Visiting Japan is at the top of many to-do lis
ts, but international travel has become more complicated over the past few years. In addition to travel visas, you need to know about vaccine requirements and any other updated policies, mandates, or travel limitations. Here’s a quick look at what you need to visit Japan in 2023.
Get the most up-to-date travel info on Japan.
While we provide current information at the time of writing, if the past few years have taught us anything, it’s how quickly the rules can change. Therefore, it’s always best to go straight to the source for firsthand information. The 2 best sources are the Japanese government’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and Visit Japan Web.
Visit Japan Web
Visit Japan Web is an “online service for quarantine, immigration and customs procedures” to fast track your entry process and avoid filling out a questionnaire upon arrival in Japan.
Just go to the VJW website on your mobile phone and complete the online forms. You’ll be asked to fill out some personal information and upload photos of your passport and Coronavirus vaccination papers. It’s usually pretty quick, but to be on the safe side, give it at least a day to confirm your documents.
Once your pre-registration is confirmed, it’s recommended that you take screenshots of all your information in the app, including your QR code, in case you don’t have phone reception at the airport.
Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare
Requirements for tourists visiting Japan
Gone are the days of everyone needing a visa! People from 68 countries (as of October 2022) do not require a visa to visit Japan. However, the period of stay allowed varies from country to country, so be sure to double-check the government’s website.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has a complete and up-to-date list of countries that don’t require a visa to visit Japan, along with their permitted periods of stay.
Proof of vaccination certificate
If you don’t want to take a COVID test within 72 hours of your departure, proof of vaccination is currently required to travel to Japan. The document must meet 3 criteria:
Issued by a government or public institution
In English or Japanese
Indicate you have received 3 doses
For complete and current details, including which vaccines are accepted for entry into Japan, visit the MHLW’s valid vaccination certificate page.
If you don’t have valid proof of vaccination, you are required to present a COVID-19 negative test result certificate. The MHLW has up-to-date and detailed information on getting a COVID test to visit Japan.
Disembarkation Card & Customs Declaration
These 2 brief forms are basically boxes for you to tick off stating the purpose of your visit, where you’ll be staying, and that you’re not bringing contraband into the country. These forms can be filled out in advance in the Visit Japan Web app and should also be available on your flight during descent and upon arrival at the airport.
Japan and the coronavirus pandemic
Even though Japan didn’t impose strict lockdowns or other mandates during the pandemic, it fared well compared to many other countries. More than a few people say that’s due to cleanliness, compliance, and overall health.
If you want to gauge the importance of cleanliness in Japan, just visit any Starbucks restroom. But since the pandemic, sanitiser spray pumps are now the norm in businesses and public buildings.
Public and personal health is taken very seriously in Japan. There’s even a law requiring all employees to get an annual health check – for free. And when people have a cold, they’re expected to keep their germs to themselves behind a flu mask. So, when the pandemic hit and the government asked everyone to “mask up”, there wasn’t an outcry of opposition. But more on masks is below.
Many places have temperature scanners at the entrance, but they don’t worry – they don’t require anything of you except walking by.
Is wearing a mask required in Japan?
Unlike in the United States (and most other countries), Japan never imposed a legal mandate to wear a mask in Japan. Wearing a mask has always been a recommendation by the government. But in Japan, where etiquette is as good as law, a recommendation is often all that’s needed.
But that leads us to our next point – are masks still recommended in Japan? And will you stand out like a sore thumb if you’re not wearing a mask?
Do you need to wear a mask outside in Japan?
The Japanese government relaxed its recommendation on wearing masks outdoors in May 2022. But even with the relaxed guidelines, most people still wear masks outside more than half a year later.
However, wearing a mask outside is not required and is not even recommended. As you can see by the official MHLW signage below, the message is quite clear.
Do you need to wear a mask inside in Japan?
The Japanese government is also looking to lift its indoor mask recommendation by reclassifying COVID-19 as a less severe disease. But until then, masks are still recommended when indoors in public places.
While signs may say required, they are still stating a recommendation. But it’s good manners to follow the recommendation – especially when everyone else is. After all, when in Rome…
When is the best time to visit Japan?
Whether you looking to stroll through Cherry Blossom season or enjoy the breathtaking colours of autumn leaves (Koyo), keep in mind that you are not alone. Countless trips were put on hold over the past few years, and with borders re-opening and regulations loosening, busy seasons look busier than ever.
When planning your trip to Japan, consider whether you can travel outside the most popular times. This helps you avoid the crowds and get those reservations that may be hard to come by. Whichever route you choose, the doors to Japan are finally open again.