Bringing your pet to Japan is a process that can be both time-consuming and expensive. But, it is absolutely possible to successfully bring your fur friend to Japan, with a bit of patience and a lot of preparation.
Designated vs non-designated regions
There are certain parts of the world where it is easier to bring a cat or a dog into Japan than others, notably: Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, the Fiji Islands, Hawaii and Guam. These places are designated rabies-free areas by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Japan.
In order for your cat or dog to qualify as being from one of these regions, it must:
- Have continuously resided in the designated region since birth; or
- Have continuously lived in a designated region for at least 180 days immediately before moving to Japan; or
- Have resided continuously in a designated region since being directly imported from Japan
If you are not from a designated region or your pet does not meet one of those requirements, then the procedure becomes a little more complicated.
Microchipping, vaccinations and blood tests
Regardless of where you are from in the world, you need to microchip your pet based on the recommended microchip standards for Japan (ISO 11784 and 11785).
Following the microchipping process, all pets from non-designated regions must get the rabies vaccination twice or more. Note that Japan does not accept the live rabies virus vaccine so your pet must receive a vaccine that contains the inactivated virus or recombinant/modified virus.
Your pet must be at least 91 days old at the time of the first vaccination and the second vaccination must be done more than 30 days after the first (the date of the first vaccination is counted as day zero), but within the effective period of the first vaccine.
After the second immunisation, your pet must be tested for rabies antibodies so be aware that you will need to research the best place near you to get your pet’s blood tested. This might involve spending some money to send the blood sample away to a lab.
Note especially that you must enter Japan with your pet while the vaccination is still effective. This validity period differs depending on the type of rabies vaccine, so remember to check this with your vet. If the effectiveness period passes before you enter Japan, your pet will need to get a third rabies vaccine.
For pets that have resided in a designated region for six months or more, the rabies vaccine and test are not required.
After the second vaccine has been administered and the blood has been sent away, you must wait 180 days before entering Japan. Pets from non-designated regions that have not waited the full 180 days will be quarantined for the time required to make up the shortage.
Since the point of this entire process is to avoid your pet going into full quarantine, it would make sense to ensure you wait out the full 180 days!
This waiting period is a good time to do everything you need to prepare for your move to Japan such as booking flights (research the best airline to transport your pet with), finalising accommodation and filling in all the necessary documentation to notify the Japanese government of your intention to import a pet.
Think about the things your pet might need while on the flight, too. If you are able to fly with your pet in the cabin, think about whether you might need to bring toys or a collapsible water bowl, or anything else that might make the flight less stressful for your pet.
Whether you’re from a designated region or not, you must let the Animal Quarantine Service at the port you are planning to enter (Narita Airport, for example) know that you will be bringing a pet. This must be done no less than 40 days before arriving in Japan.
The notification form can be filled in online, mailed, faxed or emailed. Note that you need to put your Japan address on this form so you need to secure accommodation in Japan first.
If Animal Quarantine Service accepts the notification, then you will receive an approval form, which you will need to print out and show at the check-in counter when you arrive in Japan.
Final medical check and documentation
Within 10 days of leaving for Japan, your pet must be examined by a vet.
You will also need to get certificates from your home country confirming:
- Your pet’s date of birth and age
- The microchip number and date of implant
- Rabies vaccination date, immunity period, type of vaccine, product name and vaccine manufacturer
- Date of blood testing for rabies antibodies and name of lab that did the testing
- Results and date of final clinical inspection
The health certificate must be endorsed from your country’s governing authority that is responsible for the import and export of animals. If you are from North America, the certificate must be a United States Department of Agriculture or the Canadian Food Inspection Agency state veterinarian endorsement.
What if I don’t complete these steps?
Dogs and cats that do not meet those requirements will be quarantined for up to 180 days, or however many days you did not wait following the second vaccine.
Note that all cats and dogs coming into Japan will be quarantined, but owners who can prove they have completed the procedure properly will only have their pet kept in quarantine for a short time.
What if I want to bring a pet that’s not a cat or a dog?
Birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, rodents, rabbits and invertebrates do not need to go through the rabies vaccine procedure but may be subject to other requirements. It is best to contact either your relevant authority or Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for the most accurate information.
For more information on importing pets to Japan, visit the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries website: http://www.maff.go.jp/aqs/english/animal/im_index.html
For more useful tips about life in Japan keep following our Go! Go! Nihon blog.