Spent the last few years dreaming about Japan? You’re not the only one. And while you might have a handle on your itinerary and food bucketlist, you can’t neglect the far more boring parts of arriving in Japan.
Do you need a visa? What about vaccinations? Can I bring vegemite? These are all important things to know before hopping on the plane. You really don’t want to be turned back at the border afterall. So here’s everything you need to know to make arriving in Japan as smooth as possible.
NOTE: While we do our best to ensure information provided here is accurate, things can change. We always advise checking official sources like the Visiting Japan website and your nearest Embassy of Japan for the most up-to-date information.
From April 29 2023, travelers will not need to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter Japan. This also applies to people entering from China and Macau, who previously had even stricter entry measures. That being said, if you have COVID-19 symptoms when you arrive in Japan, you may be asked to undergo testing.
Note that originally, when Japan reopened to international tourism on October 11 2022, there were COVID-19 counter-measures in place. For example, people arriving in Japan had to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. However, like we said above these restrictions have now been lifted.
Concerned about what to do if you catch COVID-19 while traveling in Japan? Check out this article.
Visit Japan Web
One of the few bonuses of COVID-19 is the improvement in digital services by the Japanese Government. Visit Japan Web is one of those services. It’s a web based app — meaning that you can open it in your phone’s web browser, no need to download anything. However, you can opt to add a shortcut to the webpage to your homescreen — which we recommend for convenience. The app is available in English, Korean, and Chinese (traditional and simplified). While we can’t speak for the other languages, the English app is fairly well translated — with just a few awkward-but-understandable phrases here and there.
You can use Visit Japan Web to input information ahead of your arrival in Japan. You used to be able to use it to submit Vaccination certificates/test results but that section has been removed. However, the app can still be used to complete immigration and customs information.
When you arrive at the airport you just show the relevant QR code or screen. At the moment, the Visit Japan Web app is being strongly promoted at the airports. Airport staff may even ask you to download and fill it out, rather than line up for regular processing. The app won’t save you much time at immigration, but customs is much faster.
Keep in mind that this service is currently only available at Narita, Haneda, Kansai International, New Chitose, Chubu Centrair, Fukuoka, and Naha Airports.
Visas and immigration procedures
When Japan reopened the borders on October 11 2022, immigration procedures mostly returned to pre-COVID norms. Of course, visa and immigration procedures depend on your nationality and what you intend to do in Japan. Keep in mind that all foreigners need a valid passport and will have their fingerprints taken upon arriving in Japan.
NOTE: When checking into your flight, your airline may ask about the conditions of your stay. They may ask to see your visa if one is necessary or a Residence Card if you have one.
Tourism, travel, and short term visits
Those who plan to visit Japan for 90 days or less are considered short term or temporary visitors. The purpose of your visit may be travel, visiting family, or even business travel — so long as you do not recieve remuneration.
Japan has short stay visa exemption agreements with 68 countries. These include Australia, the U.K., the U.S.A, Singapore, and Korea (full list here). Essentially, citizens of these countries do not have to apply for a visa before arriving in Japan.
If you are a citizen of a country that’s not on the list, you will need to apply for a visa. In this case, your best course of action is to check the website of your nearest Embassy of Japan to confirm the procedure.
Long term stays
If you stay in Japan for more than 3 months, it’s considered a long term stay. This will usually involve visa applications before arriving in Japan, a process which could take several months. There are several different types of long term visa including Working visas, Working Holiday visas, student visas, and dependent (family) visas. These visas vary in length from 3 months to 5 years, depending on your situation. In most cases, they can be renewed.
Once you have your visa, it’s relatively smooth sailing. If you enter Japan via Narita, Haneda, Kansai International, New Chitose, Chubu Centrair, Hiroshima, or Fukuoka Airports you will get a Landing Permission stamp in your passport and recieve your Residence Card at the airport. However, if you arrive in a different airport you will only get a Landing Permission stamp. You then need to take that to your local City Office to get your Residence Card. A Residence Card is issued to all foreigners living in Japan for more than 3 months, and it’s a legal requirement that you carry it with you at all times.
Everyone entering Japan must submit a Declaration of Accompanied Articles and Unaccompanied Articles. This form is available as both a paper document, or digitally on Visit Japan Web (more on that in a moment). There was a Customs Declaration App, but that was discontinued in December 2022. Similarly, the Customs Declaration Website will close in March 2023.
The form asks for the usual information like your name, flight details, and what items you are bringing into the country. It also asks for your address in Japan, so have your hotel address handy. If you’re planning to travel around a lot, put the first place you will stay or the place you’ll stay the longest.
When you enter the customs area, there are two channels; green and red. The green is for those who have no prohibited or restricted items to declare. Red is for those who do. If you go to the red channel, a customs officer may ask you more questions about the items, and ask you to show them and the relevant documentation.
Prohibited goods and items
For the most part, there are fairly logical customs restrictions regarding what you can and can’t bring into Japan. Items you can’t bring into the country include:
- Drugs including heroin, cocaine, cannabis (including marijuana of any form*), opium, and stimulants.
- Explosives, firearms, ammunition, or pistol parts.
- Counterfeit or altered currency including forged credit cards.
- Materials including books and drawings that may harm public morals or safety (for example pornography).
- Child pornography.
- Materials that infringe on copyright (for example pirated movies).
*CBD products like oils and gummies are legal in Japan, so long as they do not contain THC. However, that doesn’t mean you should bring your own in.
Restricted goods and items
Some goods and items can be brought into Japan if they meet certain requirements. For example plants and animals, as well as plant and animal products, may be subject to bio-security measures like quarantine. Weaponry like hunting knives, air guns, and swords can also be brought in if you have a permit.
Medicine for personal use is also subject to restrictions. Generally, you can only bring a limited supply. If you need to bring more, you need to get a ‘Yunyu Kakunin-sho‘. To get one you need to prepare some paperwork, including an application form and either a prescription or directions for use wth your doctor’s name on them. Then, you’ll need to post or email these off, and you’ll recieve the Yunyu Kakunin-sho back within a few business days.
Keep in mind that there are some medications which are commonly prescribed overseas that are not legal in Japan. While short term visitors can bring these medicines with them, you can’t bring a long term supply using the Yunyu Kakunin-sho. Your best option is consult your doctor or a travel specialist ahead of time to find the right solution for you.
There are also restrictions on cosmetics, and a limit on the amount/value of duty-free items. If you are carrying more than ¥1,000,000 (equivalent to 1 million yen) in cash, checks, traveler’s checks, promissory notes, or securities you must declare it. This is regardless of currency.
Where can I get more information?
There are lots of websites out there offering information about visas, customs, and travel to Japan — including us! However, we’ll be the first to tell you not to rely only on secondhand information. Always check official sources for the most accurate and up-to-date information. Here are some good places to start:
- Visiting Japan website: A Japanese government website for tourists. It includes COVID-19 related information as well as safety tips, disaster prevention, and weather information.
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs website (Consular services section): For information related to visas and foreign affairs.
- Japan Customs website: For information related to customs and what items/goods you can bring into Japan.
- Your country’s Embassy/Consulate General of Japan’s website: For information specific to your country, especially for visas.
Frequently asked questions
Is Japan open for tourism? Yes. As of October 11 2022 Japan fully reopened to international travelers.
Do you need a COVID-19 test to enter Japan? Anyone entering Japan after midnight on April 29 2023 will not need a negative COVID-19 test.
Does Japan accept Rapid Antigen Tests? No. Rapid Antigen Tests are not considered valid tests for the purpose of entering Japan. However, as we said above, negative tests aren’t required anymore.
Do I need a visa to enter Japan? This depends on your nationality and the purpose/length of your visit.
Do I need to quarantine to enter Japan? If you are asked to do an on-arrival test because you have symptoms, and that test is positive, you will be required to quarantine.
This article was first published on August 21 2020 and is regularly updated. Last updated May 2023 by Maria Danuco.