Nagoya castle and city skyline in Japan at sunset

As the world’s most beloved tourism destination, everyone is waiting for Japan to reopen. For residents of 7 lucky countries, that’s now a reality once again, but not without a few hurdles along the way. Travel won’t be the same for quite a while, but if initial travel bubbles succeed, Japan could open to more visitors, sooner than many might think.

Japan Opens Travel Bubbles

After the creation of successful business travel bubbles with Vietnam and Thailand, Japan is welcoming 5 new countries to its list of approved destinations for travel abroad, and for select inbound visitors from each region.

Long term residents of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia and Taiwan can travel to Japan once again if they’re already a resident, or can apply for a new visa, and select Japanese travelers are reciprocally welcome in each country. it’s far from an open invitation to party though.

Currently, the Japanese travel bubbles within Asia target business travel and long term visitors, more notably residents, though there’s little in place to exclude anyone staying 14 days or more purely for tourism.

a wooden structure with a blue sky

Before a traveler can make use of the new travel bubbles, a slew of covid-19 tests are required, typically both before travel and upon arrival, and varying levels of quarantine are needed depending on country. In addition, new visas or paperwork must be filled out and approved in advance.

For business travelers, exceptions are made where a person is allowed to go between official business and their place of quarantine, so long as no mass transit is used and the company provides schedules of all activities.

A full breakdown of rules can be found at the Office of Japanese Foreign Affairs.

For travel into Japan, a letter of reentry, or a fresh visa is required before travel. The entry letter allows a traveler to proclaim compliance with Japan’s mandatory 14 days of quarantine, and a pledge to avoid mass transit in the interim. Private health insurance and a copy of all scheduled business is also necessary.

Discussions are under way to open up the program to travelers with outside passports and varying levels of residence in each country. In other words, an expat temporarily residing in Thailand could eventually become a part of the travel bubble eligibility pool, if discussions continue to move forward.

a row of gold statues in a temple

More Countries On The Way

After months of negotiations, Singapore and Japan will begin their first travel bubble on September 18th, 2020, as part of a “business fast track”. The Japanese Ministry Of Foreign Affairs also notes ongoing discussions with Australia, Korea, China, Brunei, Macao, Mongolia and New Zealand as potential next additions.

Sadly, for visitors from the west, the travel bubble website makes no mention of European, or North American bubble partners. Informally, officials note a constant desire to reconnect Tokyo, Osaka and beyond with vital hubs such as New York, Los Angeles and London, but no western gateways are currently a publicly known part of Japanese consultations underway to open travel bubbles.

For now, the red tape is enormous. Double testing in addition to days, or weeks of quarantine isn’t appealing to many travelers, but for those who must travel, or don’t mind a bit of hassle – options are better than no options.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Bummer. Looks like I’ll have to move my December trip back. Unlikely the US will be cleared for tourism by then.

    1. I’m here In Canada wanting to return to Japan after my last trip in Oct/Nov 2019

      But I doubt any country will let canada/USA travel anywhere till we have our own border open and that’s still being pushed back to Dec I bet if not longer

  2. Blacklist US until 2024 unless u want COVID to go wild again! Seeing how they messes up Asian countries in COVID19 curbing… They shld not enter Asia as long as that trumpet is in unchecked power!!!

  3. Covid has entirely ruined my plans for going to school and be fully living in Japan this year. I was supposed to go in April but haven’t been able to get my Visa. I really wish they would give dates for the US so I can actually plan for going.

  4. Been living in Japan for 3.5 years and just got married here in March of this year. I usually visit the states for 2 weeks every year for Christmas to see family. It’s really unfortunate that me and my new wife can’t see my family for the foreseeable future because of these COVID travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines.

  5. Hi, I’m from Malaysia and I’m stuck in Australia due to covid 19 lockdown. I can go back home to Malaysia (permission from Malaysia government and the flights) to retrip holiday to Japan because I cancelled the wholetrip last march 2020.

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