So long as you abide by the rules, entering and exiting Japan is usually hassle-free.

Customs Regulations

  • Japan has typical customs allowances for duty-free items; see Visit Japan Customs (www.customs.go.jp) for more information.
  • Stimulant drugs, which include ADHD medication Adderall, are strictly prohibited in Japan. Narcotics (such as codeine) are controlled substances; in order to bring them for personal medical use you need to prepare a yakkan shōmei – an import certificate for pharmaceuticals. See the Ministry of Health, Labour & Welfare's website (www.mhlw.go.jp/english/policy/health-medical/pharmaceuticals/01.html) for more details.
  • Pornography that clearly shows genitalia is illegal in Japan.
  • To bring a sword out of the country, you will need to apply for a permit; reputable dealers will do this for you.

Visas

Visas are issued on arrival for most nationalities for stays of up to 90 days.

Visitor Visas

Citizens of 68 countries/regions, including Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, USA, UK and almost all European nations, will be automatically issued a temporary visitor visa on arrival. Typically this visa is good for 90 days. For a complete list of visa-exempt countries and visa duration, consult www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/short/novisa.html#list.

On entering Japan, all holders of foreign passports are photographed and fingerprinted. If asked, travellers arriving on a temporary visitor visa should be able to provide proof of onward travel or sufficient means to purchase an air or ferry ticket; in practice, this is rarely asked.

Visa Extensions

Citizens of Austria, Germany, Ireland, Lichtenstein, Mexico, Switzerland and the UK are able to extend their temporary visitor visa once, for another 90 days, but need to apply at a regional immigration bureau before the initial visa expires. For a list of immigration bureaus, see www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/soshiki/index.html.

For other nationalities, extending a temporary visa is difficult unless you have family or business contacts in Japan who can act as a guarantor on your behalf.

Resident Card

Anyone entering Japan on a visa for longer than the standard 90 days for tourists will be issued a resident card (在留カード; zairyū kādo). Those arriving at Narita, Haneda, Kansai or Chūbu airport will receive their cards at the airport (show your visa to airport staff to be directed to the correct counter); otherwise the card will be sent to a registered address.

Working-Holiday Visas

Citizens of 20 countries/regions are eligible for working-holiday visas: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Hong Kong, Hungary, Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Taiwan and the UK.

To qualify you must be between the ages of 18 and 30 (or 18 and 25 for Australians, Canadians and Koreans) with no accompanying dependants. With few exceptions, the visa is valid for one year and you must apply from a Japanese embassy or consulate abroad.

The visa is designed to enable young people to travel during their stay, and there are legal restrictions about how long and where you can work; you may also be required to show proof of adequate funds.

For more details, see www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/w_holiday.