shown on the document. If possible the time the sample was taken should also be on the form.
- The type of sample collected and the testing method must be valid according to what is recommended in Japan. These must be clearly shown on the document.
Be extra careful with the type of sample collected and the testing method, as they may differ from the standard in your country. For example, results from a Rapid Antigen Test or Antibody Test are not considered valid. Luckily, you can find a very handy breakdown of both valid and invalid sample types and testing methods here . We recommend speaking with your medical provider or a travel medicine specialist to find the testing method that is best for you.
Unlike proof of vaccination, your COVID-19 test document can be in languages other than Japanese or English, if you use the templates provided here (under the Format heading). You can use a different form, but it’s recommended that you highlight the relevant information to make the procedure faster at the airport. Also, if you use a different type of form it must be in Japanese or English.
Country specific requirements
Some notes for travelers from the following countries/regions:
- China (Except Hong Kong and Macau) : From December 30 2022, travelers on direct flights from China and who have stayed in China in the 7 days prior to entry into Japan are required to take an on-arrival test at the quarantine station. Also, as of January 8 2023, all travelers arriving on a direct flight from China will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure, whether or not they have a vaccination certificate.
- Macau : From January 12 2023, travelers arriving via direct flight from Macau will need to take an on-arrival test and provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure. This is regardless of whether they have a vaccination certificate or not.
Visas and immigration procedures
When Japan reopened the borders on October 11 2022, immigration procedures mostly returned to pre-COVID norms. Of course, visa and immigration procedures depend on your nationality and what you intend to do in Japan. Keep in mind that all foreigners need a valid passport and will have their fingerprints taken upon arriving in Japan.
Tourism, travel, and short term visits
Those who plan to visit Japan for 90 days or less are considered short term or temporary visitors. The purpose of your visit may be travel, visiting family, or even business travel — so long as you do not recieve remuneration.
Japan has short stay visa exemption agreements with 68 countries. These include Australia, the U.K., the U.S.A, Singapore, and Korea ( full list here ). Essentially, citizens of these countries do not have to apply for a visa before arriving in Japan.
If you are a citizen of a country that’s not on the list, you will need to apply for a visa. In this case, your best course of action is to check the website of your nearest Embassy of Japan to confirm the procedure.
Long term stays
If you stay in Japan for more than 3 months, it’s considered a long term stay. This will usually involve visa applications before arriving in Japan, a process which could take several months. There are several different types of long term visa including Working visas, Working Holiday visas , student visas, and dependent (family) visas. These visas vary in length from 3 months to 5 years, depending on your situation. In most cases, they can be renewed .
Once you have your visa, it’s relatively smooth sailing. If you enter Japan via Narita, Haneda, Kansai International, New Chitose, Chubu Centrair, Hiroshima, or Fukuoka Airports you will get a Landing Permission stamp in your passport and recieve your Residence Card at the airport. However, if you arrive in a different airport you will only get a Landing Permission stamp. You then need to take that to your local City Office to get your Residence Card. Keep in mind that a Residence Card is issued to all foreigners living in Japan for more than 3 months, and it’s a legal requirement that you carry it with you at all times.
Everyone entering Japan must submit a Declaration of Accompanied Articles and Unaccompanied Articles. This form is available as both a paper document, or digitally on Visit Japan Web (more on that in a moment). There was a Customs Declaration App, but that was discontinued in December 2022. Similarly, the Customs Declaration Website will close in March 2023.
The form asks for the usual information like your name, flight details, and what items you are bringing into the country. It also asks for your address in Japan, so have your hotel address handy. If you’re planning to travel around a lot, put the first place you will stay or the place you’ll stay the longest.
When you enter the customs area, there are two channels; green and red. The green is for those who have no prohibited or restricted items to declare. Red is for those who do. If you go to the red channel, a customs officer may ask you more questions about the items, and ask you to show them and the relevant documentation.
Prohibited goods and items
For the most part, there are fairly logical customs restrictions regarding what you can and can’t bring into Japan. Items you can’t bring into the country include:
- Drugs including heroin, cocaine, cannabis (including marijuana of any form*), opium, and stimulants.
- Explosives, firearms, ammunition, or pistol parts.
- Counterfeit or altered currency including forged credit cards.
- Materials including books and drawings that may harm public morals or safety (for example pornography).
- Child pornography.
- Materials that infringe on copyright (for example pirated movies).
*CBD products like oils and gummies are legal in Japan, so long as they do not contain THC. However, that doesn’t mean you should bring your own in.
Restricted goods and items
Some goods and items can be brought into Japan if they meet certain requirements. For example plants and animals, as well as plant and animal products, may be subject to bio-security measures like quarantine. Weaponry like hunting knives, air guns, and swords can also be brought in if you have a permit.
Medicine for personal use is also subject to restrictions. Generally, you can only bring a limited supply. If you need to bring more, you need to get a ‘ Yunyu Kakunin-sho ‘. This is basically a form you ask your doctor to fill out about the type and purpose of the medicine. Keep in mind that there are some medications which are commonly prescribed overseas that are not legal in Japan. While short term visitors can bring these medicines with them, you can’t bring a long term supply using the Yunyu Kakunin-sho. Your best option is consult your doctor or a travel specialist ahead of time to find the right solution for you.
There are also restrictions on cosmetics, and a limit on the amount/value of duty-free items. If you are carrying more than ¥ 1,000,000 (equivalent to 1 million yen) in cash, checks, traveler’s checks, promissory notes, or securities you must declare it. This is regardless of currency.
Visit Japan Web
One of the few bonuses of COVID-19 is the improvement in digital services by the Japanese Government. Visit Japan Web is one of those services. It’s a web based app — meaning that you can open it in your phone’s web browser, no need to download anything. You can use it to upload vaccination certificates/test results, immigration, and customs information. Then, at the airport you just have to show a QR code, making arrival in Japan a much smoother process.
Keep in mind that this service is currently only available at Narita, Haneda, Kansai International, New Chitose, Chubu Centrair, Fukuoka, and Naha Airports.
Where can I get more information?
There are lots of websites out there offering information about visas, customs, and travel to Japan — including us! However, we’ll be the first to tell you not to rely only on secondhand information. Always check official sources for the most accurate and up-to-date information. Here are some good places to start:
- Visiting Japan website : A Japanese government website for tourists. It includes COVID-19 related information as well as safety tips, disaster prevention, and weather information.
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs website (Consular services section): For information related to visas and foreign affairs.
- Japan Customs website : For information related to customs and what items/goods you can bring into Japan.
- Your country’s Embassy/Consulate General of Japan’s website: For information specific to your country, especially for visas.
Frequently asked questions
Is Japan open for tourism? Yes. As of October 11 2022 Japan fully reopened to international travelers.
Do you need a COVID-19 test to enter Japan? Only if you are not able to provide a valid Vaccination Certificate.
Does Japan accept Rapid Antigen Tests? No. Rapid Antigen Tests are not considered valid tests for the purpose of entering Japan.
Do I need a visa to enter Japan? This depends on your nationality and the purpose/length of your visit.
Do I need to quarantine to enter Japan? Generally not. However, if you are required to do an on-arrival test — either because you are arriving from a country that Japan has flagged for on-arrival testing, or you have symptoms upon arrival — and that test is positive you will be required to quarantine.
This article was first published on August 21 2020 and is regularly updated. Last updated February 2023 by Maria Danuco.