Please note that the following is written for informational purposes only. As the rules and requirements are always changing, I recommend each person do thorough research that pertains to their particular travel situation.
It’s Spring 2022, how time flies! Unfortunately, however, the coronavirus is still with us and affecting many aspects of daily life including travel. I had plans to return home to the US in December 2021, but that trip was thwarted by the emergence of the Omicron variant. (Read more about that complicated scenario here).
Luckily I was able to rebook my trip for March 2022 and I’m happy to report that my round trip travels were a success! (Though not completely void of anxiety and a few complications).
Japan is Slowly Reopening
Japan’s borders have slowly begun to loosen, raising from 3,000, to 5,000, to over 10,000 allowed entrances a day. (Note that this still excludes those traveling for tourism). The gradual reopening is a hopeful sign for all who are looking to return to the long-lost days of pandemic-free travel.
Until this time comes however, for those jet setting in the near future, there are still many rules and processes to be aware of if you want to have smooth travels.
In this post, I will share the process I went through to travel successfully from Japan to the United States. (To learn about travel from the United States to Japan, read here.)
Quick Travel Summary
- Departure Date: March 18th, 2022
- Airline: Asiana, Asiana (United codeshare)
- Route: Fukuoka (FUK)–> Seoul (ICN) –> San Francisco (SFO)
- Required documents: Certificate of Negative Covid Test (with identifying information, DOB or Passport number), Passport, Boarding Pass
- Covid Test Issuing Company: Kinoshita Group
- Covid Test Type: Qualitative Antigen – Results received 30 minutes later
- Covid Test Type: PCR – Results received 2 hours later
- Quarantine: 0 days
Required Documentation to Board a Flight to the US
Traveling out of Japan is not as difficult as trying to get back in. However, you will need to follow the regulations set by the country you are traveling to and the airline you are using when it comes to presenting the required documentation needed to board your flight.
For travel to the United States, the most important thing you need to acquire is a Negative Viral Test Result that has been taken within 1 day of travel. If you have had a positive viral test within the past 90 days, you can travel with Documentation of Recovery.
Refer to this CDC page for the most up-to-date info on the required items based on your nationality and vaccination status.
Pre Travels: Covid Testing
For the Negative Viral Test Result, the specific information needed can be found in the FAQ section of the CDC website. Most important to note are the types of accepted tests, the timeline for the date of collection, and the need for identifying information.
Kinoshita Group provides quick and low-cost testing all over Japan and was where I went for my Covid testing.
I booked both an Antigen and PCR test since I was worried if the PCR would come back in time, but also skeptical if the Antigen test alone would be sufficient. (It turned out to be just fine).
The antigen test is currently free for Fukuoka citizens (normally costs ￥1900) and the PCR test cost ￥2900. You can make an appointment reservation up to 5 days in advance online.
You will receive an email when your test results become available and can be accessed through the Kinoshita online portal. Because of the way the certificate is created (without a dedicated space for identifying information such as passport number or birthday), make sure to follow these steps when registering your account online so that a valid document is created that will be more likely to be accepted at the airport.
Before the appointment, Kinoshita has you agree to a form that states they are not responsible if the documentation isn’t accepted for travel. From my experience and that of many others, I haven’t heard of people having issues using this certification for travel to the US as long as the steps above are used to add your identifying information. (*I highly recommend double-checking this for yourself).
After receiving the negative certificates (30 minutes later for the Antigen and 2 hours later for the PCR), I printed up hard copies at 7-11 and put them safely in a clear file folder to bring to the airport the next day.
Waiting for the test results and not knowing if they will turn up with a positive test the day before flying is possibly the most excruciating thing. Needless to say, I was relieved once mine came back as it meant I was one step closer to making it home.
Travel Day: At the Airport
At the Fukuoka Airport Asiana ticket counter, I showed my Negative Covid Certificate and signed an attestation paper agreeing that my documents were valid. These were accepted with no problems and I was given my boarding pass.
After going through security I received my reentry permit after confirming that I planned to travel back to Japan.
Before my second flight, I had to show my Negative Covid Certificate as well as my Certificate of Vaccination.
Back in the US!
The flights were long, but after almost a full day of travel, I finally made it back to the US! At the US airport, there was no checking of any Covid-related documentation, just the normal immigration process. I was free to leave the airport after finishing customs, quarantine free.
On the way out there was a table where you could pick up a free Covid at-home test.
The journey was long and the concoction of anticipation and stress leading up to the actual travel was something I could do without. However, I couldn’t be more thankful that I had made it home with relatively no problems.
To learn about making the trip back to Japan, check out this post!
As everyone’s situation varies and the rules constantly change, my biggest piece of advice is to stay informed and up to date with the newest information. This Facebook group is a great resource as it is full of the latest information regarding Japan travel.
Another resource you can check is Japan Today. This Japanese news source is written in English and has stories whenever big policy changes regarding travel are announced.
For more about Travels in Japan, check out these blog posts!
- Traveling to and from Japan During Covid-19: High Risk, High Stress, is it Worth it? – Wondering what it’s like planning for a trip to Japan during Covid-19?
- Homestay in Tokyo, Japan – Made it to Japan? You should try a homestay!
- How to Travel to Japan from the United States During Covid-19 – Heading to Japan? Make sure you are up to date with all the latest requirements and rules