Guide to Airport Arrival COVID test in Japan (2022)

On 20 April 2022, I flew to Haneda Airport near Tokyo, Japan. I came to study Japanese at a language school on a student visa. You have to take an arrival Covid test in Japan at the airport. This guide will tell you what to expect and what is expected of you. I will use my experiences at Haneda Airport as an example. The other airports have the exact same procedures.

Arriving in Japan was just one step in the middle of a long process. The first series of processes is for the visa. Before you travel, you must have a visa. Only certain visas are being issued at the moment. Click here to get more information on what kind of Japanese visas are currently available and how to get one in 2022.

Unfortunately, you can not take photos in the Covid area, so I don’t have any photos to include in this guide. However, the signs are in English and Japanese. There is also a lot of staff to get you from one place to another.

Step 0: Before you leave your home country

There are several things that you need to do before you even leave your home country. When you book your flight, the airline should tell you everything that you need to do. They will (or should!) also remind you periodically, so it should not be difficult to follow their instructions. Currently (April/May 2022), the requirements are as follows:

  1. A visa – Guide to Getting a Japanese Visa (2022)
  2. Pre-departure Covid test
  3. Install government apps on your smartphone
  4. Complete surveys, questionnaires and quarantine pledge
  5. Quarantine (depending on the country)

A Japanese Visa

YOU MUST HAVE A VISA BEFORE YOU ARRIVE IN JAPAN!! There is no point going otherwise. Your entry will be rejected. Read more about how to get a visa here.

Pre-departure Covid test

You need to take a covid test before you start your trip to Japan. This needs to be less than 72 hours before your first flight. It is ok if your test is more than 72 hours before landing in Japan. The important thing is that it is less than 72 hours before your first flight. The important information here is that your trip has to be continuous. You can’t stay a couple of days in another place when you are travelling. Your layover (if you have one) must be at an airport.

There are certain criteria for the Covid test. You can have one of the following tests:

  1. Nucleic acid amplification test (the accepted tests are: RT-PCR, LAMP, TMA, TRC, Smart Amp, NEAR)
  2. Next-generation sequence
  3. Quantitative antigen test (CLEIA/ECLIA)

For these tests, you must have a nasopharyngeal swab, nasal swab (for nucleic acid amplification tests only), saliva or nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs.

When you have done that and received a negative result, you also need to have the doctor or testing company fill in a special form for Japan. This includes your information (name, date of birth, passport number, etc) as well as your test results, the information of the doctor, and a signature and stamp. You can find the forms here: https://www.mofa.go.jp/ca/fna/page25e_000334.html

The English/Japanese version of the form is here.

See below about submitting your negative result for your trip.

Install government apps on your smartphone

The Japanese government is very serious about coronavirus and the spread of Covid-19. They do not want anyone bringing the virus back with them, especially the variants that are not present in Japan. As part of combating this, you need to install two apps on your phone. Currently, these are MySoS and COCOA.

COCOA (COVID-19 Contact-Confirming Application)

COCOA is a contact tracing app. You need this to enter Japan. For this to work, you need to activate Bluetooth. This is how the app communicates with other phones nearby that also have COCOA installed. It won’t send any of your personal information. It uses non-identifying codes, so it does not need information about you or your phone.

This is the QR code for COCOA. To use the QR code, open your phone’s camera app and point it at the QR code. It may automatically open the link to the download or you may have to press a button once it recognises the QR code.

MySOS (Health and Location Monitoring App)

MySOS will help you with health information before arriving in Japan and reporting your negative result. It also keeps track of you during quarantine and health officers will get in touch with you via the app. Here is the link/QR code for downloading it. This is a special link and QR code for Japan!

This is a special link/QR code for MySOS specifically for Japan! Do not download it by searching the app store. To use the QR code, open your phone’s camera app and point it at the QR code. It may automatically open the link to the download or you may have to press a button once it recognises the QR code. Link: https://mysosp.page.link/sfY2kRrviv4t4eFy7

Once you have downloaded MySOS, you will see two options. The first has the pre-departure information that you need to provide. Click on this.

You have to fill in three things: information about your health, a questionnaire about your time in Japan (e.g. where you will stay after arriving) and a pledge that you will follow any and all quarantine requirements. Finally, the last option is the way to submit your negative test result.

You need to complete all of these things at least 16 hours before your flight to Japan. You can fill in the first three items at any time. When you have the negative test result, you can upload the negative test result here as well. Your airline will check this information before you leave. If anything is incomplete, you cannot board the plane. The airline will not let you due to the rules of the Japanese government.

If something is missing, the background of the app will be red. Once you have completed the first three items, the background will turn yellow. When you upload the negative test result (and complete the other three items), the background will turn green. At this point, everything should be set. You can then use the QR code in the app for the following steps.

Step 1: The plane arrives at the terminal

The first step happens before you even leave the plane. When you land, certain types of people will be asked to disembark first. These are people that are planning to stay in Japan. For anyone who has an international connection, you will be going through a different procedure. This guide will NOT cover these procedures. You go through separate, much easier procedures.

When you get off the plane, it is likely that you will have to do a lot of walking. The arrival Covid test in Japan happens in a central, secure location within the airport. My plane arrived at the opposite end of the terminal (in Haneda Airport, it is terminal 3). Even if your plane is close to where testing happens, there is still a lot of walking during this procedure. Please be prepared! I recommend wearing comfortable shoes that you can walk in. You will need them.

Step 2: Registration for the arrival Covid test in Japan

You do not need to register for the test before arriving in Japan. This happens in the airport. Once you have walked to the arrival covid test area, someone will fill in your information on a yellow piece of paper. These people speak both Japanese and (some) English.

At this point, you will need to show the MySOS app. The person helping you will use the information there to begin filling in some forms. They will also ask you questions about your vaccination status (how many, which vaccines, when you got them, etc.). Once this is complete, you will get three things: a vial, a yellow paper for the next station to fill in and a white paper with information for you.

Next, you will go to one of two places. If something is missing, you will need to complete it in one line. If everything is ok, you can go to the next station.

The next station checks the information of your test. Give them the yellow paper, your phone and the vial. They will verify more information. At this point, if everything is in order, they put a sticker on the vial and they will write something on the yellow piece of paper.

You will then be sent to another station where they check the MySOS information again. Give them your phone and the yellow paper.

Step 3: The test

At this point, you are almost ready to do the test! However, before going any further, I recommend you drink some water. The test uses saliva. Before the test, you cannot eat or drink anything. After all the walking, it is likely that you are hot and maybe also sweaty. Your mouth is most certainly dry. Drink now before this point. Drinking water at this point will not affect the test.

The next station is the testing station. You will go into a three-sided booth. Here you will take off your mask and spit into a vial. They need a large amount of saliva. It must not have any phlegm in it and as few bubbles as possible. There is a black line on the vial. You need to fill it until that level. This is why drinking water before helps. If you don’t have a dry mouth (like I did), you will be able to fill it easily. Otherwise, it will take some time.

Once you have filled the vial to the line, show a worker wearing protecting clothing. They will check it visually to see if it looks okay. If so, you can go to the next station. This is where you give your vial in for testing. You will also get a sticker with a number on the yellow piece of paper. This is how you will get your results later.

Step 4: Checking the apps

You must have the MySOS and COCOA apps to stay in Japan. If you do not have a smartphone, you must rent one. They can rent one at the airport when you arrive. The next station will check that they are working correctly. The staff will help you check the permissions of your app. The apps need certain permissions (primarily location and Bluetooth capabilities) to work correctly. If you do not have a smartphone, you can ask them about renting one.

You will need to go into the settings of your phone, then to the app permissions. They will check that everything is working. If not, they will help you with the permissions. Afterwards, they will give you a piece of paper confirming that everything works and allow you to continue. On the way out, someone will check that you have the piece of paper. They may take it as well. This is just extra confirmation that your apps are working and a member of staff saw them. In other words, you did not slip past the people checking them.

Step 5: Waiting for the results

Depending on a few factors, it is now time to wait for your results. If you took a while to go through the steps after giving in your vial, it may take less time. It also depends on how many people are going through testing as well.

You will then go to a lounge with social distancing. Here you will see screens that have numbers around the lounge. The number shown is the last 3 digits of the code on the sticker on your yellow piece of paper.

Once your number appears on the screen, go to the designated desk. They will tell you the results of your test. This is where things change.

Case 1: Test = positive

If your test is positive, regardless of if you are vaccinated and where you came from, you will be sent to a government quarantine facility. You will stay there until you test negative for Covid-19.

Case 2: Test = negative, vaccinated, you come from a country that does not need to quarantine

In this case, you are all set. There is nothing else that you have to do. You can leave and go about your business like normal.

Congratulations! There is also no quarantine at home required. You will be given a piece of paper that says you were negative, which allows you to go through immigration. You will need to give them this paper and they will direct you to an open immigration desk.

Cast 3: Test = negative, unvaccinated, you come from a country that does not need to quarantine

In this case, you must quarantine at home. This could be either 3 days with a negative test result at the end or 7 days without a Covid test. You have 24 hours to use public transport to get to your destination (e.g. home) where you will quarantine. This could be a hotel, a host family’s house, etc.

You will be given a piece of paper that says you were negative, which allows you to go through immigration. You will need to give them this paper and they will direct you to an open immigration desk.

When you reach your destination, you need to open the MySOS app and set your quarantine location. It is an approximate location that is determined via GPS. It will say “near XXX”, where XXX is the municipality or ward where you are staying.

During this time, health officials may contact you at any time via MySOS. This may be a notification to check where you are or a video call. If/when they want to check your location, you need to press the “I’m here” button within a certain amount of time. If they call you, you must answer. The staff speaks English. If you do not, you may not be allowed to stay in Japan.

Once this period is over, you are released from your quarantine and can travel/live in Japan like normal.

Cast 4: Test = negative, vaccinated, you come from a country that needs to quarantine

In this case, you must quarantine at home. This could be either 3 days with a negative test result at the end or 7 days without a Covid test. You have 24 hours to use public transport to get to your destination (e.g. home) where you will quarantine. This could be a hotel, a host family’s house, etc.

You will be given a piece of paper that says you were negative, which allows you to go through immigration. Give the immigration attendant this paper and they will direct you to an open immigration desk.

When you reach your destination, you need to open the MySOS app and set your quarantine location. It is an approximate location that is determined via GPS. It will say “near XXX”, where XXX is the municipality or ward where you are staying.

During this time, health officials may contact you at any time via MySOS. This may be a notification to check where you are or a video call. If/when they want to check your location, you need to press the “I’m here” button within a certain amount of time. If they call you, you must answer. The staff speaks English. If you do not, you may not be allowed to stay in Japan.

Once this period is over, you are released from your quarantine and can travel/live in Japan like normal.

Case 5: Test = negative, unvaccinated, you come from a country that needs to quarantine

If your test is negative, you are unvaccinated and you have spent time in the past 2 weeks in a country that Japan requires to quarantine, you must quarantine at a special facility. You will be taken by bus to this location and required to say in your room for the quarantine period. This could be either 3 days with a negative test result at the end. You have to stay there until you have a negative test. Do not book any further travel after you arrive in Japan. There is no way you are going to make it.

You will be given a piece of paper that says you were negative, which allows you to go through immigration. Give the immigration attendant this paper and they will direct you to an open immigration desk.

You still need to open the MySOS app and set your quarantine location when you arrive. It is an approximate location that is determined via GPS. It will say “near XXX”, where XXX is the municipality or ward where you are staying.

During this time, health officials will contact you at any time via MySOS. This may be a notification to check in but most likely it will be a video call. If/when they want to check your location, you need to press the “I’m here” button within a certain amount of time. If they call you, you must answer. The staff speaks English. If you do not, you may not be allowed to stay in Japan.

Once this period is over, you are released from your quarantine and can travel/live in Japan like normal.

Afterwards

For cases 2, 3 and 4, you will be able to go through immigration (after handing the member of staff the piece of paper given to you saying that you were negative) and customs normally. You can then travel according to the conditions of your case.

For cases 1 and 5, you are most likely sent to a special set of immigration lines before boarding the bus to go to the quarantine facility. I was neither positive nor unvaccinated, so I did not go through this procedure.

Congratulations! If you are allowed through immigration and customs, you are all finished. Welcome to Japan! 日本へようこそ (Nihon e youkoso)!


Want to do some exploring? Explore my trips in Japan here.

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