Japan May Restart Tourism In April 2021

Filed Under: Travel

Japan is an incredible country, and it’s probably the place I’m most excited to return to when the time is right. In April 2020, Japan introduced a travel ban indefinitely, preventing most tourists from visiting (currently visitors from 159 countries are banned).

I know many of us have been wondering when the country will reopen, and there’s an update on that front, even if it’s not very concrete…

Japan could open to visitors in April 2021

The Japan Times has the story of the proposals that the Japanese government is considering for restarting tourism. Keep in mind that Japan was supposed to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, but the event has been delayed by a year, meaning it’s now expected to take place next summer.

Japan is considering a proposal whereby it would reopen to tourists as of April 2021, with quite a few conditions. With the plan that’s under consideration:

  • Tourists would need to get a negative coronavirus test prior to travel
  • They’d then need to buy private medical insurance for their time in Japan, and download a contact tracing app
  • Upon arrival in Japan, another coronavirus test would be required
  • While there would be no quarantine, travelers would still need to report their health conditions via an app for 14 days
  • The government would set up health consultation centers for tourists to deal with coronavirus, so there’s not too much of a strain on other resources

It’s not expected that a plan will be finalized until January 2021, and that will take into account infection rates both in Japan and abroad.

Japan could reopen to visitors in April 2021

Tourist numbers could still be limited

The concept of getting double tested isn’t a deal-breaker (or unreasonable, for that matter). However, it sounds like even with the above restrictions, there may still be significant limitations on visitors:

  • The country may initially limit tourists, and it hasn’t yet been decided how those limits will be set
  • We could see tourism initially only allowed for those traveling to the Olympics, and not others (though one has to wonder just how many people will be attending the Olympics in light of conditions)

Could Japan initially restrict tourism to those going to the Olympics?

Bottom line

While Japan is working towards eventually reopening borders, it looks like that will happen in April 2021 at the earliest, at which point the country will have been closed for a year.

It’s anyone’s guess what kind of a plan the country eventually decides on, though as of now the concept of double testing is being considered. Furthermore, it sounds like visitor numbers may initially be quite limited, with those coming to the Olympics being prioritized.

Japan is a country that many people love, so I figure it was worth an update, even if the country opening to tourists isn’t imminent.

When do you think Japan will finally open to visitors?

  1. I think the plan is solid! I’m willing to submit to the terms and conditions in exchange for travel.

  2. Seems crazy to plan out like this for April. This seems more of a reopening plan if you were to do it in the next month or two. Given trajectory of therapies and vaccines I would hope we are past the regimen they are suggesting by April.

  3. Can’t wait to resume my frequent flights in First (paid ticket) with Japan Airlines.
    When in Tokyo or Osaka I usually stay either at a suite in a Conrad or the Ritz-Carlton

  4. Well…considering I’m scheduled to visit Japan from April 1st to April 8th, I’m going to preemptively guess that this won’t be in place by then. There goes my 3rd international trip within a year! 🙁

    I’d be fine with the double COVID tests and app, but I would imagine that private medical insurance would be pretty pricey.

  5. For April, surely this is a plan for “what if we don’t have a vaccine?” I can’t imagine a scenario where a reasonably effective vaccine exists that doesn’t involve one way of getting in to be to show your vaccine card a la a Yellow Fever card.

  6. So much can & will change in the meantime, I would just stay patient and don’t arrange any non-refundable/prepaid travel.

  7. Yes welcome back Endre. After these months off and all the uncertainty, I’m sure you will book unrestricted F fares right?

  8. Already booked a trip for early Feb in ANA F. lets hope the Vaccine gets out ASAP. otherwise i will have to cancel…

  9. My only concern with this plan is the potential cost of private insurance otherwise I would submit to those rules. Still I worry about testing negative a few days before the flight but testing positive upon arrival scenario, that would suck and then what?

  10. April seems too early if there’s still no vaccine but it’s good for Japan to start planning now. I have an ANA F flight in July so am hoping it won’t be canceled. Fingers crossed.

  11. The no quarantine bit would make it easier at the cost of getting tested and needing travel/medical insurance. Think it’s a good balance there.

    Even if I can get in the country right now with my family being over there, not being able to use public transportation would mean spending 14 days in Tokyo at a hotel or medical facility, rather than starting the 14 day quarantine at home in Hokkaido at my final destination.

  12. Japan containment of virus is terrible for their standard compared to korean, Taiwanese or even Singapore. Luckily japanese are considerate and they even wear masks even for common cold. How i wish if america has an ounce of willingness to beat the virus like these asian countries we would be traveling by now. Japan, korea, china, Singapore will soon have travel bubble. How nice..

  13. Much of east Asia has minimal Covid-19, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific countries, even China. This potential opening up of travel is still some time off, but it’s not hard to imagine a low risk travel zone.

  14. KLMGA – I’m with you on that sentiment. If more Americans traveled abroad and broadened their perspectives, perhaps we be more acclimated towards wearing masks and taking this virus seriously. Part of becoming a better country is learning from others, instead of simply saying we’re (US) the best and everyone sucks. Realize that the world is very big, and there’s so much we can learn from one another. Such a mindset is beyond comprehension for 41% of Americans.

  15. Can you actually transfer in Japan? Not entering the country? On the way to other Asian destinations?

  16. Wishful thinking. Hey, denialists: no vaccine will be in wide distribution until late 2021. If you find some loophole to get a vaccine early (go ahead, enjoy that untested Russian vaccine…) that don’t mean squat. The vaccine only “works” to control the pandemic when a critical mass of humanity has it. That won’t be in time for next summer’s Olympics (if they happen). Only Trumpist morons will be doing any leisure travel much before Q4 2021. Dream on, orange ones.

    Now, folks from countries with a rational, functioning government will certainly be traveling around the world next spring. But not people from one of the “red” countries like the USA that has pretended the pandemic is a hoax. We’ve lost a year because of the collective stupidity here.

  17. I had the Flying Honu booked in March, but that’s at least a flexible ticket so annoying but NBD if I have to cancel. More worrying (in more ways than one!) is the cruise I booked 1.5 years ago leaving out of Tokyo in May. No idea if Japan or small cruise lines will be open to Americans by then…

  18. After visiting Japan 2-3 times a year for several years – almost all for business – I am fine to return but I do not see this happening any time soon. I will also pass on jumping through the hoops to purchase extra insurance, communicating through an app, etc.

  19. Well, at least they have a plan! Unlike many other governments, which seem to have no vision to restart traveling … Personally, I’m happy to travel with the current measures in place and I’m willing to take a COVID test if this is what I’m missing.

    But on general, it seems that international travel has been hijacked by nationalist rather than epidemiological ideas, I’m afraid.

  20. I got international health insurance for a trip last month. For 10 days and with $500,000 of medical coverage it cost $40. Covered all kinds of accidents and pre-existing and COVID. Included $1,000,000 medical evacuation too. So I wouldn’t be worried about the insurance, it’s affordable.

  21. I think the Olympics without the usual overbearing crowds will still appeal to many. Of course a lot of factors are variable so planning is almost impossible.

  22. While it sounds crazy to plan for something this far into the future, but weren’t we so sure covid would go away in 6 months back in March? I also understand why Japan needs to start some trial period in April before opening up for Olympics in July/August.
    But the only constant thing is change, would a plan like this work 2 months from now? Nobody knows.

  23. Welp, there go my December and March first class ANA awards. At least VA is reasonable with change / cancellation fees.

  24. @KLMGA, overall I would say Japan has done an excellent job containing the virus. I lived there until last week, and the contact tracing and follow-up testing were excellent. Plus mask wearing and practices in grocery stores etc are rigorous.

    I expect Japan will prioritize business travel over tourism, which will enable them to get the protocols in place that can be used with tourists. Business travel with certain Asian countries is already starting.

    Overall volume testing is Japan’s greatest weakness, but fortunately the low level of infections, hospitalization and deaths has meant volume testing was not pushed to the limits.

  25. I am planning on attending Tokyo 2020ne. I have event tickets, flights, and hotel booked. I think these precautions seem reasonable.

    My biggest concern would be getting a negative test and hopping on the plane just to test positive upon arrival. I am not sure what would happen then (I would want more information on that). The pre-flight testing makes sense because if i test positive 2 days before I can at least cancel things and recover at home.

  26. So you get there and it turns out someone on the plane you come in on tests positive for covid, does that mean that you now have a nice 14 day quarantine at your own expense in japan blowing your entire vacation? I wouldn’t put it past some covidiot to get on the plane and place others at risk. Also, there is reporting in Japan of businesses refusing admission/service to foreigners because they think foreigners carry the virus. They are doing it to people who actually live in Japan. There is a massive risk when it comes to travel to countries that demand a test after you come off the plane, so I would want to know exactly how they are handling that type of situation before I even think about heading to a foreign country.

  27. I will be flying on my plane (owned, not chartered). Hoping the FBO does not also have these pedestrian hassles!

  28. @Notbad41

    Seriously, is Endre serious? I can’t imagine a fully grown, mentally stable adult is that obnoxious.

  29. I heard if you test positive on arrival, you are escorted straight to the hospital via a biohazard transport team, for a minimum of 2 weeks (it’s mandatory, sort of like hospital prison). They are not going to chain you with handcuffs to the bed or anything like that, but police will be stationed at the hospital making sure you don’t leave, plus yo it passport gets confiscated.
    So… that is something to think about…

  30. @Fonzi

    Yes, you can transit in Japan. You just can’t change between Haneda and Narita, so it needs to be a same airport connection.

  31. No thanks. I’ll go somewhere which doesn’t require testing. Like Brazil & Mexico. Already had IT – more symptoms for 1 month max, and I think I just cleared up the more aggressive G strain – with nary a symptom. Looking forward to the V483A antibody neutralizing version someday!

    Keep pinning all your hopes on a magical potion.

    Testing is semi-pointless. Just read that story…seen many times before. All these false negatives & positives. Whatever.


  32. Chances of an effective vaccine that the general public will get and will affect public policy by April: Zero. By June: Zero.

    Have any doubts? Too bad. Chances are Zero. Might as well know know.

    Lots of other things can change tho. Mostly, that Japan has billions invested in the Olympics and may open up despite some Corona going around.

  33. If testing on arrival becomes a requirement, they might as well keep the country closed for tourists.

  34. The Olympics thing is nothing but an ugly political show.Waste money and do bad things to environment.

  35. Good news for those of you who can leave your country and travel. The Australian international borders won’t open for its citizens to leave until December 21 or later depending on a vaccine. Even our state borders are closed. Melbourne is down to 6 cases today and we are still locked down. Can’t travel more than 5km from our home and no visiting friends or family.

  36. @ Ben — I think it is all about a vaccine at this point — a real one, not snake oil sold by Orange Hitler.

  37. That would be wonderful and hopefully I can get a trip in before “covid 2023” or whatever disease comes next.

    I hate to be pessimistic, but I believe international travel will have a very short reopening and return to normal.

    Regardless of any individuals thoughts on the appropriateness of lockdowns and travel bans as a response to this disease, I think we all need to realize that the level of travel we as a community have enjoyed will never return completely.

    Faucci already wrote an article talking about “the pandemic era”. According to his view we now live in an era that requires dramatic changes to how we live our lives. Pandemics will just keep emerging every few years.

    Personally, I think that’s complete BS. Unfortunately my opinion doesn’t matter and neither does any other average person’s.

    We’ve seen the gameplan. We know how the world’s governments are going to react to any new disease now. Shutdowns of economies and borders for extended periods of time. Highly restricted international travel for extended periods of time. This is how it’s going to be. This was our reaction to a disease with a fatality rate well under 1%, with the average victim being about 78 years old. There’s no reason to think it will be any different for the next one.

    This is the narrative we will be hearing: We now live in an era where pandemics emerge regularly. Therefore we must fundamentally change our societies and ways of life to deal with the threat. One of the casualties will be large scale, easily accessible international travel. This depresses me greatly of course, and I do not agree with it, but it’s almost certainly what we will be told.

    I predict a short return to normal international travel beginning between in the late spring next year. Things will continue to normalize for a year or two after that. About 2023 we’ll be traveling more or less like we did before. Then, 2024 maybe 2025, the next one hits. Then it’s over. The exact timeline isn’t important. You will be told that this clearly demonstrates the need for fundamental change. This will effect every aspect of society, and it will hit our little hobby quite severely.

    That’s the endpoint for international travel as we knew it. “Covid-24” or whatever it is will be the nail in the coffin. It will no longer even be socially acceptable to consider traveling around the world in a jet simply for pleasure. Mass travel will be done. Airlines that survive this crisis will collapse completely or be forced to downsize dramatically due to the “new normal”, a phrase I despise. Many will probably become more or less state enterprises simply to accommodate “necessary” travel.

    The days of average everyday people like you and me hopping on a plane to Japan like it’s just another daily activity though, that will be over.

    International travel will still occur of course. Government approved “necessary” travel for big businesses and government officials, etc. The leisure market will exist too, just in a much smaller and more expensive format. For the rich and the well connected. I envision a scenario where most if not all international travel is by private or chartered flight, not regularly scheduled passenger service. There will probably be some regularly scheduled flights between for example NYC and London. Other major markets too. Probably at much higher prices then we’re used too. And “paying” with points? Ha, that’ll be a distant memory. An international leisure trip will require massive amounts of planning and documentation. Tons of hoops to jump through and forms to fill out. And formal approval from both governments before hand. Then it will cost you an absurd amount to actually get somewhere.

    I hope I’m wrong. My advice though, burn your points quick. Go everywhere you want as quickly as you can. Don’t wait around for saver level fares anymore. You only have a very limited opportunity to travel “normally” again. So don’t put off any trips. Don’t take it for granted that you can always go another time. Make a list and get wherever you want to go as soon as you possibly can. Book that dream flight in 1st class as soon as those borders open up, because they’re going to close again and probably forever next time.

    Goodnight and good luck fellow points enthusiasts. It was fun while it lasted.

  38. @Elijah

    What your government is doing right now is disgusting. It is a massive violation of your rights as an individual. Reasonable people can disagree on how society should respond to covid but what is happening in Australia is completely unacceptable. I feel so bad for you down there. Arresting pregnant women for anti-lockdown posts on facebook. Arresting old women for not wearing a mask on a park bench. Telling citizens they’re only allowed outdoors for limited periods of time and at certain distances from their homes. Those are the actions of an oppressive regime, not a government of free people.

    The protests against lockdowns there are inspirational and brave. I wish you the best of luck and if they ever attempt to impose lockdowns that extreme im my country, I hope we have the courage to stand up and resist as well.

  39. Thank you, Japan but no, thank you.
    This country always had a quite “special” attitude towards foreigners and now it shows again.

  40. Relax people!!! We, peace loving people will sure get to enjoy our freedom back after this plandemic ok, sure it will soon become a past.

  41. So good affect. I wish you the best of luck and if they ever attempt to impose lockdowns that extreme in my country.

  42. Lucky – can you write about the one-off flights ANA is doing from ORD, SFO and LAX in March? For “meeting specific travel demands”.

  43. marlene well my son lives there has for 5 years we now have tickets for 2 seniors that have been vacinated and 2 college students, have private insurance, hotel ..why would they sell tickets for april 1 if it isnt opening.We have no problem with app.Oh my husband did medical research..long time ago could he be considered essential worker..

  44. I don’t have any hopes for a 2021 reopening 🙂 Japan usually moves slow and is very bureaucratic

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