Flying Back to Japan During COVID19

Nagisa is an international student studying in Vancouver at Capilano University. She recently decided to fly back home to Japan since her semester was close to over and the situation of COVID19 was worsening here in Canada. Her flight home was very different than usual, many precautions were taken in order to ensure she didn’t get sick or enter Japan while being sick. Upon returning home, she made sure to self-isolate before heading outside again. International students, we hope understanding the processes she went through while traveling home will help you prepare for your travels during COVID19.

As the Japanese government has issued a travel advisory on April 1st, 2020, foreign nationals who have stayed in restricted countries, including Canada, within 14 days prior to landing are prohibited to enter Japan. It is also issued that Japanese nationals, including Japanese students studying in Canada, that they must 1) get COVID19 testing (PCR Test) and 2) self-isolate themselves for a minimum of 14 days after landing. I am a Japanese student studying at a university in Vancouver and had made a plan for going home before the advisory was issued. In this article, I will share what I have experienced through these travels during COVID19.

Step1: Vancouver International Airport (YVR) – check-in/ security inspection

My flight was with All Nippon Airline (ANA), departing Vancouver on April 3rd/ arriving Haneda Airport (HND/Tokyo) on April 4th. YVR looked the same as usual, except that all check-in counters were closed but except ANA. At the check-in counter, I receive this document called “Important Notice Before Entering Japan.”

The document states that 1) the PCR Test is mandatory 2) Selfquarantine for 14 days is necessary 3) Prohibition of use of public transportation for 14 days is in place 4) No connecting domestic flights can be accepted. My hometown is Kagawa, a small town in Western Japan, which is quite far away from Tokyo (for reference, it’s about the same distance as from Vancouver to Calgary). Having no direct flight to Kagawa from YVR, my original plan was to transfer at Okayama Airport once – however, I ended up canceling all the domestic flights due to the travel advisory. Check-in and security inspection are the same as usual, but all passengers needed to maintain 2 meters distance between them



Step2: On the plane

My flight departed on time. On the plane, I got 4 documents and was asked to read through and fill in all the documents. The documents are:

  • Notice from Quarantine Station
  • Regarding your health
  • Address of where I would be self-isolating
  • Consent form on the prohibition of using public transportation

After landing, we needed to wait for 20 minutes on the plane to receive instructions from the quarantine station.

Step3: HND – Gate

After getting out of the plane, all passengers did stay at the gate to recheck and review the 4 documents we received on the plane. Meanwhile, there was an announcement there that some hotels near HND offer non-scheduled bus shuttles. Step 3 took 20 minutes in total.

Step4: HND – Quarantine Inspection

So, the inspection was carried out in the following order:

  1. A person/persons with a small child/children
  2. A person who is not staying at a hotel near HND (a person whose family or friends are picking them up/ who is renting a car and driving home on their own/ who can go to the self-isolating facility without using public transportation)
  3. A person who is staying at a hotel near HND

The steps on the inspection are as follows:

  1. Rechecking the documents (by talking to officers there)
  2. Inspection at temporary inspection kiosks which are on the other side of the terminal
  3. Inspecting by inserting long cotton swabs into the nose

Step5: HND – Entering Japan

After the inspection, I entered Japan, picked up my luggage and went through the customs declaration process. So, step 3-5 in total took 1 hour and 30 mins. It didn’t take much time. However, all the international flights but ANA had been canceled on that day, so if there were other flights arriving around the same time, it would have taken more time.

According to the announcement at the airport, the result of the PCR test sends out after 1.5-2 days to phone numbers/email addresses filled in on the document. In my case, it took me 8 days to receive the email with the result, negative. Some hotels near HND do now allow people to stay until they receive the PCR results, so some people needed to wait at the airport for the result. For me, I could not fly on the domestic flights so my father drove all the way to HND and spent 12 hours driving me back home. Right now I am still self-isolating myself at home.

So, Nagisa’s experience hopefully will help other international students traveling home; knowing what to expect and how to prepare can help calm stress. While times are difficult and things seem new, it’s all about protecting us and ensuring COVID19 is all over soon! We hope all international students returning home do so safely, and we hope to see you back in Canada very soon.

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