Updated: Sep 27, 2022
EDITED 27th September 2022
Yes, the borders are opening!
As reported in Nikkei Asia, the borders are finally set to open without restrictions from the 11th October 2022! The announcement was made on Thursday 22nd September, and we are beyond excited to start welcoming you all to Japan next month!
See you soon!
Original Elope in Japan Blog Post From September 4th:
If you are anything like us, you waited impatiently for the latest update from the Japanese government re the borders. And, you will likely have been left scratching your head trying to make head or tail of it all. At the end of the day, the question remains: can tourists enter Japan?
The answer to this question is "yes". But there are a few caveats.
Previously, in June 2022, the government announced that tourists could enter the country on guided tours operated by approved agencies. What the government didn’t bank on, was that guided tours are grossly unpopular with western travelers, who much prefer to go it alone. Historically, tourists from China have made up the bulk of tour groups. But with that country still closed to both inbound and outbound travel, they're not going anywhere...
In the two months following the change of the rules, just 8000 tourists visited Japan. Compared with the daily entry limit of 20,000, this number is pitifully small… So, under pressure from businesses, foreign governments and the Japanese people, a change had to be made.
Can tourists enter Japan?
In order to fully understand the latest announcement from the government, we have been carefully reading the updates at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website (a hard read!) and scouring the web for more easily accessible information. Our research has found the following:
from September 7th, pre-departure PCR tests will no longer be required for those with three jabs
entry visas will still be required
solo tourists can come in as long as they compile their itinerary with a travel agent. They may be required to have a guide accompany them during the trip
the daily border entry rate will be hiked to 50,000
travelers must purchase travel insurance to cover medical emergencies
masking is still required indoors and in crowded places
What we are NOT clear about yet, is if the travel agency has to be Japan based (there is conflicting information on this, and nothing about it at MOFA - Ministry of Foreign Affairs). We are also not one hundred percent sure if travelers need to be accompanied by a guide or not (again, either no information or conflicting information).
What we are clear about, is that travelers can make a personalized itinerary with a travel agent who will monitor their health and safety while in Japan. The travel agent/sponsor/guide will also be required to apply for an ERFS certificate (Entry, Returnee Follow up System) which certifies the traveler's eligibility to enter Japan.
If you want to come to Japan, you will be responsible for obtaining your own visa, but this will only be possible once you have obtained the ERFS certificate from a travel agency. You then need to present this to the embassy when applying for a visa.
Assuming all goes well, you will be able to enter Japan. Once here, the tour guide/travel agency will monitor your health.
In Short, the process is (as far as we can make out) as follows:
Travel agency/business/organization applies for an ERFS certificate
If approved, the certificate will be sent online to the Travel agency/ business/organization
Travel agency/ business/organization - send ERFS to traveller
Traveller - applies for a short stay visa from Japanese embassy in their home country, take the ERFS with you
The visa is then processed
Fly to Japan
In Japan the Travel agency/ business/organization must monitor the traveller’s health.
In the Japan, the traveller must comply with all anti-COVID measures.
These changes will come into effect from 7th September 2022.
Please note: this list is true as of August 2022, to the best of our knowledge, as per the information available to us. Be sure to do your own research before deciding to come to Japan.
Updated 4th September 2022 - Source: Japan Tourism Agency (as of the time of writing, currently only available in Japanese)
The new rules are as follows:
Anyone can enter from any country
No pre-flight PCR test required as long as travelers have three vaccine doses
Travel agencies are responsible for booking the return flights and all accommodation.
Itinerary is not required - tourists are free to travel solo once in the country, but must stay at all pre-arranged accommodation
The travel agency is responsible for maintaining contact throughout the stay and providing guidance in the event of infection - this contact may be via telephone, email, text or SNS.
Travellers must follow all anti-virus guidelines
What is it like in Japan?
Right now (August 2022), Japan is riding a tsunami of Omicron cases, with average daily infections exceeding 200,000 for the last month or so. Throughout August Japan officially saw the highest number of infections in the world. But, it is important to put this into perspective: unlike most other countries, the government has still not downgraded the virus and testing is still much more widespread than elsewhere.
The Japanese themselves see the virus as a nuisance rather than something to be feared. Even with the high infection rate, there have been no curbs internally. Domestic businesses operate as usual; there are no restrictions at bars and restaurants, and social distancing has in many cases been done away with.
Indeed many commentators have noted the inconsistencies between the Japanese governments stance at the border and internally. Other social scientists have also noted cynically that changing the pre-flight PCR test requirements is solely to help the many Japanese travelers who find themselves stranded overseas. In June alone, over 170,000 Japanese tourists made foreign visits.
It is widely expected that once cases finally start to come down, either artificially through downgrading the status of the virus or the lifecycle of the infection, the government will move again to further loosen restrictions at the border. Or, fingers crossed, drop them altogether!
Whether you decide to try to make the trip now, under the latest rules, or wait until the country is fully reopened, we, and the rest of Japan, can't wait to welcome you!