Three years after the border closure followed by the COVID-19 outbreak, Japan finally opened its borders for visa-free travel for travelers from many countries, and you wonder, “what has changed?”. So, here is a list of changes and new guidelines to help you when visiting Japan.
- Entry requirements
- JR Pass
- While riding a train
COVID-19 Vaccination or Negative Testing
Currently, the Japanese government requires travelers to receive and complete the three COVID-19 vaccinations or to provide negative testing.
COVID-19: Current Japanese Border Measures
You want to download Web Japan and complete the border immigration and customs declaration forms online prior to landing. Once all the forms are completed (it may take a day or two for a review, at which point, your screen color turns to BLUE from PINK), have them accessible and ready to show them to immigration personnel upon arrival. You will need two different QR codes, one for immigration and the other for custom declaration. Free wi-fi is available at the airport.
Visit Japan Web
Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass)
Here are a few changes to the previous JR Pass:
- A new JR Pass looks like a regular ticket, with a QR code. No more three-folding booklet kind.
- May purchase tickets and reserve seats at a regular ticket machine. It’s pretty easy except you must enter your passport numbers each time. You may also purchase and reserve tickets at any JR ticket office.
- Use an automatic ticket gate instead of showing the JR Pass to JR personnel.
While Riding a Train
When riding Tokaido, Sanyo, and Kyushu Shinkansen, you must reserve a seat with oversized baggage and pay an additional fee. The non-oversized luggage must be stored in an overhead compartment.
On a personal note-
Please note that they do enforce the new regulations. On my last trip, a conductor ticketed a couple for leaving oversized luggage near the entrance without a valid ticket, so please follow the guidelines.
Reservations for Seats with an Oversized Baggage Area
Mask wearing / refrain from talking / no turning seat
It might seem excessive, but travelers are asked to wear a mask while riding a train in Japan and refrain from talking loudly. Also, travelers are requested not to turn seats in the Shinkansen.
None of the above changes posed any challenges or difficulties while traveling. The trains’ announcements were much clearer and to the point, which you might find helpful. I wore my mask everywhere except on my morning strolls and sometimes outside when there were a few people around me. There were some hotels and other admissions where they checked my temperature, but I was okay with that.
Happy travel, once again!