All visitors to Japan pass through customs upon arrival and, for most, the process is fairly quick and uncomplicated. To ensure a smooth arrival in the country, however, it helps to know the rules and regulations that Japan has declared for foreign visitors.
All visitors to Japan are required to fill out a written customs declaration that will be presented to a customs officer upon arrival in Japan. Most often, these written forms are available on airplanes and ships arriving to a Japanese port of entry. If you do not receive a form on your flight or ship, they are also available in the arrival halls of Japanese airports and ferry terminals.
Red and Green Channels
Upon arrival in Japan, visitors will proceed through one of two channels:
- The green channel is for visitors who have nothing to declare – visitors who are transporting goods at or under the limits declared by customs.
- The red channel is for all other visitors i.e. those who may be transporting goods in excess of the limit customs has set – multiple bottles of alcohol or excessive cartons of cigarettes, for example.
If you are moving to Japan or have additional baggage that is being shipped to Japan and arrives independently, you still must present a customs declaration upon arrival at your first point of entry.
Bringing pets into Japan is strictly regulated and those wishing to arriving with their furry family members in tow must begin the customs process weeks or months in advance.
For Dogs and Cats:
Anyone importing a dog or cat must notify the Animal Quarantine Bureau of Japan at least 40 days prior to the pet’s arrival in Japan. In order to receive an “Approval of Inspection of Animals” certificate, the animal must:
- be fitted with a microchip (If not conforming to ISO Standard 11784 / 11785, a microchip reader must be provided);
- have been kept, for the past 180 days, since birth or since bringing out of Japan, in designated regions (Australia, Fiji, Guam, Iceland, Hawaii and New Zealand), or regions with no case of rabies in the past two years;
- show no clinical sign of rabies, (leptospirosis for dogs) immediately before departure.
More information is available at the Japanese Animal Quarantine Service homepage.
Visitors are permitted to bring three bottles of alcohol (760ml in volume per bottle) into Japan.
Visitors to Japan may bring in a limit of 400 cigarettes or 100 cigars before being subject to customs payment. It’s important to note that in 2021, the rule will tighten to only allow 200 cigarettes and 50 cigars.
Up to 2 ounces is permitted.
All goods for personal user must not exceed ¥200,000 (total overseas market value)
Visitors to Japan may carry up to 1million yen (USD 10,000) in cash into Japan. Amounts higher than that must be declared to customs officials.
Guns and Knives
Most types of arms and ammunition are prohibited, including firearms, pistol parts, explosive substances and ammunition. Swords, air guns and hunting rifles require a permit issued by the National Public Safety Commission. Blades under 6cm are permitted to be carried on one’s person. Anything over that length is prohibited and penalties can be strict.
Visitors to Japan are allowed to bring in certain types and amounts of both over-the-counter and prescription medication for personal use. For more detailed information, please see the following guide.
Plant and Animal Products
Any plants, parts of plants, or fruits must be declared to customs upon arrival. This also includes any fruit that was served on the airplane or ship prior to arrival in Japan.
Certain items are strictly forbidden in Japan and visitors attempting to enter the country with these items in their possession will be subject to fines and potential imprisonment. It is important to remember that while certain items may be legal in a passenger’s country of origin, that passenger is subject to the rules of Japan upon arrival.
The following articles are currently prohibited from entry by law:
- Heroin, cocaine, MDMA, opium, cannabis, stimulants, psychotropic substances, and other narcotic drugs (excluding those designated by Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare Ordinance);
- Firearms (pistols, etc.), ammunition (bullets) thereof, and pistol parts;
- Explosives (dynamite, gunpowder, etc.) ;
- Precursor materials for chemical weapons;
- Counterfeit, altered, or imitation coins, paper money, banknotes, or securities, and forged credit cards;
- Books, drawings, carvings, and any other article which may harm public safety or morals (obscene or immoral materials, e.g., pornography);
- Child pornography; and
- Articles that infringe upon intellectual property rights.
For additional guidance, the Japan Customs English webpage provides an excellent detailed overview of what can and cannot be brought into Japan and what is subject to customs tax.