Declassified: New Crew Rules in Japan

By Chris Shieff




On June 13, crew entry rules were eased – under certain conditions, you no longer have to isolate in your hotel room. It’s great news for layovers – icy cold Asahi beer and delicious gyoza await.

The problem is where to find that information. The guidance online is all for passengers. So, we reached out to a local agent, who provided us with an ‘Administrative Circular’ recently issued by Japan’s CAA with all the rules just for crew.

But for some reason, we are not allowed to share it. Why? We’re not sure – it is apparently top secret. Before it becomes mission impossible and self-destructs, here is a rundown of what it contains. But you’ll have to take our word for it…

Blue, Yellow and Red

Japan has broken the world’s countries down into three categories – yep you guessed it, the colours above.

The rules you need to follow depend on where you have been in the past fourteen days – the most restrictive country applies.

Blue Countries:

This includes the US, Canada and much of Western Europe. If you haven’t been outside the list of blue countries, you will only need to provide a Covid test that is less than 72 hours old – more on that in a moment.

There is no need to provide proof of vaccination.

Yellow Countries:

Many South American, Caribbean and Eastern European countries fall into this category.

If you’ve been in one of these, you will need the same test as above with the additional requirement of being triple vaccinated – yep, all three jabs of an approved vaccine.

Red Countries:

There’s only a few of these. At the time of writing, just Pakistan, Fiji, Albania and Sierra Leone .

Unfortunately, if you have been in one of them, you will need to isolate in the hotel in addition to all the other requirements.

What Covid tests are accepted?

You can view the list in full here, which of course includes the gold standard PCR test.

The biggest gotcha is that rapid antigen tests (the super easy ones you can do at home) are not allowed. They are what are known as ‘qualitative’ antigen tests, and Japan has said no bueno. ‘Quantitative’ antigen tests are allowed, but they are not the same thing.

Here’s a little graphic that might help you get your head around which tests are okay for entry. Some of the details are in Japanese, but effectively the ones on the left in are okay, the ones on the right with crosses are no good.

A word about vaccines too.

 Any vaccine certificate must be issued by the government, or other official source. In either English or Japanese is fine.

You need to have received one of the following:

  • Pfizer
  • Astra Zeneca
  • Moderna
  • Janssen
  • Bharat Biotech
  • Novavax

In some cases, a single dose counts as two. You can also mix vaccine doses. More on that here.

I don’t meet some of these requirements – can I still go?

 Yep! But you’ll have to isolate in a hotel and use private transport to and from the airport.

Can I present a ‘Certificate of Recovery’ instead of a Covid test?

 It’s not mentioned in the official guidance, but local agents advise the answer is no. At this stage, you’ll have to stick to the guidelines above if you don’t want to isolate.

What do operators have to do?

Effectively screen all crew for symptoms beforehand – anyone with signs of cold and flu are not allowed to operate to Japan.

In flight, if someone starts feeling unwell, the operator needs to let the authorities know – the crew member will be tested on arrival. It will then be on the operator to get the rest of the crew tested too.

Just a note though – pilots and cabin crew are considered as being in ‘segregated’ areas. So there is no need to test a pilot if a flight attendant becomes unwell, and vice versa.

So, there you have it.

Crew are free to enjoy their layovers in Japan, as long as they meet these requirements. It also goes without saying that common precautions apply when out of your hotel – including hand washing and mask wearing.

Never washed your hands before? We’ve got you covered. Here is a detailed ‘how-to’ video along with some soothing electric keyboard.

Still have a question?

Reach out to us on news@ops.group, and we’d be happy to help.


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Chris Shieff

Chris Shieff

OPSGROUP team member and A320 pilot. Based in sunny Auckland, New Zealand. Question for us? Write to blog.team@ops.group.

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