Unlocking the World

Travel to Japan during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

CNN staffUpdated 16th September 2021
Japan offers a heady mix of the cutting edge and deeply traditional.
Editor's Note — Coronavirus cases remain high across the globe. Health officials caution that travel increases your chances of getting and spreading the virus. Staying home is the best way to stem transmission. Below is information on what to know if you still plan to travel, last updated on September 15.
(CNN) — If you're planning to travel to Japan, here's what you'll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The basics

Japan was lauded for containing the virus during the first wave but has since seen a surge in cases, with a major spike in November and December 2020.
Currently, 24 of Japan's 47 prefectures are under varying states of emergency: Aichi, Chiba, Fukuoka, Gifu, Gunma, Hiroshima, Hokkaido, Hyogo, Ibaraki, Kanagawa, Kochi, Kyoto, Mie, Miyagi, Miyazaki, Okayama, Osaka, Nagasaki, Saga, Saitama, Shiga, Shizuoka, Tochigi and Tokyo.
On September 10, the Japanese government announced that it would reduce the self-isolation period for fully vaccinated people arriving in the country from 14 days to 10. The change should be in effect by the end of the month.
The world artistic and rhythm gymnastics competitions will be held in Kitakyushu in October -- and this time, unlike the Olympics, with spectators.

What's on offer

A heady mix of the cutting edge and deeply traditional, Japan remains a major draw for travelers from all over the globe. Whether participating in a traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto, scouring Tokyo's Akihabara district for tech bargains or soaking in a hot onsen in the forests of Tohoku, this is a country that leaves its mark on all who visit.

Who can go

Japan has some of the most stringent travel restrictions in the world, with 152 countries on its prohibited list.
Visitors from Australia, Brunei, China (including Hong Kong and Macau), New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam may enter the country, although those traveling from China and South Korea can only arrive into the country via Tokyo Narita airport. Additionally, those traveling for study, work or to join family (subject to visa requirements) may enter. That said, there are many exceptions and the rules change constantly. Consult MOFA for the latest information.
On May 24, the US State Department issued a travel warning against its citizens visiting Japan. It was a Level 4 warning, the highest on the scale. It has since been dropped to a "Level 3: Reconsider Travel."

What are the restrictions?

Travelers from permitted destinations must undertake a 14-day quarantine, although it is possible to request a PCR test on arrival. A negative result allows you to finish quarantine. These rules can be spotty and inconsistent.
Those traveling under Japan's revised business travel rules will need to provide proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure, signed and stamped by the laboratory where it was taken. While they will not need to self-isolate, they will need to provide details of their movements for the following two weeks and not use public transport.

What's the Covid situation?

As of September 14, Japan had reported 1,652,383 confirmed cases of the virus and 16,919 deaths. These numbers don't include any positive cases connected to the Olympics or Paralympics.
The National Institute of Infectious Diseases says that about 70 percent of the Tokyo-area cases are the Delta variant.
Japan's vaccine rollout began slowly but significantly picked up over the summer. The percentage of the population who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus passed the 50% mark the week of September 6.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato confirmed to local media that his team is exploring options for "vaccine passports." Business travelers would be prioritized for these at first.

What can visitors expect?

While much of Japan remains open for business, cities are far quieter than usual and the government has the right to request the closure of businesses in areas of high transmission. Masks must be worn in public.

Useful links

Our latest coverage

Osaka is now home to the world's first -- and so far only -- Super Nintendo World, where visitors can put on virtual reality glasses and play a real-life version of Mario Kart.
Fukushima is ready for tourists again, while you can practice shirin yoku, or forest bathing, in Kyoto's Sagano Bamboo Forest.
For something a little less idyllic, there's a museum dedicated to poop in Yokohama. Or get stuck into the renowned food scene, with record-breaking snow crab and $185 steak sandwiches.