Step by step: Japan arrivals experience

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Japan's arrivals process is straightforward provided your Visit Japan Web registration is in order, but immigration queues can be a wild card.

Hello from Japan! 

You might remember that I was originally planning to head over in late October, but a last minute bout of illness meant I had to postpone the trip and change the logistics quite a bit- I’ll be updating the trip planning post soon. 

In the meantime, I wanted to provide some details on what exactly happens on arrival in Japan. When Japan’s reopening was being mulled, many people speculated that there’d be all sort of hoops to jump through- like South Korea during the early days of the VTL and their two-hour arrival process!

I’m pleased to report that’s not the case at all. In fact, 90% of the work is done before you depart for Japan, and once you land, the process is relatively straightforward. The main thing you need to worry about are immigration queues, which can either be a non-issue or a major headache.

🇯🇵 Summary: Travel to Japan
  • Complete Visit Japan Web registration
    • Register at least six hours before entry
  • No pre-departure test required unless unvaccinated
    • Unvaccinated travellers must take PCR test within 72 hours of departure
    • Unvaccinated children aged below 18 travelling with fully vaccinated parents will be treated as fully vaccinated
    • Unvaccinated children aged below 6 with unvaccinated parents will be treated as fully vaccinated
  • Japan recognises all WHO EUL vaccines including Sinovac and Sinopharm. Three doses are required to be considered fully vaccinated
  • On-arrival testing not required
  • No mandatory travel insurance requirement
  • Visa-waiver scheme fully restored for Singaporeans and other nationals
Japan Border Measures

Before departure: Visit Japan Web registration

Visit Japan Web

Here’s the single most important thing to do before your trip: register on the Visit Japan Web (VJW) portal and complete the following three sections.

  • Quarantine (Fast-track)
  • Immigration
  • Customs

This will take about 10-15 minutes, not counting the waiting time for approval. You must complete this at least six hours before arrival in Japan if you wish to take advantage of fast-track.

Completion of each section will generate a separate QR code which you’ll show on arrival to expedite procedures. 

I’ve already written a detailed guide to the process, so refer to the article below for a walkthrough.

Visit Japan Web: How to register

The key thing is to take screenshots of all three QR codes before departing Singapore.

In my experience, the free Wi-Fi at Tokyo-Haneda Airport can be spotty. Some people got held up because they couldn’t connect to the Wi-Fi network to load their codes, while those who had screenshots breezed through. 

❓ Do I need to fill the paper forms?

If you’ve completed all three steps of VJW registration and have all three QR codes, you don’t need to fill up the paper immigration and custom forms distributed on the plane. 

(1) Fast-track

Prepare your QR codes as soon as you disembark from the aircraft

On arrival in Japan, prepare your first QR code (the blue fast-track one). There will be ground staff at the aerobridge waiting to sight the blue confirmation screen. Once they do, they’ll issue you a blue card that grants access to the fast-track lane. Those with yellow or red screens will be channelled into another lane for assistance. 

Blue card
Fast-track lane

At the head of the line, you’ll be assigned to a counter where another staff member will scan your QR code and check your passport. 

Document inspection

This takes less than a minute, and you’ll be issued a Health Card (basically an instructional sheet of Japan’s COVID regulations) and sent to immigration upon completion. 

Health Card

(2) Immigration

Snaking queues at arrival immigration

Immigration is going to be the biggest wild card in the arrivals process.  I’ve seen drastically different data points, with some people having close to zero wait and others spending hours queuing.

The day I arrived was more like the latter. The queue for non-Japanese nationals was snaking around numerous times when I arrived (at 6 a.m on a Tuesday morning), and new passengers kept coming. Only six immigration counters were open, and if I had to guess, I’d say the wait time was at least 90 minutes. 

Fortunately, I have an ABTC, which let me use the APEC lane only seven people deep. 

(3) Customs

Luggage claim

After clearing immigration, collect your bag from the carousel and look for one of the electronic customs declaration kiosks. Load your third and final QR code (customs) and approach any available kiosk.

Automated customs kiosks

Remove your mask for photo taking, insert your passport and scan your QR code. Reconfirm your customs declaration, and hit “submit” when satisfied. 

Automated customs machine

The kiosk will not print any sort of confirmation. Proceed directly to the exit; the photo taken by the machine will be used to recognise your face and trigger the exit gate. 

The total time from aircraft to exit for me was just over 20 minutes, but that’s because I skipped the lines at immigration with the APEC card. If not, I could easily see myself waiting much longer.

So my biggest advice would be to move quickly as soon as you disembark from the aircraft. Use the toilet before landing; 5 minutes in the loo can mean an extra 50 minutes wait, and I’m not kidding about that. Get your QR codes prepped and ready too, so you don’t get held up at step (1) while the immigration queues grow. 


Haneda Airport arrivals

Entering Japan is a fairly straightforward exercise, provided all your paperwork is in order. That’s something which can be done before departing Singapore, and the main concern is really immigration queues. 

If you’ve had experience flying into Japan via other airports, do share it below!

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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