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Returning To Japan: Covid 19 Procedures and Quarantine Hotels

If you’re like me living in Japan, the questions on your mind these past few weeks has oscillated between #1) when will bars and restaurants begin selling alcohol again, and #2) when will the vaccine rollout begin in earnest?

Thankfully, there may finally be some light at the end of the tunnel for us on #2 (jury’s still out on alcohol, though the Olympics are going forward full steam! #wtf). For those of us who visit the US for any reason (vaccine, visiting family) and are returning to Japan, you will need to know if additional quarantine restrictions impact your state.

Some Facts About Me

I’m a Permanent Resident and vaccinated (Johnson & Johnson, not currently approved in Japan). Regardless of vaccine—and nationality, this includes Japanese citizens—individuals traveling from states where Delta variant COVID-19 has been detected are, at this time, subject to the dreaded quarantine hotel. In my case, I spent my 72-hour quarantine at the Narita Toyoko Inn.

There are ways to skirt around this—for example, traveling from a state not included on the list, and having your PCR test (the one required no earlier than 72 hours prior to your flight) taken in the same state (or at least one where the Delta variant was not identified). One friend of mine traveled from New York to Seattle, had his negative COVID test taken in Seattle, and avoided the quarantine hotel altogether. Lying about not visiting a state where the variant was detected could result in the removal of your visa status—so proceed at your own risk.

I visited my home for my mom’s wedding this past May and was subject to quarantine procedures as my family is based in New York. I had my COVID test taken in New York City, even though I traveled through New Jersey (Newark)—a state which was then not included in the quarantine list.

This article is not intended to be a guide on what’s required for travel, but rather for the folks who are returning to Japan and must stay at the quarantine hotel.

Returning To Japan: What’s Required

To quickly summarize what’s required to return to Japan, you’ll need to know the below:

#1) You will need to take a negative PCR test in a MOFA-approved format no earlier than 72 hours before your flight.

#2) Vaccine status does not matter with regard to whether you quarantine or not—nor does your nationality.

The guidelines here change ALL the time—so do your own research before leaving—but here are the two websites where I obtained all my information.

MOFA Guide to Quarantine Procedures:
https://www.mofa.go.jp/ca/fna/page4e_001053.html#section2

Trello on Preparing Trip to US for Vaccine:
 https://trello.com/b/G5jQXdgx/traveling-from-japan-to-usa-to-get-the-covid-vaccine

Without further ado, here’s my experience from start to finish in Narita:

My Experience Returning To Japan

Returning To Japan

My flight was basically empty, maybe around 40-50 people total in a 747.

Returning To Japan

Upon arrival, you’re subject to paperwork and required to show your negative COVID test; then you take a rapid COVID spit test in a separate room. You are required to download several apps via a QR code—and I noted one Japanese citizen who did not have the latest iPhone iOS whose paperwork process was delayed about 45 minutes while she updated.

Returning To Japan

You wait for your test results here, then are ushered to a room for your final paperwork. Be sure to download all the apps: MySOS, COVID-19 Contract Tracing App, and the OverseasEntrantLocator.

Returning To Japan

The bus used to transport you to the hotel in is completely covered in this plastic.

Upon arrival at the hotel, you provide your dietary restrictions and are ushered to your room—where you are barred from leaving, opening your window, or opening your door other than specified meal times/trash collection which is announced over the PA system

About The Quarantine Hotel

Quarantine Hotels

The quarantine hotel for folks traveling from states where the COVID-19 delta variant was not that bad—it’s 72 hours and fully paid for by the government. 

You receive three meals (bento boxes) per day, but no coffee, and alcohol is not permitted. 
You cannot leave your room and your sheets/cups/towels will not be cleaned for the duration of your 72-hour stay. 

I brought instant coffee and a variety of granola bars, as well as a coffee mug of my own—though I forgot to bring dishwashing liquid. The meals contain green tea and juice only, which wouldn’t help with jetlag—so I recommend bringing your own coffee (something like this: Starbucks Instant Coffee).

The TV has HDMI port as well, for Netflix viewing from your laptop or tablet. 

You will be required to quarantine at home with location tracking on your cell phone and speak daily with a quarantine officer who will video-chat you to confirm your location.

Quarantine Hotel Food

Quarantine Food in Japan

The food wasn’t bad and was totally free—here’s the breakfast. Note there is no coffee provided, so definitely bring your own if that’s something you’ll want to manage your jetlag.

Quarantine Food

The lunches/dinners were substantial, though if you want snacks, I would recommend bringing granola bars. Note that alcohol is prohibited, though nobody checked for it… I would recommend not throwing it out in your trash bag (which is just your bento bag) if you don’t want to risk it.

Returning Home

After 72 hours, you are let free from your room to ride the bus back to Narita. Public transportation is prohibited, so you must find a ride back to Tokyo, either with a friend or family member in a private car or pay for a taxi (upwards of $300 USD).

All in all, if you’re prepared for the quarantine, 72 hours is not all that terrible compared to other countries in Asia, and if you plan it right can be a very productive three days. I tore through 2 books after full 11 hour workdays.

Upon your returning to your home in Japan, you are then required to complete the remainder of your 14-day quarantine at home in a single location. Tracking via video chat and the OverseasEntrantLocator begins in earnest at this time, with daily randomized video chat check-ins via the MySOS app. Here’s how often I was contacted—note that I arrived on a Sunday (Day 1) and my quarantine was completed on Monday, Day 16.

My Check-In Schedule

  1. Day 3 (Tue) @ 12:17 (check-in request)
  2. Day 3 (Tue) @ 16:30 (VIDEO CALL)
  3. Day 4 (Wed) @ 14:40 (check-in request)
  4. Day 4 (Wed) @ 20:14 (check-in request)
  5. Day 5 (Thu) @ 10:49 (VIDEO CALL)
  6. Day 5 (Thu) @ 13:31 (check-in request)
  7. Day 5 (Thu) @ 18:59 (check-in request)
  8. Day 6 (Fri) @ 12:21 (check-in request)
  9. Day 6 (Fri) @ 13:05 (VIDEO CALL)
  10. Day 6 (Fri) @ 16:52 (check-in request)
  11. Day 7 (Sat) @ 11:39 (check-in request)
  12. Day 7 (Sat) @ 17:38 (check-in request)
  13. Day 8 (Sun) @ 10:58 (check-in request)
  14. Day 8 (Sun) @ 17:28 (check-in request)
  15. Day 8 (Sun) @ 11:38 (check-in request)
  16. Day 9 (Mon) @ 15:08 (check-in request)
  17. Day 9 (Mon) @ 16:15 (VIDEO CALL)
  18. Day 10 (Tue) @ 10:31 (check-in request)
  19. Day 10 (Tue) @ 15:14 (VIDEO CALL, missed)
  20. Day 10 (Tue) @ 16:31 (check-in request)
  21. Day 11 (Wed) @ 10:00 (check-in request)
  22. Day 11 (Wed) @ 16:25 (VIDEO CALL)
  23. Day 11 (Wed) @ 18:57 (check-in request)
  24. Day 12 (Thu) @ 10:44 (check-in request)
  25. Day 12 (Thu) @ 13:43 (check-in request)
  26. Day 12 (Thu) @ 13:50 (VIDEO CALL)
  27. Day 13 (Fri) @ 11:18 (check-in request)
  28. Day 13 (Fri) @ 12:55 (VIDEO CALL)
  29. Day 14 (Fri) @ 10:21 (check-in request)
  30. Day 14 (Sat) @ 12:37 (check-in request)
  31. Day 14 (Sat) @ 17:34 (VIDEO CALL)
  32. Day 15 (Sun) @ 9:10 (check-in request)
  33. Day 15 (Sun) @ 11:43 (VIDEO CALL)
  34. Day 15 (Sun) @ 17:44 (check-in request)
  35. Day 16 (Mon) @ 9:00 – Notification of Completion

The video calls require you to show your room to prove you are at home, and with location tracking on, there’s very little you can do to prevent that. I missed one MySOS video call personally but managed to check in within 1 hour of notification on all other requests and did not miss another video call.


Returning to Japan and got questions? Let us know in the comments. Or have you stayed at the quarantine hotel in Japan? Let us know about your experience in the comments.

Think you might have Covid 19? Check our complete guide “Covid 19 in Tokyo, What Happens When You Test Positive.

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