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Japan in Autumn – options for those booked to fly

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  • Nadeshka

    I know from previous posts/threads that there are a few of us booked with JAL (after BA pulled the route) for Japan in the next few months.

    I wondered what others thoughts/approach is given that there seems to be no move towards loosening restrictions. Are people waiting till the last minute hoping, and then will just cancel? Already booking alternatives? We are around 2 months away from the flight out and rapidly loosing hope.

    I am considering seeing whether we could book a private tour (we are 3 adults 2 kids) to fulfill the requirements for an entry visa, and perhaps see something different this time with a guide finding more child friendly things to do.

    Is anyone else considering the tour option and have any recommendations?

    Biki

    I’m booked to fly out on the 30th september and was hoping to go to the F1. So far all i’ve booked are cancellable hotels for the first few nights in Tokyo plus Nagoya for when the F1 is on. I haven’t booked anything else until we have some idea of whether things open. I’m not sure whether Japan F1 tickets are sold out or not on sale yet, but either way not looking geat for being able to go!

    meta

    Do you really want to be chaperoned by a tour guide? It’s really strict from what I heard. You have to have everything pre-planned including meal times plus only use Japanese government approved agencies. You will also have separate rules for wearing a mask to the Japanese (and yes that includes children). There is a separate minder who makes sure you only take mask off for a brief moment while eating.

    You will also need to get a visa yourself and the agencies can’t help with the application process. They will provide the documentation (ERFS), but you need to apply in person and collect in person from Embassy in London. Once you agree on the itinerary, you have to pay for the tour in full (non-refundable in most cases) and they need to submit the proof of payment to Ministry of Health to issue the ERFS certificate. Naturally most agencies don’t tell you this when you enquire.

    The current lead time for issuing visas is 4 weeks minimum. You need to book an appointment to visit the Embassy and the slots are released 3 weeks in advance. They are released at midnight and all slots almost gone within minutes. You can call to check for cancellations. Then it’s about a week to get the visa. But what if you don’t get a visa? You lose money for the tour.

    I’m going on business next month for a few months and the process is much the same. I’ve been dealing with visa issuance for 2 months and only collected it this week.

    If you really want to go, try and find a company that wants to sponsor you for a business trip. It could be looking for investing in Japan then you can incorporate that into your trip. Then you are free to act

    JAL and ANA are flying more or less, so unless there is capacity reduction either by Japanese government or Heathrow, don’t count on cancellation.

    All in all, it’s no wonder only 252 tourists entered Japan on guided tours in the first 20 days since the new rules.

    EDIT: Also there is pre-arrival PCR test needed 72hrs before on a prescribed form. Imagine failing that. Hence why I will be self-isolating from next week. You need to have everything uploaded to the JP gov app as well to board the plane.

    • This reply was modified 52 years, 9 months ago by .
    meta

    And I forgot that if there is suspect case within a group, you’re all sent to isolation! I think daily testing has been dropped, but it might be required depending on the agency.

    SamG

    Sounds like visiting North Korea would be easier ! It’d really ruin the trip for me, half the fun of Japan is getting lost, exploring and spending a disproportinate amount of time in 7-11 🙂

    I would have said to expect an easing of restrictions imminently but with the new wave of Ba.5. hitting I am not so sure. Personally I’d delay any plans until at least spring of next year

    PeteM

    A most useful, summary, meta – I’d been reading about all the restrictions in Japan, but hadn’t realise it was such a pain getting visas. We’re due to go over Christmas and am also fairly uncertain whether it’ll happen.

    I can confirm that visiting North Korea was easier than this!

    yorkieflyer

    We have flights booked for October and losing hope, now considering using the flights and flying onto other Asian destinations more welcoming

    FFoxSake

    I’m booked to fly out on the 30th september and was hoping to go to the F1. So far all i’ve booked are cancellable hotels for the first few nights in Tokyo plus Nagoya for when the F1 is on. I haven’t booked anything else until we have some idea of whether things open. I’m not sure whether Japan F1 tickets are sold out or not on sale yet, but either way not looking geat for being able to go!

    Same as you – 4 of us outbound 30th Sep with an F1 Experiences booking for Suzuka (already carried over once from 2021). Looks like we’ll be rolling this over again 🙁
    Other forums are suggesting that capacity for large scale events like this will be the last things to truly open up in Japan. If the race goes ahead it’s very likely to be with vastly reduced capacity and for locals only.
    Flights were originally J on a BA 2for1, then cancelled by BA and rebooked onto JAL. Not sure where that will leave us if Japan fails to open up. Presumably a £35pp fee to cancel these even though they were originally booked under the old Book with Confidence rules.
    Also have Nagoya hotel rooms booked but those are on free cancellation.

    meta

    @Pete M Christmas is still a long way, so slight chance that something might happen following extraordinary meeting of the Diet in the autumn (they are considering discussing the lowering covid classification).

    Anything up to Dec, I’d start making other plans.

    Nadeshka

    The kids are 3 and 9 months so if there is an expectation they wear masks then that’s absolutely a deal-breaker, they’ll take them off in 2 mins and we’ll be deported!
    I had read that the initial trials were strict, but there was more flexibility in the newer set up, with free time allowed without guide etc, as mentioned in this article

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/travel/japans-first-tourists-arrive-whats-it-like-on-escorted-tours-and-what-you-need-to-know/V4VVTMGWIINIEF5MTLMDTP5L6I/

    I also thought the tour agency could apply for visa on our behalf and we would just collect it.

    This is so disappointing, we have rescheduled this 4 times since intially scheduled in April 2020 and our 241 vouchers expire in October so it really is our last shot.

    I may give it a few weeks for this wave to subside and enquire with a few agencies for costs and a sense of the restrictions.

    masaccio

    Wow, based on @meta’s summary, I would skip. That sounds like my idea of hell in any country. It sounds like you will be shoved into nasty tourist ghetto restaurants which would just be the worst

    meta

    Don’t believe everything you read in Western media. It is more relaxed, but still very strict. The fact is that they only present you with the rules once you pay. Free time needs to be planned in advance and it is normally frowned upon by the travel agencies. They have an absolute authority to stop you going anywhere they don’t want you to.

    In regards to masks it’s 2 years+ rule in Japan, so you’d be ok on that note. Also if you stayed in a country not on the blue list (i.e. Portugal, Cyprus of the big ones) in the 14 days prior, you can’t enter.

    A tour agency from Japan cannot apply for a visa for you from Japan as docs need to be submitted in person. You could use an authorised visa agent with additional costs. Visa also costs £20 for British citizens.

    I also read in Japanese papers that the basic package costs are starting at $2000 per person. Inside Japan (UK owned company in Japan) sells tours starting at £2600+ per person.

    meta

    Wow, based on @meta’s summary, I would skip. That sounds like my idea of hell in any country. It sounds like you will be shoved into nasty tourist ghetto restaurants which would just be the worst

    If money is not a problem, they can organise a private luxury tour, you can specify restaurants you want to visit, but it has to be pre-planned and fixed in advance. It’s designed in the way for Japanese tour agencies to extract as much money as possible from tourists. They lobbied for it mind you.

    meta

    I’d also suggest anyone to think about using their JAL/ANA issued tickets for transit purposes only. Transit is absolutely fine (both airlines will check through bags even on separate tickets!) and you don’t need any visa or PCR tests.

    JAL and ANA are increasing flights to many other Asian destinations and it should be a modest extra cost compared to the hassle of trying to organise a monitored tour.

    Biki

    I’d also suggest anyone to think about using their JAL/ANA issued tickets for transit purposes only. Transit is absolutely fine (both airlines will check through bags even on separate tickets!) and you don’t need any visa or PCR tests.

    JAL and ANA are increasing flights to many other Asian destinations and it should be a modest extra cost compared to the hassle of trying to organise a monitored tour.

    I had a look at flights with JAL to a couple of places such as South Korea last night, but its seems very expensive. c.£800 in economy for a 2.5 hour flight. I assume it would need to be JAL to through check bags on seperate bookings anyway?

    meta

    Yes, needs to be the same airline. Look at Avios flights on JAL. Seems like availabilty is good (at least it was when I booked in June).

    I am going to Philippines on holiday after my Japan stay and paid 13.2k Avios + £191 for one-way in business class. Used the least Avios option as it made more sense. Cash price was around £1k.

    EDIT: Just make sure to leave enough time for transit! However, they do hold flights a bit for transit passengers.

    • This reply was modified 52 years, 9 months ago by .
    Biki

    I couldn’t find any seats to South Korea or the Philippines for the dates we need, but there is for Bangkok. Any other suggestions for out that way anyone?

    meta

    Vietnam, Singapore. They also fly to Jakarta. Guam and Australia too. Not sure about Fiji.

    Sometimes seats are released two months in advance only.

    Nadeshka

    Given the already inflated flight time I’m probably not keen to add on another with a 3 and almost 1 yr old by then.
    Thanks for the insight @meta, I’m now starting to research other possible destinations as a back up where there is still avios availability.

    I wish they’d be honest about what timeline they’re working on – so much for “in line with other G7 nations by June”. I wouldn’t have gotten my hopes up about flying JAL! Also makes it hard to decide to cancel in case they do last minute change tack.

    meta

    They have been parrotting “We are considering in line with domestic and international covid situation” since last year. They really do refuse to give a timeline or any indication even after elections. They need a high profile bankruptcy of a tour operator to shake them.

    yonasl

    Have a JAL to TKO return with BA (BA0006) in Oct-Nov 2022 (BA starts flying last week of Oct supposedly). I am fairly certain BA will cancel the flights as 2 JAL direct a day should be enough given the current circumstances.

    Just quite annoying BA hasn’t cancelled yet as I could at least move the trip to next May 2023 (even if they use the “only one year since ticket was bought” excuse prices are fairly similar to what we paid currently).

    While I love Japan I wonder how the first tourists there are going to feel. When I was there in March 2020 just before lockdown they were so happy to have a foreigner visiting and not falling into the stereotype of “only asians have this virus”. I wonder if we will feel such a warm welcome this time!

    Gavin454

    Do you really want to be chaperoned by a tour guide? It’s really strict from what I heard. You have to have everything pre-planned including meal times plus only use Japanese government approved agencies. You will also have separate rules for wearing a mask to the Japanese (and yes that includes children). There is a separate minder who makes sure you only take mask off for a brief moment while eating.

    You will also need to get a visa yourself and the agencies can’t help with the application process. They will provide the documentation (ERFS), but you need to apply in person and collect in person from Embassy in London. Once you agree on the itinerary, you have to pay for the tour in full (non-refundable in most cases) and they need to submit the proof of payment to Ministry of Health to issue the ERFS certificate. Naturally most agencies don’t tell you this when you enquire.

    The current lead time for issuing visas is 4 weeks minimum. You need to book an appointment to visit the Embassy and the slots are released 3 weeks in advance. They are released at midnight and all slots almost gone within minutes. You can call to check for cancellations. Then it’s about a week to get the visa. But what if you don’t get a visa? You lose money for the tour.

    Tourists should be avoiding Japan on principle for implementing this ridiculous and discriminatory system.

    Japan is currently one of the most COVID-infected countries in the world, since it’s going through exactly the same wave that (almost) every other country is dealing with right now too, give or take a few weeks. Their unscientific border restrictions have done exactly nothing to prevent or dampen it. Japanese people are free to travel the world without restrictions or visas for almost all countries.

    As someone else said, the procedure is far more difficult and complicated vs. getting a visa for North Korea (pre-pandemic), and the rules for the tours are also largely more strict and onerous!

    Jill Kinkell

    Not going in autumn, have 241 booked for mid March . Was planning time in Japan before joining a cruise. Managed to get everything to fit in nicely. The cruise line cancelled all Far East sailings until April/May next year, so I’m sitting with my Tokyo flights that I’m now hoping BA cancel as I don’t think for one minute I could bear the palaver mentioned above, even if watered down over the next few months.

    t0m

    I’m booked for Easter 2023.. not holding my breath!

    yonasl

    My 6 Nov. BA flight from TKY to LHR was just cancelled (BA flight not JAL). I suppose others will be getting similar emails soon regarding this route.

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