Japan, Travel Tips
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My experience entering Japan during COVID (and the quarantine after)

I finally made it out of Singapore after over two years of not traveling. I am writing this post from… Japan! 🎉 It feels so unreal.

Prior to the pandemic, going to Japan is a routine for us because our family lives in Tokyo. In fact, my last destination before the pandemic was to Japan, where I explored Nagano for a week. Once the pandemic hit, our country Singapore practically shut its borders and we couldn’t travel without serving quarantine at a hotel, so we couldn’t travel. We have missed our family and have been dreaming about the moment when we can finally go back, so it’s only apt that we chose to go to Japan again once the opportunity presented itself.

Before we proceed – I have to note that we chose to go through with this trip because we felt the risk was low. Both Japan and Singapore have high vaccination number, low COVID deaths, and both countries observe strict measures for COVID (as you’ll see in this post). Lastly, at the time we took the flight, Omicron variant has not yet presented its risks. I definitely am not condoning leisure travel at the moment, but I can understand the frustration of being separated from family for so long.

Entering Japan during COVID
Landed in Japan bright and early. I’ve missed you so much <3

As I was saying, Japan is one of the countries that has been largely closed off during the pandemic. They take health measures, masking and quarantines very seriously here. So, I thought it might be interesting to write down my experience coming into Japan during the pandemic.

I am used to the strict measures, coming from Singapore where our COVID rules are as strict if not more strict than Japan. But I can imagine others coming from other countries (like the US) may think the procedures they have in place are crazy… but this is the reality. It may be crazy but this is how some countries, including Japan and Singapore, have been able to keep their COVID-related deaths fairly low.

Disclaimer: Information provided below are based on my own experience and knowledge at the time of writing. Do not take this post as the latest factual information. I will do my best to keep it up to date, but border restriction changes on the hour everyday. Do your own research in addition to reading this post!

Anyways, let’s get started!

Can I enter Japan right now?

The short answer is – probably not. Japan is not open for tourism. In fact, Japan has restricted their border even more due to the Omicron variant starting December 2021. Based on the common sentiment of those who are familiar with the situation, Japan is not in a hurry to open up. Hopefully this will change in 2022.

Who can enter Japan right now?

Unless you are a citizen, permanent resident or an existing long-term resident of Japan, you currently cannot enter Japan. If you are a spouse or dependent of a Japanese citizen or permanent resident, you might also be able to enter provided you are re-entering on existing spouse or dependent visa.

Due to the Omicron variant, new visas are not being issued at the moment. Even some visas, such a short-term visit visas, that were issued before may have been cancelled. You can check back in January 2022 to see if the restrictions have been loosened up.

How can I keep myself updated on the Japan border restriction?

Aside of your local Japan embassy, you can join the Return to Japan Support Group on Facebook. This group contains 35,000 people around the world who is interested in getting into Japan. They are usually the fastest and most up-to-date in terms of border restrictions with crowdsourced information and news.

However, if you are intending to enter Japan only for the purpose of tourism, please do not post questions in the group. Many people have faced extreme situation due to the border restriction, such as being separated from their family for a long time, or had their career placed on hold. Posting a question asking about something as trivial as tourism might just strike someone the wrong way.

What do I need to enter Japan during COVID?

Based on my own experience, these documents were required in order to enter Japan:

  • A valid Japan visa if you are not a Japanese citizen. Currently all visa free travel arrangement has been cancelled. Despite holding a Singaporean passport which would grant me visa free travel in normal times, I had to apply for a short-term visit visa as a dependent of a permanent resident. Note that the short term visit visa I used is currently on hold due to Omicron variant.
  • A negative PCR Test taken 72 hours before the flight. The clinic also needs to fill out and sign this form from MOFA, otherwise you might face issues during flight check-in or when you land in Japan. Japan is very strict about the exact type of test taken. There have been cases where the clinic did not indicate the correct term for test taken, and people faced issues entering Japan.

Additionally, there are a few more documents you could complete before your flight for your own benefit:

  • Written Pledge. Read through, sign and complete this written pledge. If you do not have it printed, they’ll provide you a copy upon arrival. But filling it in ahead of time might save you some time, and give you enough time to read as it is quite long.
  • Health Questionnaire (screenshot the QR Code after). After you have checked in for your flight and you have your seat number, you can fill out this form. If you don’t do it before, you will have to fill it out upon landing which might extend the time in airport.
  • (Optional) COVID Vaccination Certificate. A government-issued vaccination certificate. This is not required for entry, but being vaccinated this might give you a shorter quarantine period and other benefits.

Do I need to quarantine when I enter Japan?

Yes, everyone needs to quarantine for 14 days when they enter Japan. However, depending the country you are flying from, some part of this (the first 3, 6 or 10 days) will have to be served at a hotel designated and paid for by Japanese government with meals provided. Otherwise, it can be served from place of residence. You can review the quarantine measures by country here.

For example, as we came from Singapore, we can proceed straight to our place of residence and quaranting there. But if we had flown from UK, we would have to quarantine in hotel for 6 days before serving the remaining 8 days at our place of residence.

Note that the quarantine period starts the day after your arrival. So for example, if you enter on 5 December (even at 6AM or 11PM), your first day of quarantine will be 6 December.

PS: There used to be a way to shorten the quarantine to 10 days if you are vaccinated and tested negative on the 10th day, but this exception has been put on hold due to the Omicron variant.

What happens when you land in Haneda Airport during COVID

We landed in Haneda Airport at the end of November, a few days before Omicron variant strikes. I was really lucky in retrospective, as I heard short term visa was canceled and people were unable to enter Japan.

Haneda airport used to be one of the busiest airport, yet efficient – Before pandemic, I rarely ever spent more than 30 minutes from getting off the airplane to getting out of the airport. During pandemic, the time increased to 2 hours, due to all the documents and COVID test you have to do. It could be less if you had prepared the pledge and filled out the health questionnaire, but we did neither as we were too busy with other things (it was our first time flying with a toddler)

As soon as we landed, we walked through an empty corridor with clearly marked signs along the way and retractable belts to make sure you don’t go off-course. From here, there are 6 stations to go through. My husband joked that it reminded him of completing quests in an RPG game.

Entering Japan during COVID
In case you got lost…

Keep in mind ALL the toilet along the way will be closed, and you will not see an open toilet until Station 6 which could take hours, so make sure you do your toilet business in the airplane before you deplane.

Station 1: Checking Health Questionnaire and Written Pledge

The first station does two things: First, checking if you have filled out online health questionnaire. If you’ve filled it out before and have the QR code screenshot, you can just show this and walk past. If not, you’ll have to stop and fill out the form. The form requires you to know your flight number and seat number, so make sure you have that handy.

The second one is checking the written pledge, which if you’ve done before then they’ll just need to check that the form is properly signed. Then you can pass through!

This is why signing the forms ahead of time will save you time.

Station 2: Submit negative COVID test and COVID vaccinations (if any)

On the second station, we were required to submit our negative pre-departure test, which we took 2 days before the flight. Having the signed MOFA form really helped here – we were let through with no further questions, so I highly recommend spending the time to have it signed by the clinic you got your test from.

They also asked for our COVID vaccination proof if you have any. This step is optional. We got vaccinated in Singapore, so we just showed our government-issued digital vaccine certification on our phones, which I prepared beforehand.

Entering Japan during COVID
Retractable belts and arrow signs to let you know where you’re supposed to go next

Station 3: COVID test

The next station is the COVID test. Good news for us – In Japan, the test is not the invasive nasal swab, it’s the saliva test. We were just required to spit into a test tube which will be sealed and numbered. Remember this number for the test result later!

For young kids who cannot produce enough saliva, they unfortunately have to go through the nasal swab. Expect some tears and have their favorite toys ready.

Station 4: Install MySOS Apps

On the next station, we were prompted to install MySOS app. The staff spoke English and guided us to make sure our details are recorded in the app and that our phone settings are set correctly so that we will be able to receive notifications during quarantine. We also need to enable bluetooth.

If you’ve pre-installed the MySOS apps, this could save you time. Otherwise, there is wi-fi in Haneda – make sure you connect to the one that is NOT the 2.4GHz as that is the slower speed.

Station 5: Submit Written Pledge and briefing on quarantine

Next, we submitted the written pledge and was briefed on the quarantine period. This step should be easy enough. Please pay attention as the person will explain what you need to do during quarantine.

One important thing to remember from this step is that as soon as you reach your place of quarantine, you have to click on the “Check in” button (the third button on the MySOS app home screen) to mark your quarantine place.

Station 6: Wait for COVID test result

Finally – we reached the last station. There was nothing to do here aside of wait for our number to be called on the screen. There are a few vending machine for food / drinks and also (finally) a toilet in this area if you need one.

Entering Japan during COVID
Social distancing measure. You can only sit on alternate seats.

Once our number was displayed on the screen, meaning we have tested negative for COVID, we can proceed to the counter to receive a pink slip that indicates we have received a negative COVID test. It took us only about 20 minutes of waiting.

Entering Japan during COVID
We are negative!

After that, we were through to complete the normal immigration stuff. Though the entire process was long overall, things were happening really quickly and each station was so very clearly guided that I didn’t have time to think about anything else. I was actually surprised 1.5 hours had passed since we landed to the time we got to immigration.

Last steps: Immigration, pick up your luggage and customs

We went through immigration as we normally would – speak to an immigration officer, show our passport and the pink slip we received from the last station. We also had our biometrics (photo and fingerprints) taken, which was the normal immigration procedures.

Entering Japan during COVID
Entering Japan during COVID
Empty immigration hall

I should also note that there were practically no one in the immigration queue, which was a strange sight for me. The flight we took was a very popular route (red eye from Singapore) and normally we would be waiting in line for 20 minutes here.

Once we got through immigration, our luggage was already lined up neatly and waiting for us. All we had to do was submit the custom form as per normal, before we walked out of the airport… and into our quarantine.

Keep in mind you cannot take a public transport when you get out of the airport, so make sure you have arranged a private transport. You can book private transport from Haneda here. If you are coming from Narita, you can book a private transfer here.

Entering Japan during COVID
A masked Hello Kitty welcomed us to Tokyo

What happens during quarantine in Japan

During quarantine, we were checked at random times of the day through the MySOS app. This is why it’s important to have your phone not on silent mode and be beside you at all time for the entire 14 days.

There are three types of checks done through the MySOS app:

The “I’m Here” Check – This check just involves clicking on the “I’m here” button on the MySOS app home screen (the first button) if you are prompted. Within a few minutes after you receive the notification to do so. If you are too late in clicking the button, there will be a warning message displayed. I think what this does is simply send your location to make sure you aren’t too far from the declared place of quarantine.

The AI-operated video recording call – They will notify you a few minutes before this call comes. When the call comes, all you have to do is hold the phone such that your face is shown and your background is clearly showing where you are. The recording will last 30 seconds each time before it automatically terminates.

The In-person call – This check involves an actual person calling. If you do not speak english, the operator will speak Japanese too. The interface of the call looks like FaceTime call, except you cannot see the operator’s face, just a black box. In my case, the call did not last longer than a minute – they just wanted to see where I am.

In my experience, I was checked 3-4 times everyday. Usually, the check consists of two of the “I’m here” check, one AI-operated video recording, and one in-person call. On top of this, we are also required to do a daily health report (the middle button in the MySOS app home screen) where you declare whether you have a fever or COVID symptoms.

We cannot leave the quarantine place, unless there is a pressing need to do so – such as obtaining food if there are no food or groceries delivery around your place, or buying medicine, or other medical reasons. We’re a good, law abiding citizen, so of course we did not go out.

As we were coming from Singapore, we quarantined for 14 days at our place of residence. I thought it’s such a LONG time to be spent in one place… but having actually gone through it, it actually went by quite fast! I have to add that we were quite lucky that our place of residence is a house with balcony, otherwise I really don’t know how we would survive quarantine.

Shortening the quarantine to 10 days if you are fully vaccinated

First of all NOTE that this option is currently not available due to Omicron. We were lucky we entered Japan a few days before they decided to cancel this option. But, it might get reinstated in the future so I’ll document the process here anyway.

Basically if you have been fully vaccinated with certain vaccination, you MIGHT be able to shorten your quarantine to 10 days. You just have to take another test on your 10th day of quarantine, upload the result via MySOS app and you should be able to get out on your 11th day (view the official document here, but note it might be outdated)

Keep in mind you still cannot take a public transport to take the test, so look up where you can get the test near where you are quarantining. A popular test location is the Kinoshita Clinic in Haneda, which offers the quick 30-minute antigen test for 1,900 yen. If you don’t have a car, you can book private transport to Haneda here.

Once you’ve received the negative test certificate (In a form of a card about the size of a business card), you can take a photo of it and upload it to MySOS app under Settings > Application for Special Circumstances. In my case, I was approved for shortening the quarantine within 40 minutes of uploading the negative test certificate.

Ok, that’s all the information I have on entering Japan during COVID and the quarantine experience. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comment below!

Filed under: Japan, Travel Tips

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Hello! Welcome to Girl Eat World. I'm Melissa, the "Girl" in Girl Eat World. I run a popular Instagram account by the same name, @girleatworld, where I update my followers about my food and travel adventure. I love writing really long detailed blog posts about my travel experiences, which I'm guessing was how you ended up on this site! (Read more about me here)

5 Comments

  1. Hi Melissa this is super helpful thank you! I was wondering at what times do they usually check up on you with notifications? Is it generally during the morning/afternoon? Or is it completely random every day? If I take a nap and miss a notification is there a function to explain why I missed it?

    • Melissa says

      hey, in my experience it was both in the morning and afternoon. I don’t think it’s bad to miss the call once in awhile (I missed one or two while napping too), just make sure you don’t miss too many in succession.

      • Thank you so much! I feel a lot better now knowing that it won’t be the end if I accidentally miss a call. How did you prepare your meals? Did you order food everyday?

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