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Japan’s COVID-19 State of Emergency: What You Need to Know

What does Japan's state of emergency mean?

By 5 min read

The fourth state of emergency has been extended to Sep. 30, 2021.
After a surge in coronavirus cases, several prefectures in Japan entered the fourth state of emergency. On Aug.18, 2021, it was extended until Sept. 12. On Sept. 9, it was extended again in 19 prefectures including Tokyo, Hokkaido, Aichi, Osaka and Fukuoka.

The state of emergency does not mean a hard lockdown as seen in other countries, but it does put restrictions on the public concerning “non-essential” activities such as travel and dining out.

To help foreign residents in the affected prefectures, we have compiled a list of answers to questions you may have about living under the state of emergency.

You can use the links below to jump to a specific section.

What does the state of emergency mean?

This is the fourth state of emergency declared since the pandemic. In 2020, the government announced a nationwide state of emergency in April which wasn’t lifted until June. A regional state of emergency was declared on Jan. 07, 2021, for Tokyo and other prefectures, and was lifted on Mar. 21, 2021. The third was declared on April 23 and extended to June 20.

The declaration permits prefectural governors in the affected areas to “request” residents stay at home except for leaving to perform essential tasks. “Essential tasks” include anything deemed necessary to maintaining life, such as going to the hospital, buying food and commuting to work.

Under a law revised in February, businesses who refuse to shorten hours or close face daily fines of up to ¥300,000.

Governors may also request businesses deemed non-essential to take control measures such as shortening hours or reducing operations, such as a department store closing all floors not selling daily necessities.

The government does not have the legal authority to impose a lockdown or fine residents who ignore the request. However, under a law revised in February, businesses in prefectures under a “full state of emergency” who refuse to shorten hours or close face daily fines of up to ¥300,000. COVID-19 patients who resist hospitalization may also be fined up to ¥500,000.

A state of emergency also allows the government to legally and forcefully requisition land or buildings for medical purposes.

School closures

Prefectural high schools fall under the jurisdiction of the governor and may be closed at their discretion. As for private schools and municipal elementary and junior high schools, governors may only request school closure and “instruct” schools that do not respond. However, there is no penalty for those who do not follow the request.

Currently, the government is not requesting school closures.

What facilities may close or have limited operation?

Malls, theme parks, theaters, museums, bars and restaurants serving alcohol will close or face fines. Large facilities such as department stores are asked to close every floor except those that sell essential items such as food and medicine.

The following may have closures, shorter hours or limited capacity:

  • Exercise facilities such as gyms, swimming pools and sports centers
  • Facilities related to gatherings and exhibitions such as public halls, cinemas, venues, theaters, museums and libraries
  • Recreation facilities such as nightclubs, bars, internet cafes, karaoke, pachinko parlors and arcades
  • Daycare centers, nursing schools, and centers for the elderly may also be affected.

What facilities will stay open?

In the event of further restrictions, the facilities and services below are considered essential and would remain open. They could also be asked to take control measures, such as limiting operation hours as is the case with train schedules.

  • Medical facilities such as hospitals and pharmacies
  • Grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores and wholesale markets
  • Housing and accommodation facilities such as hotels
  • Transportation such as trains, buses, taxis and rental car services (with limited hours)
  • Home delivery services
  • Banks, post offices, utilities and administration offices (remote work requested)
  • Restaurants (open until 8 p.m. but must not serve alcohol)
  • Public baths

Will the trains run normally?

During the previous state of emergency, JR East moved up its last departure time, depending on the line. Bus operators, such as Seibu Bus, ceased all night buses and some buses would not travel from Tokyo to other prefectures. Central Japan Railway Co also cut shinkansen services from Tokyo. You may reencounter restrictions such as these.

So far, nothing extreme has been announced to curb travel, despite pleas from government officials.

Will domestic flights be affected?

Domestic flights have been reduced. Airlines such as ANA have also taken special measures, and airports like Haneda are also suspending some services, stores and terminals. If you made plans to travel via airplane during the state of emergency, you should double-check the new restrictions and changes you may encounter during your trip.

What if I need to renew my visa?

Immigration centers are open, but capacity is limited. If you were to visit the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau, you would receive a slip of paper with your designated group name and the allocated time you are allowed to enter the building.

Check the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare website for updates as the situation gradually changes. The Ministry has also provided a list of hospitals in Japan that are able to provide testing and treatment for the virus. Unfortunately, the list is in Japanese only.

We will continue to update this page as the story in Japan develops.

Please call the JNTO Multilingual Hotline at 050-3816-2787 in English, Japanese or Korean in the event of emergencies related to the coronavirus.

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