After almost three years of isolation from the rest of the world, the Japanese government last week confirmed that they are fully opening the country for individual temporary visitors and has issued guidance about the new set of protocols and requirements for foreign entrants. Here’s the gist of the changes effective October 11th:
- Tourists can now visit individually and independently. This means, you can make your own itinerary and schedule while in Japan, including where to go and stay.
- Visitors from VISA-Free countries are now allowed to visit anytime. IMPORTANT: PLEASE NOTE that FILIPINOS ARE STILL REQUIRED TO APPLY FOR TOURIST VISA. Holders of Multiple Entry Visas issued are now allowed to travel to Japan as long as it is still valid within your travel period.
- Visitors are NOT REQUIRED to submit a NEGATIVE COVID-19 PCR test before departure as long as you are vaccinated with three doses of valid vaccine.
- Japan has already suspended the limit of visitors on a daily basis, so you can come and go anytime.
If you`re eager to visit Japan in the near future and capable of satisfying the requirements as a tourist, then it’s time to apply for your TOURIST VISA. The Embassy of Japan in the Philippines has recently posted the resumption of VISA Application and Issuance starting October 11 for individual tourists through its accredited agencies.
Once you have been granted a Tourist Visa, either Single Entry or Multiple Entry, make sure to travel within the validity period which is within 3 months from the date of issuance and you are allowed to stay in Japan for up to 15 days. There are however things to remember prior to your flight departure.
Due to the influence of COVID-19, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) implemented policies and measures for entrants to Japan. Here is the latest COVID-19: Current Japanese Border Measures.
- Secure an official vaccination certificate duly issued by pertinent authorities in the Philippines such as the DOH – Bureau of Quarantine which issues the International Certificate of Vaccination (ICV). Make sure that you get a valid certificate that satisfies the requirements of Japanese authorities, including the recognized vaccines. If you are vaccinated in another country, make sure that you have certificates that are written in English or Japanese.
- In case you are not vaccinated or don’t have a valid vaccine certificate, you have to present a pre-departure NEGATIVE PCR Test result taken within 72 hours of departure. A rapid antigen test is not acceptable. You have to get a digital or printed copy of the Test Report/Certificate containing the required PCR Test Certificate information prescribed by MHLW. TIP: Check with your airline since they offer discounted PCR tests at their partner facilities. For a cheaper option, the Philippine Red Cross offers the Saliva Test (non-invasive/no pain) test for only PHP1,500 with results available in less than 24 hours. For fastest results, the DOH-BOQ has PCR-TEST Test with results in 5 hours.
- At the airport, proceed to the check-in counter and present the following: 1) Valid Passport with valid VISA and 2) Valid Vaccine Certificate or Valid NEGATIVE PCR Test Certificate
- Few hours before departure, please follow and submit the prescribed quarantine procedures and documents when you enter Japan. You must use the FAST TRACK system to complete the pre-departure quarantine procedures in advance for fast and seamless arrival at any Japan airports. This is similar to the ONE HEALTH PASS of the Philippines. Download the official app, MySOS or visit the MySOS website and complete the process hours before your actual flight.
- In the MySOS app, you must upload your Valid Vaccine Certificate or Negative PCR Test Certificate. You are also required to fill out a COVID-19 questionnaire that details your travel, medical and exposure history and accomplish a Pledge for those who require isolation/quarantine. Once completed, the Japanese border control will evaluate your submission and they will give you a color coded confirmation (Ex. BLUE or GREEN color means you can go straight to the Immigration Counter) prior to your arrival in Japan. Once at the airport, you just need to show your screen with the color coding to the control staff and you can now proceed to the Immigration/Customs and baggage counters.
- NOTE: If you have symptoms prior to departure, you might want to reconsider your plans or at least secure an antigen or PCR test for confirmation for you and the public’s safety. While it is not a requirement, we highly recommend buying Travel Insurance. You can check the insurance offered by airlines which are usually offered as a combo to your airfare. Please remember that hospitalization and/or repatriation maybe costly especially in Japan.
UPON ARRIVAL IN JAPAN
As with other airports in many countries, border controls have been revitalized and additional restrictions and screening procedures were put in place to prevent cross-border transmission of the dreaded virus. In Japan, expect additional time to be spent for quarantine checks on arrival and even pre-departure screening (if leaving Japan). However, no worries as long as you have satisfied the required procedures and documents and have availed streamlined option using the FAST TRACK system. For the Japanese CUSTOMS procedure, a Customs Declaration Form is usually given by the inflight cabin crew. Please accomplish it on board to save time at the airport. IMPORTANT: Meat products/by-products (such as CHICHARON, LONGGANISA, TOCINO, TAPA) are STRICTLY PROHIBITED. Do not attempt to bring them into Japan or you may face stiff penalties.
WHILE IN JAPAN
While the government has relaxed the restrictions, minimum health protection protocols are still observed by the majority of the population, particularly in closed public areas.
- Wearing a mask is a MUST. While not mandatory (even by Japanese law), however, it is a public norm even in outdoor settings that people wear masks. This means that most establishments like restaurants, hotels and public facilities impose certain rules on wearing masks upon entry and while inside. In fact, they might ask you to wear masks or you might get some curious look from random people. FACT: Even before Covid, many people usually use masks in the cold season and when they have flu symptoms.
- Limited capacity/Queuing: Many dining facilities still impose limit on the number of people at any time for dine-in setting. Expect long lines at your favorite/must-try ramen shop. Other establishments even require reservations, so please check their website or social media sites.
- Separators: Many facilities still use the plastic board separators and socially-distanced seats so don’t be surprised to see them.
- NOTE: This may not be always the case in some places in Japan and you might still see some people who don’t wear masks or you might get caught in a packed subway train in urban centers like Tokyo or Osaka. It has been that way before the pandemic. So please take extra caution and plan your commuting time to avoid the metro rush.
WHAT TO EXPECT ON YOUR VISIT
Nothing significant really has changed since the pandemic started except for the heightened health protocols. Based on recent observations, some reports suggest that Japan is now cheaper to visit compared to three years ago, so it is said that now is the best time to visit. For many attractions, renovations may have been done in recent years and natural sites may have recovered in some ways. While there are no significant changes, some establishments or facilities may have closed shop sometime in the past three years but there are a number of new and upcoming attractions.
For air travels, expect a higher airfares, again due to the effect of the pandemic and global inflation. Moreover, starting October, many commodities have increased nationwide including fast food items.
Finally, while the excitement is filling up your senses, it is important to make sense of the timeline for preparation and travel as well as the money needed to support you to and from Japan; so make sure that everything is in place to make sure a smooth, convenient, safe and fun trip. [TBC]