Japan reopens to Australian tourists

After two long years of isolation the country’s strict border rules are being gradually relaxed.

By Chris Ashton, May 18 2022
Japan reopens to Australian tourists

Japan will allow small groups of tourists on package tours into the country this month on an experimental basis, a first step in welcoming back the foreign travellers who have been shut out for most of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Travellers from Australia, the USA, Singapore and Thailand have received three vaccination shots and have medical insurance will be allowed in as small groups on package tours, the Japan Tourism Agency said in a statement on Tuesday.

Groups will need preset itineraries and must be accompanied by travel agency staff, it said, as reported by the Yomiuri newspaper earlier. 

Six travel agents such as JTB, Nippon Travel Agency and Jalpack will be participating in the experimental project, according to the Japan Tourism Agency. 

Japan already permits visitors from 106 countries, subject to an international arrival cap of 10,000 per day and limited to those visiting Japan for purposes other than tourism, such as business and study.

The government has been planning to reopen the country to tourists this summer, with local media reporting it’s making preparations to accept more visitors in June.

The reports said it plans to double the limit on arrivals from overseas to 20,000 people per day, and exempt some from testing upon arrival provided they test at their point of departure. 

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will need to manage the public’s expectations as he approaches an upper house election in late July that will test his mandate.

Border easing would be welcomed by Japan’s tourism industry, which has been urging the government to allow in more overseas visitors to take advantage of the weakening yen.

Until the pandemic, inbound travel was a rare bright spot for Japan’s economy as the number of foreign visitors expanded five-fold between 2011 and 2019.In the decade before the pandemic, tourism was an enormous success story as the number of foreign visitors ballooned five-fold.

By 2019, tourism contributed US$359 billion to Japan's GDP, making it the world's third-largest tourism market after the United States and China. But, largely due to Japan’s strict pandemic border measures, the number of foreign visitors plummeted from nearly 32 million in 2019 to just 250,000 last year, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

When the Japanese border does reopen, and its legendary hot springs and powder-white ski slopes can be enjoyed once again – along with an elegant array of luxury Tokyo hotels – Qantas, JAL and ANA will be ready to get you there.

While Qantas has pushed back the restart of flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Tokyo to September-October, there’s no doubt the airline would bring those flights forward should the chance arise.

All three routes will rely on Qantas' Airbus A330s, which feature 28 lie-flat Business Suites and 269 economy class seats, although there’s no premium economy on these regional workhorses.

Oneworld member Japan Airlines (JAL) and Virgin Australia partner ANA also fly between Sydney and Tokyo, while JAL also offered a Melbourne-Tokyo service before the pandemic.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg

UA

09 Mar 2016

Total posts 59

JAL has continued to serve NRT-MEL throughout COVID with a reduced schedule. So too, ANA with HND-SYD. ANA has made some cuts to its HND-SYD schedule and to some of its still-up-and-running European routes for the second quarter of 22. Even with Japan easing its entry requirements, I wouldn’t expect loads to get back to pre pandemic any time soon, if trans-Pacific and Euro routes from Oz in the past four weeks are any indication. Not that I’m complaining. The hordes in Japan fingering everything and everybody had reached maximum disgusting by the end of 2019.

21 Jul 2012

Total posts 128

JAL appears to only be running NRT-MEL once a week in March and then has discontinued it altogether for April and May.  Hopefully some of those flights come back as things open up.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 530

Thailand's "test and go" still involves a two day quarantine on days 1 and 5, but an industry group is calling for that to be scrapped. https://www.bangkokpost.com/business/2265883/govt-needs-to-lift-all-covid-curbs

Japan's entry scheme is essentially similar, but a bit more practical. That is, unless you come from a "low risk" country and have had three shots, which will allow you to enter quite freely. Tourists not yet allowed, but maybe by April?

10 Jan 2017

Total posts 10

Regarding Thailand, I've never seen such a bunch of entitled whingers when it comes to their Test & Go. What a mountain out of a molehill, especially since they have now lifted the pre-departure test.

1st night at a SHA hotel, yes a little more pricy but once your test comes back you are free to go. The 5th day test is not exactly enforced and the onus is on the traveler to be honest. 

Compared to Japan - I'm not going to bother going if a visa needs to be applied for, especially when there are some very good alternatives like South Korea.

06 Feb 2021

Total posts 46

I've read at least one article, (Japanese site, English language,) which indicated it's likely only group tours will be allowed in initially so they can keep track of where tourists are in case of an outbreak, before they open up to those of us who are independent travellers. 

I'd also not be surprised if they don't open up until after the cherry blossom season and Golden Week, (this year that's April 29 to May 5,) I'd say second half year is more likely. 

20 Feb 2022

Total posts 1

Urgh. Planned a 30th surprise trip for my fiance at end of march - that's clearly not going to happen (independent travellers). I cant even book tix with QF for MEL-HND; everything is via SYD, which makes me think things that may not be true haha. I am holding on now for QF to cancel my flights so I can get a refund and not a credit, although if they are open for business travellers I might not get that option :(

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Aug 2012

Total posts 215

And does Japan consider Australia is a country where Covid is under control?

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1036

It is hard to say.

Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not added Australia to its list of regions under "Denial of permission to entry" at any point during the pandemic, like it has many other places (like the US and EU).

The most recent update has removed Australia from the "Suspension of visa validity" list, nor is Australia (or any single state) currently listed on the "Reinforced quarantine measures" lists.

Australia is still on the "Suspension of visa exemption" list, so we wouldn't be able to just arrive at Japanese immigration as most Australians would have prior to Covid and currently require going through the normal visa process.


Japan currently has a complex quarantine period system requiring either 0, 3, 7 or 14 days in a mix of government quarantine and self isolation depending on a combination of travel history, post arrival covid test result and vaccination status.

With the current rules, people traveling from Australia who have had 3 doses of a vaccine have no quarantine requirement and people who have not had 3 doses require at least 3 days quarantine and a negative test.

It isn't clear if the 7 day public transport ban after arrival (except to get from airport to quarantine location) also applies to the 3 dose arrivals.

30 Jul 2015

Total posts 135

What???? Visa free travel suspended!!! I hope that by the time Japan let’s tourists in, visa free travel will be restored

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1036

Japan suspended their visa free travel system 2 years ago.

With how things are looking at the moment, I doubt they'll restart it at the same time as they reopen to tourists. I can see them requiring tourist visas for a few months first.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1087

Indonesia ditched its visa requirements last night.  Now anyone from Australia can enter through 7 different airports across the country and just obtain a visa-on-arrival after disembarking.  This is the same arrangement that has existed in Bali for the past month.  Indonesia also removed the requirement to have a PCR test on arrival but the requirement for a pre-departure test within 48 hours of departure remains.

26 Mar 2020

Total posts 45

I have a mate in Japan and the reason they not reopening is that the media over there is selling the whole "if we reopen borders to tourists we will have thousands of Japanese citizens dead from covid spiel" - similar retoric to what we had here last year 

04 Sep 2019

Total posts 28

Qantas just cancelled it QF 25 restart this morning

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Feb 2020

Total posts 6

Does anyone know if transit rules are impacted?

We're supposed to be flying LAX-HND-SYD-ADL, with a short transit at HND.

Our current understanding is that we can transit and don't have to even test to board the plane.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jun 2015

Total posts 32

Transit is fine as long as it's the same ticket, did that in January- FRA-HND-SYD. No covid related requirements, all up to your final destination i.e. Australia 

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

09 Jun 2016

Total posts 2

Been in Japan for 3 weeks now on Holidays with my wife, after a few days I thought to myself “what pandemic” as life is as normal in Japan, no capacity limits, crowded trains and streets life is normal and great to see. Been traveling here very regularly for 10 years and have found no difference in way of life here right now.

Have all your documents ready before arriving the process at the airport (NRT or HND) is complex but smooth. Get the apps especially fast track and have everything upload prior to arrival this will save you a lot of time and stuffing around took us around 1 hours for testing, document checks, immigration etc. If you don’t have your documents ready prepare for lengthy delays. Also depending on time of arrival they may or may not hold you on board the plane until the processing lines have cleared. 

You will also find that cash is not king here anymore as cards are welcomed more often and in more places. 

As for packaged tours…..yeah no thanks, because the best places to visit are the back streets and the country areas NOT regularly visited by organized tours, if I was a tourist wanting to come here save your money and hold for a few months until regular tourism kicks on.

24 Jun 2016

Total posts 7

Err, how did you get in in the first place? If they're not allowing in tourists right now, I can only imagine you had some sort of business trip at the same time to justify the entry to Japan to the immigration authorities...

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1036

"accompanied by a tour guide" = incredibly boring holiday.

I travel solo. The only times a tour guide is acceptable on a trip is for things like "back of house tours of x venue"

The "go where tour guide says, when tour guide says" nature of tour groups is the least interesting type of trip that is possible.

07 May 2015

Total posts 30

You do understand that this is just an initial short-term measure, right? The reopening of Japan has got to start somewhere. I agree that most people here prefer their own itineraries but you really come off as short-sighted and negative here, Himeno, chiming in about how boring these tours are, least interesting type of tour possible, unacceptable to you. Well this is not only a first step in Japan's reopening but these trips do actually have a lot of appeal to a lot of people. Maybe they are not your thing but there's no need to come in carping like that. I'm sure you can go to Japan and do your own thing before too long. This is just a first step.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Oct 2012

Total posts 124

Hi All 

I'm wondering if anyone has any info  about transiting pax rules in Japan ?

My flight is leaving Paris 1st Sept with transit in Japan then to Sydney 

Any info greatly appreciated

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Nov 2019

Total posts 82

I just arrived Ex Melb into Tokyo with ease, for business (APEC card helps) JAL was great, minimal apps and drama at the arrivals, just have your vax and japan app, and your good to go. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Mar 2016

Total posts 53

I am flying from Sydney to London with JAL on the 28th May and back from Paris on the 30th August and at the moment you are free to transit in Japan provided you do so at the same airport. At this stage the Paris flight arrives at Haneda and the flight to Sydney departs Haneda so there is no problem. I have heard that some pax have been denied boarding at their point of origin when their arriving flight lands at Narita and the onward flight leaves from Haneda or VV as to get between the airports you are entering Japan.

The only issue with JAL at the moment is that some of European services are not operating at full schedule and they are cancelling some of the Paris, Frankfurt, Helsinki and 2nd daily London service because of Russia flight bans and the flights that are operating are taking an extra 2-3 hours as some now go east over the Pacific, Alaska, Canada and Greenland and some are flying a southern route west over China, Mongolia and former Russian states.

As for the fully escorted group tour scenario they are proposing which is only an interim measure but it takes me back to when China first opened up and you could only travel with an official government "tour guide" and couldn't freely wander about the city.  

fares right now for late Dec/Jan to Japan seem very very high, cf. USA where can get to for roughly $1500 return SYD/LAX direct.


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