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Japan Covid-19 Vaccine

The Covid-19 Vaccine and Travel to Japan

by Robert Schrader on November 23, 2020

As hundreds of millions of vaccine doses go into arms around the world, I—and I guess you—have wondered how the situation of the Japan Covid vaccine might affect the country’s moribund tourism industry. Might a shot in the arm (well two shots in the arm, if you end up getting jabs made by Moderna or Pfizer) be your golden ticket back into Japan?

It’s romantic to think this way, and it’s possible the reality of post-Covid travel in Japan will be so simple. Of course, any number of more complicated, less satisfying options are also possible.

It is for this reason—in the interest of total awareness—that I’ve created this post: To let you know that the coast is not quite clear, not yet, and to let you know how you’ll know that it is. Certainly, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter, particularly if you can hold off until 2022 for your trip to Japan.

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Covid-19 Has Destroyed Travel to Japan

Japan’s coronavirus vaccine rollout can’t come soon enough. The border has been closed to inbound tourists from nearly all countries since April 2020; it seems unlikely, without a vaccine, that visiting Japan in 2021 will even be possible. As a result of this collapse—Japan hosted more than 30 million foreign visitors in 2019, and has seen zero in 2021 so far, and for all but the first three months of 2020—Japan’s crucial tourism industry is on the brink of collapse.

As has been the case around the world, Japanese authorities have tried to use domestic tourism to fill the gap, but success has been limited. The government’s “GoTo Travel” program has proven controversial due to the volatile situation with infection numbers in various parts of the country; the negative publicity around it has rendered it mostly ineffective. For travel companies and professionals in Japan, a Covid-19 vaccine can’t come soon enough.

Japan Tourism and The Covid Vaccine

Which Covid-19 vaccines will Japan receive, and when?

As of April 2021, Japan has begun administering the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, although it severely lags most other developed countries, having inoculated less than 1% of its population. The Japanese government is set to approve the Moderna vaccine, which should help speed its campaign, although its reliance on the troubled Astrazeneca jab may counteract this, at least in the short term.

Will vaccination against Covid-19 be required to enter Japan?

Japan will not be requiring athletes who compete in the mangled, sad mess that will stand in for the proper Tokyo Olympics this summer to be vaccinated. This, and the fact that over 40% Japanese people are anti-vaxxers, makes me believe that proof of vaccination against Covid will not be required to enter Japan.

Will Japan re-open its border once a Covid vaccine is available?

This also means that proof of vaccination will not be sufficient to enter Japan. Indeed, while Japan’s government have signaled interest in creating a “vaccine passport” that would allow Japanese citizens to travel freely around the world, they seem opposed to offering the same courtesy to vaccinated foreigners who wish to enter Japan.

How will a Covid-19 vaccine affect the Tokyo Olympics?

Tokyo 2020/1 has effectively been canceled, with all overseas fans barred from visiting, and a very real possibility that local spectators will also be forbidden. This is not because vaccines are less successful than expected (if anything, the opposite is true), but because Japan is administering them so glacially it will be months, maybe years before they move the needle.

Can I get a Covid-19 vaccine in Japan?

In the future, it’s possible that foreigners visiting will be able to get a Covid vaccine in Japan, much like we are able to avail other medical treatments under the general umbrella of medical tourism. However, given that Japan has only immunized around 1% of its population while the US and UK approach 50% coverage, this seems a long way off.

Japan Tourism Post-Covid

Some people, both globally and within Japan, have speculated Covid might result in a massive diminishment of tourism’s footprint, and its importance to the economy—the last 2,000 years of history, many of them rife with plagues, suggests otherwise. Indeed, Japan’s Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide has stated many times that Japan maintains its ambitious target of 60 million visitors by 2030, and intends to continue its march toward becoming what he calls an “advanced tourism nation.”

My gut feeling, both in Japan and around the world, is that once the proverbial coast is clear (on the virus front), things will begin going back to normal—the real normal, not the bullshit new one leaders are trying to gaslight us into—and rather quickly at that. If I were a betting man, I’d say that within 6-9 months of the Japan coronavirus vaccine rollout (in other words, early to mid 2022), the tourism situation on the ground in Japan will be more or less what it was in late 2019.

Other FAQ About Covid-19 in Japan

Can I travel to Japan right now?

As of late April 2021, only foreigners with valid residence permits can re-enter Japan—new entries are forbidden. It’s unclear when border measures, which were re-strengthened in December 2020 over media hysteria about the “UK variant” of the Wuhan coronavirus, will be appropriately relaxed.

Will the Tokyo Olympics happen?

The Tokyo Olympics may end up taking place in some form, but they might as well have been canceled. Foreign spectators are banned, which means that the best-case scenario is a discriminatory, nationalistic “Japanese-only” Olympics. As if this wasn’t embarrassing enough, officials are also apparently considering a ban of local spectators as well.

Is it safe to visit Japan?

From a Covid perspective, Japan is certainly safer than many Western countries, with daily infection numbers an order of magnitude lower than in Europe or the United States. On the other hand, some risk does underlie any trip to Japan, namely of natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis. When it comes to personal safety from non-pathogenic human crime, Japan is one of the safest countries in the world.

The Bottom Line

Although Japan has approved at least one Covid-19 vaccine, its slow administration of the jab has made its impact on the country’s tourism industry superfluous at best. This is especially frustrating for travelers who live in countries like the US and UK, many of whom are already fully immunized. On the other hand, it’s not clear that a certificate of vaccination will lower all the many barriers that currently exist to entering Japan—it’s possible Japan will want to widely vaccinate its own residents before permitting the entry of foreigners. Consider hiring me to plan your post-Covid trip to Japan, to mitigate these and other potential complications.

About The Author

is the author of 200 posts on Japan Starts Here. Robert created Japan Starts Here so the web would have a beautiful hub of Japan travel information and inspiration. He also runs the popular website Leave Your Daily Hell.


Japan Starts Here is information—and inspiration—for all your trips to Japan. My name is Robert and I'm happy you're here!


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