UPDATE March 2022: Please note that due to the constantly changing nature of the pandemic response, this article is now no longer being updated. Since 1 March 2022, Japan has reopened its borders to all new foreign arrivals except for tourists. This includes international students. Read our article here for information or for the most up-to-date news, please check with your local Japanese embassy.
We met with Ms Kato, the principal of the Intercultural Institute of Japan, to ask her questions about the current entry situation in Japan for Japanese language students. She is one of the representatives of the group of language schools that are meeting with the Japanese government to support Japanese language students and their entry into Japan.
The interview was done on August 25 and the information on entry to Japan for language students was accurate at that time. However the situation is changing very fast and additional information has been given since our interview with Ms Kato and we have added them to this article.
Can you introduce yourself?
Hi everyone, my name is Kato Sanae. I am the principal of Intercultural Japanese Language School that is located in Akihabara, Tokyo.
The first question that our students are asking is: what are the schools doing to pressure the government to allow language students to come to Japan in October?
About 800 Japanese language schools all over Japan got together and made 6 groups that are talking and addressing this with different government bodies, for example the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also the Ministry of Education. We are talking to those ministries to try to get them to let students enter Japan soon.
What can students do to encourage the government to allow students to attend the October school term?
All students have this feeling of, “I want to go to Japan”, “that if I can study abroad in Japan my future will change and improve in this way”. Also: “I can bring a lot to Japan”.
If the students could write about that on Twitter or other SNS (social media channels) it will be good, so we can show the government. For example, things are moving for international students sponsored by the government and I heard one of the main reasons for that is the way students voiced their concerns and hopes.
So please everyone raise your voices and be heard.
Do the schools know when students will be allowed to enter Japan?
I don’t know exactly when, so I can’t say a clear date. But we are really trying our best to push [the government]. I think that it will be possible at some point to enter as things already are moving little by little.
What will the quarantine process be for students? For example for people that are living alone, are they going to be able to go to the supermarket, convenience store, etc? Is there any information about where students will have to stay for 14 days?
First thing, as soon as arriving in Japan, after immigration everyone should perform a PCR examination. After receiving a negative result, students should go to the accommodation [that they wrote down on the forms they receive at the airport]. But you can’t use public transport, so schools can support students with a pick-up service if needed.
After arriving at the agreed accommodation, the student must stay there for two weeks. During that time, the student’s school will try to help as much as possible.
During quarantine, buying things from convenience stores, etc would be okay, as long as precautions, like wearing a mask and avoiding busy times, are taken. There is no need to be nervous as there will be certain allowances [in terms of being able to leave your accommodation].
Read more about what to expect at the airport if you arrive in Japan during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why doesn’t the government let students enter Japan now, assuming they are going to do the quarantine?
It’s really difficult to answer “why” as this is up to the government to decide. COVID is something that came to Japan from abroad so the country is very nervous about the situation. Japan is also a country that doesn’t make quick decisions in complex situations. It is waiting for things to settle down more.
I think it will take a little more time, but eventually things will change. They are starting to allow business people to enter and after that, international students sponsored by the government. I really think the next one could be private abroad students.
I really hope that everyone can believe me when I say that things are moving and it will not stay closed as it is now forever. I would like you all to understand that.
For the students that got their visa, for example in March or got their certificate of eligibility, do they have to reapply and get a new COE?
If you have already converted your COE, you will have received a visa sticker on their passport with an expiration date. If it is not expired then you can still use the visa. If it is expired, you need to contact your local Japanese embassy to confirm how to proceed as each country can have a different process.
If you have not converted your COE, schools issued explanation letters in the last few months for the students to be able to use their COE again to enter Japan in October. If you haven’t received your letter yet let us know so we can get the school to resend.
With your COE and your explanation letter you can go to the embassy and get a new sticker. Again the process varies depending on each country so check with your local Japanese embassy.
Will I be able to use my April/July/October COE to enter in Japan until April 2021 if the borders open later than October?
Students who have been issued with a COE will have longer than normal to be able to use it. COEs issued between October 1st 2019 and January 29th 2021, which are normally valid only for 3 months, will be extended for 6 months from the date of the entry ban restrictions being lifted, or until April 30, 2021, whichever comes first.
As my application has been delayed and I will come to Japan in Oct/Jan, will I still be able to get a two-year visa to study?
At this time we do not have an answer about that as we are still waiting for details of when the situation will allow students to enter Japan. However, once that is resolved we will have more information.
On behalf of Go! Go! Nihon we would like to say thank you very much to Ms Kato and all the school representatives for continuously supporting all language students and pushing to make it possible for them to come to Japan. We know it’s not easy or fast, but things are moving step by step every week and hopefully we can get some good news soon.
Note that the text of this interview has been edited in this article for clarity. To see the interview, please watch our video on YouTube: