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.