What it’s like to travel to Japan from the US (June 2022)

Japan is looking like it’s finally opening up! On June 10, 2022, Japan will be accepting tourists on guided group tours. It’s also accepting business travelers. So you might be wondering: what is it like to travel to Japan from the US in June 2022? Here’s my experience.

*Disclaimer: This was written in June 2022, and I think we’re all aware of how fast rules can change. Please check with official sources of information before traveling! The Japanese Consulate in Boston is one of my go-to sources because I am a New Englander, but there are many others.

Onwards!

I. Before boarding the flight to Japan

Photo by Mufid Majnun

Step 1: Be eligible to enter Japan

This kind of goes without saying, but make sure you’re eligible to enter the country. I qualified because I am technically still a Japanese citizen. They have stricter rules for foreign nationals, which are outlined in this document by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. New additions to the eligibility are below.

〈From 0:00 am (JST) on June 10, 2022〉

(1) Foreign nationals newly entering Japan for a short-term stay (less than three months) for purposes including business and employment

(2) Foreign nationals newly entering Japan for a short-term stay for tourism (only when a travel agency among others organizing the trip serves as the receiving organization of the entrants) (note)

(3) Foreign nationals newly entering Japan for a long-term stay

(Note) Foreign nationals fall under (1), (2), or (3) are required receiving organizations located in Japan.

(Note) Foreign nationals who will be allowed new entry into Japan for the category of the abovementioned (2) will be limited to those who will enter from the countries/regions classified as “Blue” based on the New Border Measures (28) (May 20, 2022, hereinafter referred to as “the Measures (28)” ) The measures will apply only when the country/region in which the entrants stayed within 14 days before the day of application for landing on Japan falls into the group “Blue” based on the Measures (28).

Step 2: Get a Covid-19 test 72 hours before your flight

You’ll still need a Covid test 72 hours before your flight’s time.

That said, rules have been relaxed. As of June 10, 2022, you no longer need the Japanese government’s template filled out to a T, as long as you’re using their Fast Track registration, which must be completed at least 6 hours before your flight’s arrival time.

This involves installing an app called MySOS, so definitely do this when you have WiFi – don’t wait until your flight!

For the Covid test, the required items are:

(1) Name, date of birth
(2) Specimen collected, test method (limited to specimens (Note 1) and test methods (Note
2) that are recognized as valid)
(3) Result, date and time of specimen collection (Note 3), date of issuance of the certificate
(4) Name of medical institution

https://www.mhlw.go.jp/content/000905811.pdf

You no longer need a passport number, nationality, or sex on your covid test result.

As of June 10, 2022, some of the items such as “Passport Number,” “Nationality,” and “Sex,”
have been removed from the items to be included in the certificate, and the template (which
used to be called “Prescribed Format”) has been revised.

Children under 6 are not required to have a test result, as long as they’re accompanied by caregivers who have a negative test result.

Previously, they wanted everyone (including babies) to get a test in order to travel to Japan, so this is a welcome change.

We request that children also obtain a certificate.
However, in consideration of the fact that many countries do not test preschool-aged children
as part of their system, children (generally under the age of 6) do not need to have a certificate,
as long as they are accompanied by caregivers, including parents who obtain negative testing
certificates.

These are my highlights, but for more information, check out the official FAQ from the government.

How I got my Covid test: by asking my primary care doctor

I have health insurance in the United States, so I decided to message my primary care doctor and see if it would fly (pun intended). The worst possible outcome was that they’d decline. And guess what? They said “okay”!

I was fortunate to have avoided paying hundreds of dollars on a Covid test for travel purposes because many places will not advertise it. Some may outwardly say “we don’t do Covid tests for travel.”

I encourage you to simply call your PCP and ask if you can get a Covid test for travel. You can get your results electronically, and as long as it includes the 4 requirements mentioned above, it shouldn’t be a problem.

My doctor uses the MyEpic system, which gives you the option to print to PDF. That’s what I submitted on the MySOS app and it got approved just fine. One more box checked for traveling to Japan!

Step 3: Use the “Fast Track” entry method with the MySOS app

Before you board your plane, you’ll want to use their Fast Track registration. It must be completed at least 6 hours before your flight’s arrival time. It involves installing an app called MySOS, as well as some document uploading, so definitely do this when you have WiFi – don’t wait until your flight!

As of June 2022, there are 4 main things you’ll need to do:

  1. Put in your passport, hotel address, and flight information
  2. Sign off on a pledge saying you’ll abide by the government rules for quarantine
  3. Upload your proof of Covid vaccination
  4. Upload your Covid negative test result

And go do it! The instructions on the app are pretty straightforward.

II. En route to Tokyo, Japan from the US

A person in every seat on my Japan Airlines flight

What is it like on the plane to Japan from the US?

My flight to Tokyo out of the US was, surprisingly, at full capacity. At first, I wondered if everyone’s final destination was really Tokyo, because, if a full flight on a random Thursday, that would suggest Japan was allowing in a lot of foreigners.

However, it turned out that maybe 90% of the people on the flight were headed to connecting flights. Only a handful of people went to the arrivals at Narita. At this point in June 2022, Japan didn’t seem like the prime tourist destination it was pre-pandemic.

That said, it kind of sucked to have a full flight. Back in September 2021, there were only about 9 people on the flight. That meant I could take up the whole row to lie down and sleep, and the service was better. Oh well.

So expect a full flight even if most of the people on it aren’t even going to Japan.

III. After landing in Tokyo, Japan from the US

Photo by Lourdes Tan

What is it like after landing in Japan?

Because I had completed the “Fast Track” method with the MySOS app on my phone, it was fast and easy. I was due to land at 4:15pm, and I was out of the arrival lobby by 5:00pm.

Make sure to charge your phone battery enough on the flight, because you’ll be showing that app screen to multiple officers as soon as you land!

What is it like in Narita Airport now?

Most of the shops in Narita Airport are currently temporarily closed. It’s kind of a sad sight, with all the shutters down. Pre-Covid, I’d wander around a little bit just to see what was available, but my suggestion now is to breeze past and just go to your accommodation. Nothing much to see there, folks.

What is it like getting out of Narita Airport?

If you’re fully vaccinated and boostered, you’re free from quarantine and transportation constraints! That means you can use trains, the most popular mode of transport in Tokyo, and start exploring from day one.

If you do have to quarantine, though, you’ll generally need to book a personal car hire service (anywhere between 10,000 – 40,000 yen depending on your destination) or ask a friend to come to drive you. If you’re quarantining at a government-specified hotel, they’ll provide the transportation.

Conclusion

Here are a few takeaways from my experience traveling to Japan from the US in June 2022.

  1. Japan is opening for guided group tours.
  2. You still need a Covid test to get into Japan.
  3. Getting a Covid test for travel doesn’t need to cost you money. Try asking your doctor first.
  4. If you’re fully vaccinated and have a booster, you no longer need to quarantine.
  5. Fully vaccinated and boostered people can use public transportation, i.e. the trains (goodbye, $300 limos!)
  6. While flights may be packed, that doesn’t necessarily mean Japan is swimming with foreign tourists right now.

I hope this helps gives you some perspective on what to expect. When you’ve arrived, check out more of what’s available in Tokyo, Kyoto, and more. Safe travels!