As one of the countries with the most stringent pandemic-related restrictions, Japan is finally opening up to mass tourism again.
After more than two years, tourists will be allowed back from October 11.
Most of the country’s entry restrictions will be eased, including a daily passenger cap on visitor numbers.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida recently announced the update while in New York, saying: “Japan will relax border control measures to be on par with the US.”
An official update has yet to be posted by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which governs entry requirements.
Under the proposed rule change, some travellers will once again be able to visit Japan under its visa-exemption service, which was paused during the global pandemic.
Japan has been prising its borders open since June.
It first reopened to those in trial groups and then extended this to organised tour groups. Since September 11, tourists have been able to visit if they booked trips through a travel agent.
But the strict measures have kept the country’s tourist numbers down.
In August, 169,000 people travelled to Japan from overseas, down 93 per cent when compared to pre-pandemic visitor data.
From next month, tourism authorities will be hoping those figures reverse, as individual tourists should once again be able to explore Tokyo’s neon-lined streets, Kyoto’s ancient geishas and Nara’s deer-filled temples.
If you’ve been waiting to visit, here’s what you need to know.
What rules are changing for travellers flying to Japan?
If the prime minister’s announcement is followed, then from October 11, individual tourists will once again be able to travel to Japan.
This means that people can book their own flights, accommodation and experiences, without having to go through a travel agent, which was the previous rule.
A daily cap on arriving visitors will also be abolished. It’s currently set at 50,000 per day but will be removed completely on October 11.
And, while the Japan National Tourism Organisation has shared the latest update on Twitter, tourists should wait for official details from authorities before booking trips.
Do I need to be vaccinated to travel to Japan?
To visit Japan, travellers must be triple vaccinated with an approved brand, or have a PCR test showing a negative result and be taken no more than 72 hours before flight departure times. All visitors must also sign a pledge to abide by Japanese rules on Covid measures in place in the country.
Can travellers visit Japan from any country?
Japan currently operates a red, yellow and blue traffic light system and there’s been no news on whether this will change.
At present, travellers arriving from the blue list are able to visit without quarantine or tests on arrival. Yellow list travellers only need to do tests on arrival if they do not have a vaccine certificate, while all arrivals from red-listed countries must test on arrival.
Will I still have to book my entire itinerary through an agent or travel with a group?
No, under the proposed new rules, travellers would be able to make their own plans on their own timelines.
This includes booking accommodation, transport and excursions. It also adds flexibility as previously those visiting on a pre-booked trip were not able to add any new activities or excursions to their agenda once it had been approved for travel.
Do I need a visa to travel to Japan?
As part of the changes, Japan is planning to reinstate pre-coronavirus 19 exemptions for short-term visitors to enter the country without a visa from October 11.
The exemption applies to travellers from more than 60 countries who will soon be able to travel freely to Japan for tourism.
Is this a good time to visit Japan?
October is a great time of the year to travel to Japan as the country glows with autumn foliage and the weather cools down after the heat of summer.
This reopening to mass tourism also looks to coincide with the yen slipping to its lowest levels against the dollar in more than two decades, making Japan a more affordable destination for a holiday.