In June, Japan finally reopened its borders to tourists, yet many temporary restrictions remain in place, and the country’s current border policies can be quite confusing.

You may have seen headlines declaring that Japan has reopened, though the reality is more complex. It’s true that tourists from certain countries are now permitted to visit Japan, but they must be fully guided and meet other strict entry requirements.

The good news is that this is a significant step in the right direction, and the Japanese government has indicated that it plans to continue easing travel restrictions steadily. Read more about Japan’s reopening plans below.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, our team of Japan travel experts has been closely monitoring developments and in constant contact with our network throughout the country. We update this page at least monthly (more often when there are major updates), and it was last updated on August 3, 2022.

If you have any other questions about planning your trip to Japan, please contact us.

Bamboo onsen hot springs Yufuin Kyushu Japan

Japan’s Reopening Plans

In June, Japan finally began the process of reopening its borders to tourists. While this partial reopening falls short of the end goal, it is considered to be a temporary, intermediate phase.

Japan’s Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, has indicated that his government plans to return to “normal” border policies, in line with other G7 nations. It was widely believed that this would happen after the recent elections (which Kishida’s party won in dominant fashion), but this coincided with the emergence of Japan’s current “seventh wave” of the pandemic.

Based on the government’s response to this new surge, we are optimistic. During previous waves, it was normal for new restrictions to be announced, but this time the government has declared that it does not currently plan to impose any new restrictions (read more about Covid in Japan below).

So there is hope that restrictions may be eased once cases start decreasing. We don’t yet know precisely when or how quickly this will take place, but many believe it could happen rather suddenly.

Planning Your Trip to Japan

If you’re planning a Japan trip, should you plan around the current policies? There is no single answer, but if you are hoping to visit Japan in the very near future, then consider planning around the current entry requirements.

On the other hand, if you’re planning further in advance, most travelers we know are doing so under the assumption that more relaxed border policies will be in place by the time of travel (the current requirements are intended to be temporary, and the policies could change at any time).

Thinking of other adventures while Japan reopens? Meet our sister company, Boutique Explorer.

When to Visit Japan

Many travelers tell us they want to visit Japan after it’s opened up a bit more. But because demand has skyrocketed, it’s worth starting the planning process a little early.

(If you’re thinking of planning with Boutique Japan, make sure to see our current availability and flexible rescheduling policy.)

For travelers with flexible dates, if you don’t mind missing the cherry blossoms or fall foliage, think about visiting during a less crowded time of year. Thanks to a huge backlog of postponed trips and pent-up demand, we’re seeing very limited availability for Japan’s best hotels and ryokans, and the most talented guides and local experts.

For more on the seasons, see When Is The Best Time of Year To Visit Japan?

Standing Japanese soba udon noodle shop

Japan’s Current Entry Requirements for Tourists

As noted above, Japan’s current entry requirements are designed to be temporary. As such, if your trip is scheduled for the future, some or all of these policies may no longer apply at the time of your trip. We update this page whenever there are significant updates.

For authoritative details, please consult your Japanese Embassy or Consulate.

Blue Countries

At present, tourism to Japan is limited to travelers from countries designated as “blue.” This includes the United States, Australia, and many other countries.

Fully Guided Tours

At present, tourists must be fully guided. You don’t need to travel as part of a group. You can be a solo traveler, a couple, a family, a group of friends, etc. But you do need to have a fixed itinerary and full-time guide/escort.

Tourist Visas

At present, all tourists must obtain a visa (even if you’re from a country that is usually exempt). Before you can apply for a visa, your travel provider will first ensure you are registered with Japan’s ERFS immigration system.

Additional Requirements

Along with the major requirements above, there are others, as well, including the requirement to obtain travel insurance that covers unforeseen medical expenses related to Covid-19, and a pre-trip Covid test within 72 hours of departure.

Not Required

If you fulfill the above requirements, there is no vaccine requirement, no quarantine, and no on-arrival testing.

For more on Covid and Japan travel, we also recommend the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, JNTO, Japan-Guide, and The Japan Times.

teamLab Borderless digital art museum in Odaiba, Tokyo, Japan

Covid in Japan

Like elsewhere in the world, daily life in Japan has been impacted by Covid.

Overall, Japan — which is much larger than most people realize, with a population of 126 million — has fared remarkably well, especially when it comes to important metrics such as mortality.

It has also done so without relying on lockdowns or other mandates. At times, the country has been under a so-called “state of emergency,” though the impact of these has been less disruptive than the strict lockdowns endured elsewhere.

As of August 2022, Japan is currently experiencing its “seventh wave” and cases are higher than ever. However, as noted above, the government has indicated that there are no plans to impose any new restrictions at this stage. High-level officials are also pushing to reclassify Covid-19 on par with the seasonal flu.

At the same time, this summer major events such as Gion Matsuri (one of Japan’s top festivals) and Fuji Rock are taking place, another sign that things may be returning to normal.

Pandemic Precautions in Japan

Health and safety are taken very seriously in Japan, and travelers are often amazed by Japan’s cleanliness (along with Japanese food, it’s one of the best things about Japan). Japan’s deep-rooted culture of respect, an integral part of Japanese etiquette, certainly helps.

Like elsewhere, travel providers in Japan — from hotels and ryokans, to bullet trains and airlines — have invested in revamping sanitation procedures to enhance the safety of both travelers and staff. Wherever you go, it’s safe to expect virtually universal mask-wearing, ubiquitous availability of hand sanitizer, and respectful social distancing.

Mask Wearing in Japan

Masks are not legally mandated in Japan, but Japanese people have been accustomed to wearing them for years. People typically wear masks during allergy seasons, and as a precautionary measure to avoid spreading colds or flus.

During the pandemic, mask wearing has become virtually universal, though it’s possible that this will diminish as Japan continues towards living with Covid. Regardless, it’s safe to expect masks to be more prevalent than in places like the United States or Europe, and in some circumstances they may be required.

Japanese mixologist

Our Flexible Rescheduling Policy

What if you plan now, but travel cannot commence due to government border restrictions relating to Covid-19? Obviously we hope this doesn’t happen, but to make things as painless as possible we offer a flexible rescheduling policy.

Flexible Rescheduling. Reschedule with ease. Simply take your postponed trip within 2 years of your original trip dates.

No Rescheduling Fee. There is no fee to reschedule. Your entire deposit is fully transferable to your new dates.

What’s the catch? We do require at minimum 30 days’ notice prior to your trip’s start date to guarantee the above. This enables us to give your guides, accommodations, and other service providers advance notice (our relationships with hotels, ryokans, guides, and local experts are sacred to us, and a key facet of the trips we offer). In rare cases there may be a unique service with a less flexible policy, in which case we’ll let you know before you book.

We would be remiss not to mention that we can’t guarantee rates won’t change between your original and rescheduled trips, as pricing for services (particularly accommodations) can vary depending on the season and even day of the week, not to mention from year to year due to external factors like inflation and exchange rates. On the flip side, we work tirelessly on behalf of our clients, and if needed are always happy to brainstorm creative ways to try and help you work around your budget.

Finally, it’s worth noting that if you need to change your travel plans with us for any reason other than government border restrictions relating to Covid-19 preventing travel from commencing, our regular Booking Terms and Conditions would apply depending on when you decide (whether you’re postponing or canceling altogether). If you have any questions about any of our policies, don’t hesitate to call or email us.

Travel Insurance and Covid-19

The topic of travel insurance was already complex even before Covid-19, and now has become even more convoluted.

Fortunately, the majority of reputable insurance companies do now offer at least some pandemic coverage. Not every single potential issue is necessarily covered, but some key ones — for example, if you get Covid-19 and cannot travel — are covered by many.

Pandemic or not, we’ve always recommended comprehensive travel insurance, which can help protect you both financially and medically. For example, if you have to change or cancel your plans last-minute for a covered reason, or if you need to access medical care during your trip. It can also prove worth the investment in case of more minor issues, which can nevertheless wreak havoc on travel plans, such as unexpected flight changes, lost luggage, etc.

However, even the best policies don’t cover everything. For example, even among policies that offer a degree of pandemic coverage, most do not protect against border closures or other travel restrictions. This is why many travelers opt for “Cancel for Any Reason” (sometimes abbreviated as CFAR) coverage. Travelers with CFAR are more likely to be eligible to receive at least some insurance reimbursement for a broader range of reasons.

As far as providers go, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection is one good option for luxury travelers. Many of our travelers also work with Travelex, Travel Guard, Allianz, and RoamRight (to compare various policies side by side, refer to the insurance marketplaces SquareMouth and InsureMyTrip). For a different level of protection, more and more travelers are also looking to solutions like Medjet and Covac Global.

To make sure you get a policy that meets your specific needs, we strongly recommend you speak directly with a travel insurance provider. Let’s not mince words: insurance is not a fun topic, but in the Covid era it’s a travel essential.

mountain railway Kyoto Japan

Planning to Visit Japan in 2022 or 2023?

Whether you’re ready to go, or remain on the fence pending further clarity, we’re here to help you plan your Japan trip or answer any questions you may have.

Visit our contact page for the best ways to get in touch, or connect with us via Instagram.

Free Japan Trip-Planning Resources

About Andres Zuleta

Andres founded Boutique Japan to share his passion and enthusiasm for Japan, and over the years he has had the opportunity to help hundreds of wonderful travelers from around the world experience Japan in a truly personal and immersive way.