Traveling to Japan? No Need for a Visa and (Soon) No COVID Travel Restrictions Either

After scrapping the need for U.S. visitors to obtain a tourist visa this past fall, Japan now plans to do away with its remaining pandemic-era travel regulations.

A narrow street with food stalls, paper lanterns, and cherry blossoms in Japan

Just in time for the final days of cherry blossom season, Japan will scrap its remaining COVID-19 border protocols.

Photo by Shutterstock

Travel to Japan will soon be less of a hassle, with the country planning to do away with the remainder of its COVID-19 border measures. As of May 8, 2023, visitors to Japan will no longer be required to provide proof of vaccination or have a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival, according to Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The changes come as Japan plans to downgrade COVID-19’s classification. Currently, COVID-19 is considered a Class 2 virus in Japan (a category that includes illnesses like tuberculosis and diphtheria), but come May 8, 2023, the virus will be recategorized to Class 5 (a less serious grouping that also includes the common cold and seasonal flu).

A phased reopening

Japan implemented some of the strictest tourist restrictions following the onset of the pandemic in 2020 and was slow to reopen to foreign travelers. The country only started allowing foreign tourists to return in June 2022. Even then, there was a cap on the number of visitors allowed in, and those who did come had to sign up for government-authorized tours, which were unpopular and criticized for being too rigid. At that time, travelers were also required to obtain a visa, which U.S. leisure travelers had been exempt from prepandemic.

Japan travel visas no longer required

It wasn’t until October 2022 that independent travelers could visit without supervision and without a visa. However, they still needed to come armed with either a COVID-19 vaccine certificate (including at least one booster shot) or a negative predeparture COVID-19 test, taken within 72 hours of arrival—measures that will continue to be in place until May 8, 2023.

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at Afar. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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