A Japanese Reporter’s Travel Diary Shows New Level of Chaos at Airports

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Japan remains closed to most tourists, but has loosened up for some business and student travel. This Travel Voice Japan reporter’s account of a recent trip to Hawaii echoes the experiences of many travelers around the world these days to mass confusion.

Tom Lowry

Like a Travel Voice Japan journalist, I encountered many challenges during my first overseas coverage in the past two and a half years, when I went to Hawaii as a member of the tourist delegation sent by the Japanese Association of trip (JATA) in early April.

Before the department

I had to prepare different types of documents in Japan before departure, such as a negative certificate, an official vaccination certificate issued by the local government, an attestation form and a CDC contact sheet. One of the challenges for me was the very expensive PCR test. I had to pay 30,000 JPY for a test and another 5,000 JPY as a commission fee at a hospital near my home, which was recommended by Hawaii Tourism Japan. The cost varies by testing facility, but anyway, if a family of four is traveling to the United States, they already need about JPY 100,000 in total.

To obtain an official vaccination certificate, you have to be careful because it takes a week to 10 days to be issued if you need a paper certificate. If you have already registered “My Number Card”, you can obtain a digital certificate earlier.

At Haneda Airport, it took about an hour to complete the check-in procedures despite the fact that the airport staff had to carefully check all the required documents.

Before leaving Hawaii

It was very easy for me to go through passport control at Honolulu International Airport. It was much easier than I expected. I was afraid to wait a long time, but it was unchanged from previous procedures before the pandemic.

I could walk out of the terminal to blue skies in Hawaii and take my mask off soon because I knew the mask regulations in Hawaii were already lifted.

I had several things to do before leaving Hawaii. The first thing was to take a PCR test within 72 hours before the departure time of the return flight, and I booked a health institute approved by the Ministry of Health of Japan. I could test negative and pay $160, which was almost the same price as in Japan.

Then, I started registering the required documents in “MySOS”, which was an official application of the Ministry of Health for smooth and easy entry or re-entry into Japan. I took pictures of a negative result and a vaccination certificate and uploaded them to the app, and after a short while the app screen color changed from red to green , which means you are ready to enter Japan. When I saw it I was honestly excited because it was supposed to be my first digital experience back in my country in the middle of the pandemic.

After arriving in Japan

I arrived in Narita at 4:57 p.m., and until I exited the terminal, I felt “Why?” or “Why?” at many times.

After getting off the plane, I waited in a lobby for a while and was guided to the first lane counter as I already had the “MySOS” green screen app. I first thought the QR code on the app led me to the next step, but after a simple question and answer session, a young staff member handed me a paper health card and I found the same information saved in the app on the paper. I didn’t understand at all. “Why do I still need the paper? I was confused about this. I had to walk to the next step, with my passport, my smart phone and several papers including direction information.

I expected to be able to pass the CIQ checkpoint only by identifying the QR code acquired on the app to some sort of authentication machine. The QR code was like this. “How and where to dose the MySOS function?” “How convenient is the QR code?”

After that, I proceeded to the saliva-antigen test phase, although I got a negative result, paying $160. The test in Honolulu didn’t make sense? The Japanese authority doubted after an infection to pass a test at destination or in the cabin?

My watch said 6:13 p.m. at that time. About an hour and 15 minutes had passed since the descent from the plane.

The next step was the second checkpoint. I showed the QR code again and my passport number and contact details were confirmed. “Is it necessary? What dose does the second record mean?”

I had to wait a long time until the antigen test result came out. It was 6:30 p.m. at that time.

I finally got a negative result at 7:38 p.m. Then I went through the usual passport control by facial recognition and walked to baggage claim. My luggage stood quietly with other passengers’ luggage next to the turntable.

When I went through the exit after customs control, I was stopped for showing the test number stamp on the back of my passport. “Again, is this necessary? Why? ”

I checked what time it was. It was almost 8 p.m. About 3 hours had passed since the descent from the plane. I was so exhausted. It was the expedited entry into Japan.

While many countries have lifted travel regulations, Japan is maintaining its strict cross-border regulations, practically saying “Don’t go abroad yet” and “Don’t come to Japan yet.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was first published on April 18 by Travel Voice Japanwho Skift has a story-sharing partnership with.