Japan Now Allows Individual Tourists to Enter—But There's a Catch

And it's not that you still need a visa

Colourful Sakura Leaves falling in Autumn with Fuji Mountain Background at kawaguchiko Lake, Japan
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Traveling to Japan just got a little easier. Starting on Sept. 7, 2022, Japan now allows non-escorted travelers—as long as they book their trip through a travel agency. 

Japan has seen one of the most cautious reopenings. Borders were only just opened on June 10, 2022 for tourists booked into guided tours. While the country is loosening its current restrictions—including doing away with the mandatory pre-arrival COVID-19 testing for certain travelers—it’s not quite open season for travelers just yet. 

Independent travelers will still not be allowed in; independent meaning anyone who books their own lodging and flights. The only way to get into Japan will still be to book with a travel agency, though the country is no longer requiring visitors to take part in a guided tour. Only flights and hotels need to be booked through an agency. Once you arrive, you can travel through the country without a tour. 

By booking through a travel agency, Japan hopes to have better contact tracing. Under the new rules, travel agents assume responsibility for the tourists they bring to Japan, becoming the point of contact for any COVID-19 issues or contact tracing needs. 

In addition to booking flights and accommodations through a travel agency, travelers will also (still) need to apply for a pre-arrival visa.

Also as of Sept. 7, Japan no longer requires fully-vaccinated travelers (those who have received their initial COVID-19 vaccinations and any eligible boosters) to show proof of a negative pre-arrival COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure. The daily cap for arrivals into the country, both foreigners and nationals, will also be more than doubled from 20,000 to 50,000; and travelers from all nations will be welcomed.

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  1. The Japan Times. "Japan Opens Borders to Foreign Travelers on Self-Guided Tours." Sept. 7, 2022.