a person walking on a wet street
Image by Masashi Wakui from Pixabay

If the Prime Minister says it, it’s gotta be at least somewhat likely, right? During a May visit to the UK, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida dramatically changed the tone on Japan’s plans to reopen travel. That change? Seriously considering reopening!

After more than two years without much hope, and falling desperately behind other Asian hotspots including, Singapore, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and more, the leader teased of a nearly imminent travel reopening, offering “smooth entry process similar to that of other G7 members.”

In the days since, the hype has only accelerated.

There are plenty of rumors for what may be required of potential visitors, and even some exact dates proposed. If you’re dying to know, like we’re dying to know, here’s all the latest on what’s expected for travel to Japan, as the country looks to reopen.

a crowd of people walking in a city

When Is Japan Planning To Reopen?

From circa 32,000,000 travelers in 2019 to circa 250,000 in 2021, it’s fair to say that Japan has a lot of tourism ground to recover. The good news for the country, is that there is a virtually never ending supply of people dying to return.

The first thing to know is that Japan is looking to ease prohibitive border controls in the months of June and July, 2022. A specific date has not yet been set. It may be June 1st, it may be July, and it may not all be at once. In fact, it won’t be.

Japan has announced that the first tourism visitors from the USA, Australia, Thailand, and Singapore will need to be booked on prepackaged tours, with no deviations from the plans. It’s absolutely not “open” tourism.

We’ll update this ASAP once government officials confirm dates and further info. Sources indicate a full scale press conference should take place in the next few days, confirming protocols.

Japan’s border measures are estimated to have cost ¥22 trillion in lost income, which is about $170 billion dollars, according to recent studies. That’s a decent reason to open.

Limits Remain In Place, For Now

On top of prohibitive border measures, Japan also has caps on how many people can enter the country each day. Reports suggest Japanese officials will boost that number up to 20,000 per day in June.

That’s still a far cry from the 90,000+ which would typically arrive in a day.

Until visitor caps are fully removed, it’s expected that some limits may still remain — like requiring package tours. Despite media hype, there may not be an immediate opportunity for casual visitors.

If Japan announces a removal of visitor caps, you can start to get excited. A full scale reopening would be clear at that point. Currently, best estimates are that visitor caps could be removed in July. Sooner would be lovely, of course.

two women standing in front of bamboo trees

What About Testing Requirements For Japan?

Apparently, part of the hold up with Japan reopening travel is the conservative risk approach. Japan currently tests travelers upon arrival, and when you’re testing 10,000 people or more at a time, you need to ensure you have enough tests.

There are strong indications that Japan will drop Covid-19 testing on arrival either for fully vaccinated visitors, or for people who have taken a negative test before departure to the country when new protocols take effect.

Which one, or whether all testing could be dropped is yet to be confirmed. If you’ve heard otherwise, you heard wrong. At least, for now. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will (hopefully) update official new entry protocols, once they become official.

And Proof Of Vaccination?

It’s unclear whether visitors would be required to submit proof of vaccination at this point. It’s likely, but carve-outs may be put in place for unvaccinated visitors as well.

All early indications suggest that fully vaccinated, and or boosted, visitors would be able to skip out on at least some of the current testing requirements to enter Japan.

Politics Playing Into Japan’s Border Plans?

Maybe. Japan will hold its Upper House elections in July. A sharp rise in cases, or death among elderly groups would negatively impact approval of the Kishida administration, so the delay to July, or later(!) may be “well timed.”

Polls also suggest reopening isn’t as wildly popular among Japanese locals as many might hope. Nearly 40% of the country approves of the strict border measures and a desire to curb visitor numbers remains strong among many.

Japan Should Be Open Soon

Whether it’s a soft opening in June and a major opening in July, or something slightly more accelerated, or a tad slower… it’s exciting times. Japan is clearly looking seriously at reopening travel. Kon’nichiwa, Japan!

More details are expected this week as the government examines case counts and testing capacity, after ‘Golden Week’ a key tourism period domestically. If things look good, there may be good news on the horizon. From culinary delights in Osaka to the extraordinary temples of Kyoto, Tokyo and beyond, I can’t wait!

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. What about just transiting Japan? I’ve got reservation ICN-NRT-SFO coming up. Can I assume no test requirement and perhaps just a need to stay in one section of the airport?

    1. I just transited Japan from Thailand to San Francisco. 99% of the airport is gated off. No food court, no shopping, just a strip of gates that will take you to your next destination. You only need to submit tests for your final destination so whatever those testing requirements are, that’s all you need to worry about. So for me I just needed a quick antigen test to get back into America. You don’t need any extra tests for Japan as you WILL not be aloud to enter Japan or any other sections of the airport. You only have access to 15-20 gates and 1 restroom, nothing else.

  2. In my opinion, a big bottleneck is the safety of eating indoors in restaurants. The Covid virus does not obey politicians or angry people who are “tired” of the pandemic. Maybe visit Japan and eat from bento boxes?

  3. This article is full of ifs, buts and maybes. After many years resident in Japan I can say with 100% certainty that the government is never clear about anything until it is already a fact.

    1. hah. As opposed to every other article discussing Japan reopening? This is a tempered and balanced take based on statements. Nowhere near as optimistic as others which are off base. Chill, Winston.

  4. I HAVE ANA first class in November. Gilbert advised me how to get tickets using virgin miles. This was during the one on one consultancies he ran at the start of the pandemic if we made a donation to charity. I am praying Japan is open by November!!! Cheers for the advice Gilbert.

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