COVID-19: Japan removes all travel entry requirements from 29 April
It’s been over three years since the first confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) appeared in Japan, changing the state of international travel forever. Over the course of a few months, travellers to Japan have had to contend with a complete lockdown of the country, followed by an onslaught of new rules, guidelines, restrictions and paperwork spread over the course of two years, making business trips a massive hassle and leisurely holidays all but impossible.
All that is set to be a memory starting from tomorrow (29 April)! On 3 April, the Japanese government made the announcement that COVID-19 would be downgraded in classification to Class 5, putting the disease on the same level as something like the seasonal flu.
However, in an effort to lessen congestion at airports during the upcoming Golden Week holidays (29 April–5 May) that start Saturday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno has announced that the government has decided to lift the COVID-19 border control measures earlier than expected.
What does this mean?
A short overview of when the various travel rules and restrictions were removed in the past year. (Image credit: JR Times)
With effect from 29 April at 00:00 JST, all new international arrivals to airports across Japan will no longer be subject to rules imposed from the outset of the pandemic. This effectively means that if you want to travel to Japan right now, all the necessary rules and documents required pre-arrival will be exactly the same as it used to be pre-2020.
The Visit Japan Web application will continue to exist, but it is no longer a mandatory requirement to fill up, and will mainly be used to expedite the immigration process. The "Quarantine procedure (Fast Track)" feature of the website will also be removed with effect from 29 April at 00:00 JST.
Is there anything left to be aware of when travelling to Japan?
You don’t HAVE to wear a mask when you’re out in public, but maintaining good hygiene is always recommended! (Image credit: photoAC)
General attitudes towards COVID-19 have changed quite a lot in the past year, but here and there, you may still encounter holdovers from when the pandemic was at its peak. For one, you may continue to see many Japanese people wearing masks at all times while in public.
While mask-wearing has never been legally enforced in Japan, many businesses and venues such as public transport, parks, and restaurants used to impose strict mask-wearing rules on their customers.
This is no longer the case for most situations as the impetus to wear a mask is now on the individual, but you may nonetheless encounter a few standout places (such as medical facilities or privately-owned businesses) which may continue to enforce their own house rules.
In favour of curtailing the number of infection cases, many festivals over the past couple of years have had to be cancelled outright. (Image credit: photoAC)
Most events and festivals which have been closed or cancelled as a result of the pandemic are also set to re-emerge this year, though several popular attractions have unfortunately had to close permanently during this time as well, most notably in tourist-reliant places like the entertainment island of Odaiba and the nightlife district of Shinjuku. As a result, you should continue to be prudent in checking the details and measures of places you want to visit beforehand online to avoid disappointment.
For full details about travelling to Japan, please visit the official Ministry of Foreign Affairs webpage.
Header image credit: photoAC