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You’ll Need a Visa to Enter Japan Now

Photo by ShutterstockJapan has technically reopened to foreign tourists but it takes a lot to get there—including a visa.As of June 10, Japan reopened to travelers from 98 countries, including the United States, but with a whole host of specific conditions—including the need for a visa.

Prior to closing its international borders in 2020 due to the pandemic, Japan had exempted U.S. travelers from the need to obtain a visa for entering the country for leisure travel. But that exemption has now been suspended, according to Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Currently, foreign nationals/people who are willing to enter Japan need a visa newly issued by embassies or consulates or consular office of Japan,” the foreign ministry stated in its latest update about entry requirements.

So, if you’re thinking of heading to Japan, you will need to make an appointment at the closest Japanese embassy or consulate or apply for a visa by mail. Be aware that some Japanese embassies and consulates might have a backlog of visa applications to process and it could take longer than usual to obtain one.

“Due to the tremendous amount of visa applications we are processing, we cannot provide you with any status updates,” stated the Consulate-General of Japan in San Francisco on its website.

The need to obtain a visa is in addition to several more hurdles travelers must cross to get into Japan. Earlier this month, Japanese authorities outlined the new rules for foreign travelers, and they include obtaining private medical insurance that covers medical expenses related to COVID-19 infection, wearing a mask at all times unless there is a specific exception, and traveling under the supervision of an organized tour group.

Japan’s reopening plan divides countries and regions into red, yellow, or blue categories depending on COVID-19 risk. People from countries in the blue category (such as the United States) will be able to bypass quarantine as long as they pass a predeparture COVID test, regardless of vaccination status. Those in the yellow category (which includes such countries as India, Lebanon, and Portugal) will also be able to skip a quarantine period with proof of vaccination. However, visitors from the red group—which consists of Pakistan, Fiji, Albania, and Sierra Leone—must take an on-arrival test and quarantine for a period of time.

With the easing of entry restrictions, Japan also increased its daily entry limits from 10,000 foreign arrivals to 20,000 per day in June—still a fraction of the 31.88 million foreign tourists (or an average of 87,000 tourists per day) who entered Japan in 2019. 

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