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COVID-19 Update

COVID-19 Update

Last Updated: November 30, 2020

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COVID-19 has had a significant impact on travel to and from Japan and is likely to have an ongoing affect on life here for some time yet. The following page is intended to provide accurate and relevant information for people planning to visit Japan from aboard, along with those already here and planning to travel between prefectures for tourism purposes. This page includes the following information

1 / Latest news and statistics re COVID-19 in Japan

2 / Reliable foreign language information sources

3 / Important information re understanding Japan’s COVID-19 response

4 / Timeline of COVID-19 in Japan

The information provided on this page is intended for international travelers. It is taken from reliable and reputable sources, intended as a snapshot of what is happening in Japan, to help you make an informed decision about travelling here. As such, information not specifically relevant to international travelers – for example, information regarding government financial hand-outs – is not provided.

Latest news and statistics re COVID-19 in Japan


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As of November 30th 2020, Japan is reporting*:

Total recorded infections: 147,498

Total recorded deaths: 2057

The above data is taken from the covid19japan.com website, which also includes the numbers by prefecture. Understanding Japan’s prefectural system is relevant for international travelers during COVID-19, as the conditions and implications between each of the 47 prefectures can vary greatly. For further information, please refer to the information below.

*We update reported numbers every Monday.

Latest news:

Nov 30 2020: as of today, nationals of China are eligible to travel to Japan under the ‘Business Track’, joining nationals of Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam. For further details, see our ‘Who Can Travel To Japan & What’s Required?’ page.

Nov 26 2020: the government has signalled that if the nationwide spread of COVID-19 infections is not reduced in the coming three weeks, they will have no choice but to declare another ‘state of emergency’. While no official decision has been made, the announcement puts the country on notice that should the situation not improve, a state of emergency will be reintroduced to at least some regions. With the rate of COVID-19 infections increasing at a concerning rate in areas including Tokyo, Osaka and Hokkaido, should a state of emergency be reintroduced it will be the first time since May 25 2020. We will update this page should any further announcement be made.

Nov 24 2020: news outlet Bloomberg has released a report into the countries which have handled COVID-19 most efficiently with the least disruption to daily life and their economies.  Ranking 53 countries with economies of over $200 billion on 10 metrics including the overall spread of the virus, mortality rate, the capacity of the health system and affect on the economy, the research ranked New Zealand first,  Japan second and Taiwan third – a notable achievement in a country of around 126 million, compared to New Zealand’s 5 million and Taiwan’s 24 million. The report cites Japan’s previous handling of tuberculosis outbreaks and existing facilities and contact tracing which have been effectively redeployed to tackle COVID-19. It also cites Japan’s high levels of social trust and general compliance of its people in following health advice regarding social distancing, general behaviour and use of personal protection equipment such as masks.

Nov 9 2020: the government has agreed to the resumption of short and long-term business travel from China from the middle of November onward, under the ‘Business Track’ currently open to nationals of Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam. The date on which this will come into effect has not yet been confirmed. We will update our pages once that information is available.

Nov 5 2020: as anticipated in our update on Sept-30, Japan has lowered the travel advisory from Level 3 to Level 2, for countries including Australia, Brunei, China including Hong Kong and Macau New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Japanese nationals and foreign residents of Japan will be able to travel to these countries – at this time, only for business purposes – and have the 14-day isolation period waived upon their return so long as there trip is less than 7-days in duration and other requirements are met.

Entry to Japan/travel bans:

Due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, some passport holders are currently banned from entering Japan. Please refer to the following website for a list of foreign national/passport-holders affected by the restrictions.

Reliable foreign language information sources


When reading about COVID-19 in Japan, we encourage you to refer to reputable sources. We recommend the following websites:

NHK

As the national broadcaster in Japan, NHK is a good news resource including TV and radio services: https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/.

The Japan Times

National newspaper with an English language website: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/.go

JNTO COVID-19 Advisory

The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) website provides up-to-date information for travellers including entry requirements/bans: https://www.japan.travel/en/coronavirus/.

JNTO Japan Safe Travel Twitter

The JNTO maintains a Twitter account providing real-time information relevant to travel in Japan: https://twitter.com/JapanSafeTravel.

Snow Monkey Resorts

Based in Nagano and operating all year round, we will continue to provide updates and information regarding the impact of COVID-19 in Central Japan: https://www.snowmonkeyresorts.com/.

Important information re understanding Japan’s COVID-19 response


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To date, Japan has implemented a range of measures at both national and local levels to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In order to understand Japan’s response, it’s worth briefly explaining how the country is administered and importantly, its division into 47 administrative prefectures. Understanding what and where these prefectures are, and how they are controlled, is relevant to international travelers during COVID-19 as what applies to one may not apply to another.

Overview of Japan’s administration

The administration of Japan is divided into three levels: national, prefectural and municipal. At the national level, the Japanese Government controls the country from the national parliament in Tokyo. Japan is a democratic country with regular elections to determine its representatives and the ruling party.

Beneath the national government, Japan is divided into 47 ‘prefectures’ ranging in size and population. Hokkaido is the largest while Tokyo – the third smallest prefecture – has the largest population. Prefectures are then subdivided into municipal categories i.e. cities, towns, etc. – the third level of administration.

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Travelers headed to Central Japan might be interested to know that Nagano is the fourth largest prefecture with the sixteenth largest population. It is however very much a rural prefecture and people are spread-out, meaning that Nagano has one of Japan’s lowest population densities, a fact that works in its favour when attempting  to stop the spread of COVID-19.

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The national government is obviously the most important administrative body in the country however the constitution also affords significant responsibility to each prefecture including education, labour, social welfare and health. While there is variation between prefectures in their administrative functions – i.e. taxes, schools, business conditions, etc. – most do not impact on international traveler.

The prefectures have the power to go their own way but it is important to note that the national government supplies the prefectures with up to 60% of their funding, which can be used a means of directing prefectural governments to follow the national agenda including closure of business and public facilities through declaration of a ‘state of emergency.

How is this relevant to international travelers?

For the most part, you won’t notice anything! But in the time of COVID-19, it’s worth noting:

1 / the national government determines who can enter Japan, for how long, and any requirements i.e. mandatory quarantine entrants are subject to. For further information, please refer to our ‘Traveling to/from Japan during COVID-19’ page.

2 / the 47 prefectures vary significantly in their make-up and impact of COVID-19. Restrictions placed on one will not necessarily apply to another. This is particularly relevant to ‘state of emergency’ status, which have until now applied longer to only a small number of prefectures, rather than the whole country.

To date, COVID-19 has had a varied impact across the prefectures and it is worthwhile looking at the data by region. For further information, please refer to our ‘Traveling inside Japan during COVID-19’ page.

3  / and very importantly, to-date, the Japanese government has not enforced a lock-down on any area of the country. State of emergency declarations have applied to various prefecture and the entire country for different periods of time, under which closure of businesses etc. were requested however at no time has Japan been under a forced lock-down.

Why hasn’t Japan enforced a lock-down?

In response to the spread of COVID-19 in Japan, the national government revised an existing law – the Act on Special Measures Against Swine Influenza – in order to define and make state of emergency declarations; first applied to Hokkaido, followed by Tokyo and a small number of prefectures before eventually being extended to the entire country on Apr. 16 2020.

Originally designed in response to swine flu, the law provides guidance for which business and facilities should be requested to close but does not include powers to enforce closures – as it was not considered necessary when the law was first drafted in response to swine flu. As such, the current law does not provide the government with the power to forcibly shut businesses and facilities. Nor is there provision to punish those who ignore requests to close, stay at home, etc.

As result, Japan has never been in forced lock-down. It is important to note however, the ruling LDP has control of both houses of parliament and could therefore (if required) revise or pass a new law which includes the power to enforce lock-down of Japan.  To date, it has not been considered necessary and as of May 25 2020, a state of emergency no longer applies to any prefecture.

Japan’s health system

Japan has one of the world’s best public health systems, evidenced in the fact that Japan is the longest living country in the world. As the oldest country in the world, there were serious concerns at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak about the potential impact of a pandemic on Japan’s ageing society, and the ability of the health system to respond.

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International travelers to Japan can take confidence that they are coming to a country with one of the world’s best health systems and highest standards of care. However, given the considerable strain COVID-19 is placing on health systems and medical facilities around the world, it is important to understand what to expect and what facilities you have access to once you are here.

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Information regarding Japan’s health system including foreign language services, please refer to our ‘Health Care & Assistance in Japan’ page.

Timeline of COVID-19 in Japan


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The following timeline is intended to provide an accurate snapshot of the developing situation in Japan for international travelers:

Nov-26: the government has signalled that if the nationwide spread of COVID-19 infections is not reduced in the coming three weeks, they will have no choice but to declare a ‘state of emergency’. While no official decision has been made, the announcement puts the country on notice that should the situation not improve, a state of emergency will be reintroduce to at least some regions.

Nov-24: news outlet Bloomberg has released a report into the countries which have handled COVID-19 most efficiently with the least disruption to daily life and their economies.  Ranking 53 countries with economies of over $200 billion on 10 metrics including the overall spread of the virus, mortality rate, the capacity of the health system and affect on the economy, the research ranked New Zealand first,  Japan second and Taiwan third. The report cites Japan’s previous handling of tuberculosis outbreaks and existing facilities and contact tracing which have been effectively redeployed to tackle COVID-19.

Nov-09: the government has agreed to the resumption of short and long-term business travel from China from the middle of November onward, under the ‘Business Track’ currently open to nationals of Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam.

Nov-05: Japan has lowered the travel advisory from Level 3 to Level 2, for countries including Australia, Brunei, China including Hong Kong and Macau New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Japanese nationals and foreign residents of Japan will be able to travel to these countries – at this time, only for business purposes – and have the 14-day isolation period waived upon their return so long as there trip is less than 7-days in duration and other requirements are met.

Nov-02: nationals of 11 countries – including Australia, Brunei, China, Hong Kong, Macau, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam – will no longer need to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival in Japan, so long as they have not traveled outside of their home country in the past 14 days.

Oct-22: the government is considering allowing short-term business travelers – up to 72 hours – from countries with ‘deep economic ties’ to Japan to enter from November onward. This would include nationals of China, South Korea and Taiwan in a step mirroring recent agreements with Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam under the ‘business track’.

Oct-05: announcement that South Korea is likely to join a handful of other countries in agreeing a business travel corridor with Japan. This would allow short and long-term business travel between the two countries

Sep-30: Japan has announced that it is likely to lower its travel advisory from ‘Level 3’ – a warning not to travel for any reason – to ‘Level 2’ – a warning to avoid all non-essential travel but allowing Japanese citizens to do so. It is expected that countries including Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Brunei and Belgium will be on this list. It is the first time Japan will have lowered its travel advisory since the beginning of the pandemic.

Sep-23: Government announces intention to loosen entry requirements for longer stay visitors – stay of 3 months or more i.e. international students – from October onward.

Sep-11: Government announces that Singapore will be added to countries covered by the ‘travel corridor’. At this stage, it remains tightly controlled and restricted to short-term business visitors only.

Sep-08: Government announces a ‘travel corridor’ will be opened for short-business visitors from Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Jul-24: Additional 17 countries added to list of those banned from entering Japan, bringing the total to 146

Jul-01: Further 18 countries added to those banned from entering Japan, bringing the the total to 129

May-27: Addition of further countries to the list of banned entries on this and the previous day brings the total to 111

May-25: State of emergency is lifted from all remaining prefectures – Tokyo, Satiama, Chiba, Kanagawa and Hokkaido

May-21: State of emergency is lifted from Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo

May-14: Governments lifts state of emergency for 39 of Japan’s 47 prefectures. An emergency declaration remains for: Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Hyogo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hokkaido

May-07: Improving data leads government to announce that the state of emergency might be lifted on May-21

May-03: Government extends state of emergency until May-31

Apr-27: Japan extends entry ban to another 14 countries – a total of 87 countries from which entry is now prohibited

Apri-17: COVID-19 cases pass 10,000

Apr-16: Government announces state of emergency applies to entire country and will last until at least May-06

Apr-10: Tokyo government announces further closures to businesses and other organisations in the capital

Apr-07: Government announces state of emergency in seven prefectures: Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Hyogo, Fukuoka and Hokkaido

Apr-03: All entrants to Japan – both Japanese and foreign nationals – are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine

Apr-01: Japan Medical Association warns of pending ‘medical crisis condition’ due to a shortage of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients

Mar-30: Tokyo Olympics are rescheduled for July to August 2021. Tokyo residents are urged to stay at home

Mar-26: The Diamond Princess departs Japanese waters

Mar-25: Tokyo government announces first ‘soft lock-down’ of the capital including closure of restaurants, live music, etc.*

Mar-24: Government announces that the Tokyo Olympics will be postponed for up to one year

Mar-23: Tokyo passes Hokkaido as the prefecture with the highest number of COVID-19 cases. Canada announces it will not compete in the 2020 Olympics, scheduled for Tokyo in late-July

Mar-22: United States warns citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Japan. In response, Japan bans entry from the US

Mar-19: Japan imposes 14-day quarantine period on arrivals from 38 – mostly European – countries

Mar-17: Having previously been the country with the second most infections in the world, Japan is now ranked eleventh

Mar-14: The Central Japan Railway Company reduces service on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line – running between Tokyo and Osaka – to combat the spread of COVID-19

Mar-11: Government extends request to ban public events

Mar-05: Japan bans entry by travelers from China, South Korea and Iran

Mar-04: Total number of COVID-19 cases in Japan passes 1000, with 12 recorded deaths

Feb-29: First ‘state of emergency’ declared in Hokkaido Prefecture and government announces first emergency financial package

Feb-27: Government announces that all schools across Japan will close on Mar-02

Feb-26: Government requests that all major sporting and cultural events are cancelled to slow the spread of COVID-19. Nagano Prefecture announces first COVID-19 case

Feb-20: Second and third deaths due to COVID-19, formerly passengers on the Diamond Princess

Feb-13: Japan reports its first known fatality – a Japanese national in her 80s in Kanagawa Prefecture – from COVID-19

Feb-10: COVID-19 infections onboard the Diamond Princess now confirmed at ‘well over 100’

Feb-07: Japan becomes country with second most infections – behind China – primarily due to cases on the Diamond Princess

Feb-03: Diamond Princess cruise ship is quarantined off the coast of Yokohoma after a former passenger tests positive for COVID-19

Jan-31:  Japan bans entry of foreign nationals who visited Hubei Province, China, within the past 14 days and advises Japanese to avoid non-essential travel to China

Jan-28:  First confirmed infection of a person who had not recently traveled outside of Japan

Jan-24:  A second Chinese national in Japan test positive for COVID-19

Jan-23:  Japanese nationals advised to avoid travel to Wuhan, China

Jan-16:  First case of COVID-19 confirmed in Japan – a Chinese national in Kanagawa Prefecture

*Unlike many other countries, the Japanese government has not enforced a lock-down. Please refer above for details.