Japan has been closed to international tourism since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, but that will soon change. On June 10, travelers from 98 countries—including the United States—will be allowed to visit Japan with an organized tour.
In a Tuesday announcement, Japan’s tourism agency specified its rules for foreign travelers. The government stated that visitors must wear a mask unless specific circumstances allow an exception, take out private medical insurance that includes medical expenses related to new coronavirus infections, sanitize their hands thoroughly, and be under supervision of a tour guide—or risk being sent home.
“At the start of the tour, the tour operator should explain to the tour participants about compliance with infection control measures, including the idea of wearing a mask,” the guidelines state.
The government also highlighted new etiquette that travelers should follow when visiting. These guidelines include practices like portioning servings in advance when sharing food in restaurants and refraining from talking when using public baths.
Restrictions by country of origin
Japan’s reopening plan divides countries and regions into red, yellow, or blue categories depending on COVID-19 risk. Countries in the blue category (such as the United States) will be able to bypass quarantine as long as they pass a predeparture COVID test, regardless of vaccination status. Those in the yellow category (which includes such countries as India, Lebanon, and Portugal) will also be able to skip a quarantine period with proof of vaccination. However, visitors from the red group—which consists of Pakistan, Fiji, Albania, and Sierra Leone—must take an on-arrival test and quarantine for a period of time.
Easing restrictions follows other, similar global announcements
With the easing of entry restrictions, Japan also increased its daily entry limits from 10,000 foreign arrivals to 20,000 per day in June—still a fraction of the 31.88 million foreign tourists (or an average of 87,000 tourists per day) who entered Japan in 2019.
At an event in London in May, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced plans to ease travel restrictions.
“We have now eased border control measures significantly, with the next easing taking place in June, when Japan will introduce a smoother entry process similar to that of other G7 members,” Kishida said.
The G7 refers to a group of seven of the world’s advanced economies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Aside from Japan, all the other G7 members have reopened to international leisure travel with varying degrees of restrictions in place (ranging from requiring a COVID vaccination and COVID testing to enter, such as in the U.S., to having dropped all COVID entry rules, such as in the U.K.).
The developments in Japan come as some countries in Asia are loosening their COVID travel restrictions, such as Singapore, which dropped its COVID testing requirement for vaccinated travelers on April 26. But others in the region, such as China, have faced more stringent protocols amid a rise in COVID cases—authorities in China reimposed lockdowns earlier this year to control recent outbreaks.
More than 80 percent of Japan’s population is fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University, and a little more than half of the country has received a booster shot. Japan this week also eased its recommendations for mask wearing. While masks are still advised on public transportation, in hospitals, and in other public facilities, people can take off masks outdoors when others are not around.
Associated Press and Chloe Arrojado contributed reporting. This story was originally published on May 6, 2022, and has been updated to include current information.