Japan has employed some of the most stringent travel restrictions in the world during the pandemic, and for a long time it wasn’t possible for Brits to visit unless they met a very small number of exceptions. However, the door was cracked open slightly this summer, and Brits travelling as part of an organised tour group were allowed entry.
Things are about to get easier still. Prime minister Fumio Kishida confirmed at the end of August that fully vaccinated arrivals – which counts as having received doses of the vaccine – will no longer need to provide a negative pre-arrival PCR test from September 7; and tourists will no longer need to be part of a strict guided tour from the same date.
Here’s what you need to know.
Currently, tourists from 98 countries (including the UK) on guided package tours are welcomed into the country. There are a number of caveats, however: the tours must be fully escorted with set itineraries, and run by licensed Japanese tour operators. Tour operators will be responsible for informing visitors on guidelines around mask-wearing and hygiene etiquette.
From September 7, the rules relax. Japan will allow non-escorted visitors on package tours, so a strict guided tour will not be required; although it’s not immediately clear what will constitute a package tour.
From the same date, Japan will raise the number of daily arrivals to 50,000; and pre-arrival PCR tests will be dropped if passengers have received three shots of an approved vaccine.
Until September 7, the rules are: all travellers must take an approved Covid test within 72 hours of departure and obtain proof of a negative result, alongside proof of Covid insurance. Before you disembark you’ll also need to sign a written pledge and agree that you’ll abide by quarantine and self-isolation rules. You’ll need to complete a health form for a QR code. This testing requirement will be dropped for arrivals who have been triple jabbed from September 7. Quarantine isn’t required.
Japan is only permitting entry to those who can prove that they’ve been fully vaccinated (including a booster) at least 14 days before they land in Japan with AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson.
It’s a different story if you’re not fully vaccinated: a seven-day stay at a quarantine hotel is required with the option for release on day three if you have a negative test result.
Japan suspended its visa waiver system during the pandemic, and British travellers now require a proper visa to enter. They must apply to the Japanese Consulate-General for a visa in advance of their trip.