Note: As of 2007, all foreigners entering Japan are fingerprinted and photographed in a measure to prevent terrorism, despite the fact that terrorism in Japan has been mostly homegrown. Exceptions include children younger than 16, diplomats, and some permanent residents of Japan.
For most tourists, including those from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, the only document necessary to enter Japan is a passport.
For information on obtaining passports, please contact the following agencies:
For Residents of Australia -- Contact the Australian Passport Information Service at tel. 131-232, or visit the government website at www.passports.gov.au.
For Residents of Canada -- Contact the central Passport Office, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ottawa, ON K1A 0G3 (tel. 800/567-6868; www.ppt.gc.ca).
For Residents of Ireland -- Contact the Passport Office, Setanta Centre, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 (tel. 01/671-1633; www.irlgov.ie/iveagh).
For Residents of New Zealand -- Contact the Passports Office at tel. 0800/225-050 in New Zealand, or 04/474-8100; or log on to www.passports.govt.nz.
For Residents of the United Kingdom -- Visit your nearest passport office, major post office, or travel agency, or contact the United Kingdom Passport Service at tel. 0870/521-0410, or search its website at www.ukpa.gov.uk.
For Residents of the United States -- To find your regional passport office, either check the U.S. Department of State website or call the National Passport Information Center toll-free number (tel. 877/487-2778) for automated information.
Passport Savvy -- Safeguard your passport in an inconspicuous, inaccessible place, such as a money belt, and keep a photocopy of your passport's information page in your luggage. If you lose your passport, visit your nearest consulate as soon as possible for a replacement. Note: All foreigners must present their passports for photocopying when checking into lodging facilities. In addition, foreigners are required to carry with them at all times either their passports or, for those who have been granted longer stays, their alien registration cards. Police generally do not stop foreigners, but if you're caught without an ID, you'll be taken to local police headquarters. It happened to me once, and believe me, I can think of better ways to spend an hour and a half than explaining in detail who I am, what I am doing in Japan, where I live, and what I plan to do for the rest of my life. I even had to write a statement explaining why I rushed out that day without my passport, apologizing and promising never to do such a thoughtless thing again. The policemen were polite and were simply doing their duty.
Foreign visitors from many countries can enter Japan without a visa for purposes of tourism. Americans, Australians, and New Zealanders traveling to Japan as tourists for a stay of 90 days or less need only a valid passport to gain entry into the country. Canadians don't need a visa for stays of up to 3 months, and United Kingdom and Irish citizens can stay up to 6 months without a visa.
If you're 20 or older, you can bring duty-free into Japan up to 400 non-Japanese cigarettes or 500 grams of tobacco or 100 cigars; three bottles (760cc each) of alcohol; and 2 ounces of perfume. You can also bring in goods for personal use that were purchased abroad whose total market value is less than ¥200,000.
What You Can Take Home from Tokyo -- For information on what you're allowed to bring home, contact one of the following agencies:
U.S. Citizens: U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20229 (tel. 877/287-8667; www.cbp.gov).
Canadian Citizens: Canada Border Services Agency (tel. 800/461-9999 in Canada, or 204/983-3500; www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca).
U.K. Citizens: HM Customs & Excise at tel. 0845/010-9000 (from outside the U.K., 020/8929-0152), or consult the website at www.hmce.gov.uk.
Australian Citizens: Australian Customs Service at tel. 1300/363-263, or log on to www.customs.gov.au.
New Zealand Citizens: New Zealand Customs, The Customhouse, 17-21 Whitmore St., Box 2218, Wellington (tel. 04/473-6099 or 0800/428-786; www.customs.govt.nz).
Unless you're arriving from an area known to be suffering from an epidemic (particularly cholera or yellow fever), inoculations or vaccinations are not required for entry into Japan. Note, however, that at press time, all passengers arriving at Narita Airport are requested to fill out a questionnaire in-flight regarding symptoms of the H1N1 influenza, such as fever or coughing. In addition, the temperature of all arriving passengers is taken upon entering the customs area; if you have a fever, you may be quarantined as a protection against H1N1 or avian flu.