Can I gain entry into Japan for snowboarding during the 2020-2021 season?

by Baden Knifton

The world of international travel amid the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic is a truly dynamic and confusing landscape, with the reopening of borders delivering all the uncertainty of a Yorkshire Pudding rising in an oven above 3000m… you’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever tried!

Onyx have been running backcountry snowboarding camps in Hokkaido for over 3 years and the team were set to return for another adventure in January 2021, to say we’ve been watching developments regarding entry into the Japan like starving hawks is an understatement.

Current entry restrictions.

Simply put foreign tourists can’t get in! Japan closed it’s borders in principle to arrivals from 159 countries back in March 2020, restrictions have eased for specific business travel, educational visas and exemptions made for some neighbouring Asian nations.

The Japan National Tourism Organisation recorded just 8700 foreign arrivals in August 2020 compares to 2.5 million in August 2019, hardly surprising when the borders have been so tightly shut! The government has tried to help this sector by running discounted schemes promoting residents to travel, but it’s obvious Japan needs that international boost while still keeping everyone safe during the pandemic.

What’s the plan for foreign tourists?

The Japan Times revealed on Oct 5th that the Japanese government is working to put new safety measures in place ahead of the Tokyo 2021 Summer Olympic Games to open boarders for foreign tourists. Their goal being to keep people safe and avoid any potential strain on it’s public health centres dealing with Covid-19 for residents by setting up a specific health consultation service for foreign tourists.

In addition, proposed plans include that foreign tourists must:

  • Download a health check app prior to arrival.
  • Show certification of a negative PCR test 72hrs prior to departure.
  • Undergo a second test/medical screening on arrival.
  • Obtain private medical insurance covering possible infection with the virus after arrival in Japan.
  • Complete the health tracking app for 14 days after entry, instead of quarantine.

While the above could still change and putting the chats about double tests/data protection etc to one side, I think it’s all pretty straight forward. Read on…

When will it all be in place and can I ski/snowboard there?

It’s expected that the Japanese government will finalise their plan by January 2021 and that they will start accepting visitors from April 2021 onwards. It’s not clear yet whether entry for foreign visitors will be limited, either in number or solely for the purpose of attending the Olympic Games, so you’ll have to keep an eye on that if planning a summer visit and it is indeed looking positive.

As for winter 2020-2021…

Everyone will tell you I’m a ridiculously optimistic person, but I’m sorry to say with an overwhelming sense of certainty… as a foreign visitor you will not be skiing or snowboarding in Japan during the 2020-2021! Massive sad face 🙁

Onyx will be returning to Hokkaido for snowboard camps in January 2022 and keep an eye on our website here for more details once the world stops sh@tting it’s pants, we’d be stoked to see you for nipple deep powder fun! Massive smiley face 😀

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