With the sudden COVID-19 surge over winter break, Japan has completely shut down their borders to foreigners and made it very difficult for Japan passport holders to enter Japan. Luckily, we were able to buy tickets to visit our relatives since my family and I are Japanese passport holders.
As of January 4, 2022, Japan requires all visitors from other countries to have a negative international COVID test prior to flying, multiple documents to turn in at the Japanese airport, another COVID test before leaving the Japanese airport, and to quarantine at a government-provided facility for six full days.
Knowing that not many people would go through such a unique experience, I wanted to share what I went through.
LAX ✈ HND
Tuesday, 1/4/22 10:04 PM
The start of my trip wasn’t easy. With Omicron spreading rapidly, my family and I double-masked with a KN95 mask and a cloth mask for extra protection. All we were hoping for was a smooth sailing trip to Japan, but someone bumped into me while I was picking up my stuff at security, and I dropped my laptop on my toes. He must’ve felt ashamed (as he should), so he hurried away without me being able to see his face.
Since we were unsure if my toe was broken or not, I was wheeled all around LAX until we got on the flight. Luckily, the flight attendants working at ANA were very nice, and they came to disinfect my wound every few hours on the plane.
Thursday, 1/6/22 8:46 AM
It took about 3-4 hours to turn in all the documents, get COVID tested, and download the location tracking apps (MySOS) on our phones. A very nice worker from ANA pushed my wheelchair the entire time (bless her heart)!!
After the whole process, they took us to a bus to take us to our mystery quarantine location…
We were nervous because we heard people were getting sent to college dorms, but also people getting super lucky and being sent to luxury hotels. I was definitely crossing my fingers (and my potentially broken toes) for a good location.
Thursday, 1/6/22 9:57 AM
After 30-40 minutes on the bus, we arrived at the APA Hotel (Yamanote Otsuka Eki Towers Location). It didn’t feel long at all because I was just playing level 785 of Candy Crush the whole entire time.
We were nervous and relieved at the same time because although we weren’t sent to a college dorm, we still weren’t ready to be stuck in a small room for 7 days (our first day being counted as “Day 0”).
The workers were delightful, and pushed my wheelchair up to my room. My family members and I had rooms next to each other.
Thursday, 1/6/22 10:20 AM
Finally settled in my room… I still requested a private room even though my toe was injured because I wanted personal space and to be able to concentrate on work.
This hotel had the smallest entrance and the biggest bed!! The room was so narrow that I could barely open my suitcase in there. My immediate reaction was it felt like I was stuck in a shoebox.
Thursday, 1/6/22 11:09 AM
My first meal here…
I wrote that I was allergic to bananas on the entrance form, and I still managed to get a banana! I don’t want to complain because I was very thankful they fed me, but I was shocked to see it in my lunch box off the bat.
Hearing that there’s definitely hit and misses depending on the hotel prior to traveling, I had snacks that I brought with me that I was able to eat.
Thursday, 1/6/22 4:10 PM
It started snowing! I haven’t seen snow in a long time, so I got very excited.
I tried sticking my arm out of the tiny window to touch snow, but failed miserably. I was happy that my hotel allowed us to open our windows, because I heard that some quarantine hotels didn’t allow that.
My 6 Full Days in Enforced Quarantine
DAY 1: Friday, 1/7/22
(Our first day of arrival counted as Day 0)
I woke up around 4 AM and decided to get out of bed to work around 6 AM. I was actually able to concentrate and get a lot of work done since I had this whole room to myself.
I found a banana in today’s meal again, and also quickly noticed a pattern of beans being in every single meal served to me. All the meals came cold, so the beans didn’t taste bad, but I got sick of the taste pretty quickly. I would put all my extra bananas in a bag and hang it on my sisters’ doors, so their collection of bananas quickly grew too.
After taking a bath around 4:30 AM, I got a call from the lobby saying that they were going to send some nurses to come check my toe.
30 minutes later, 2 nurses in hazard suits came by and looked at my toe. They said it looked badly bruised, but it didn’t look broken! Phew.
The rest of my day wasn’t too bad. I exercised on my bed because there was literally no space anywhere else, took a bath, and caught up on watching some movies.
DAY 2: Saturday, 1/8/22
Waking up around 5 AM and working from 6 AM has started to become part of my routine.
I started getting several notifications from MySOS (the app we were required to download) so they could check my location.
Sometimes it’ll be a push notification to check in our locations, sometimes it’ll be automatic calls from the app, recording us and the background to see if we were in the hotel or not.
I really wondered why they were sending excessive amounts of notifications to us because it’s not like we were allowed to leave the hotel, but I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry!
At night, my sister’s friend brought us a bunch of Japanese snacks and drinks for us to drink because we were eating the same thing all day every day. She had to talk to staff members in hazard suits at the lobby, and they delivered it by hanging it on our doors. I was very thankful because I was already getting very sick of my bean meals!
My sister and I got so bored we were trying to airdrop videos and pictures to each other through the wall, but we found out after many attempts that it didn’t work. I finished two episodes of Queer Eye during our multiple attempts and failures.
DAY 3: Sunday, 1/9/22
The quarantine hotel/Japanese government required us to take a COVID test three days in, so we all woke up to an alarm at 6 AM, and I turned in my saliva test by 6:30 AM. They had test kits hanging on our doors, and we just had to simply hang it back up before the workers came to collect them.
My stomach couldn’t handle the beans anymore, so I called the front desk to cancel my daily meals, and I made a TikTok about it.
Turns out that I could’ve cancelled anytime, but I didn’t know that! Also, apparently some quarantine hotels don’t allow you to order UberEats, but I got very lucky. I could’ve avoided the pain of receiving bananas every morning, but I guess you live and you learn.
I ordered UberEats for lunch and FaceTimed my boyfriend while eating. As an extrovert, it did get a little lonely being in such a small space alone for a long time.
At night, my mom’s friend also dropped off some goodies for us to eat! I got to see my sisters in the hallway as we picked them up.
DAY 4: Monday, 1/10/22
I had a super lazy day of watching TikTok, catching up on Netflix movies, and playing Animal Crossing. Honestly, it felt like I had an infinite amount of time to myself without any other responsibilities in there.
I ordered some Japanese hamburg through UberEats and FaceTimed my boyfriend while eating! I was able to call my family around evening time, too.
DAY 5, Tuesday, 1/11/22
I woke up at 5:30 AM again and went to work at 6 AM. Today I actually had some meetings with some of my team members! I gave them a quick room tour, but it ended really fast because the room was so small.
For dinner, I ordered karaage on UberEats! I honestly wish I realized sooner that I could’ve been enjoying good Japanese food without eating cold beans every day.
By this time, the days felt like they were going by a lot quicker since I was getting used to the routine. I almost felt attached to my room at this point, and felt a little sad when I had to say goodbye.
DAY 6: Thursday, 1/12/22
I woke up around 6 AM again to the announcement, and took the COVID test immediately. If you test positive prior to coming to the hotel, on Day 3 or Day 6, they force you to quarantine for the rest of the 2 weeks (which means no going outside—including walks).
I packed little by little the whole day in case I was allowed to get out of the hotel while watching Attack on Titan, to really get into the Japanese Spirit.
Thankfully, my family ended up testing negative to all the tests, so we were informed around 3 pm that a bus will be picking us up around 5 AM.
At 4:50 PM, my family and I headed to the lobby, and we were sent back to Haneda airport. There, my uncle picked us up so we could finish the rest of our quarantine in Kyoto.
Although I didn’t mind the quarantine, I’ll be crossing my fingers (and now healed toes) that no one will have to go through the hassle that I did.
Post-Enforced Quarantine Thoughts
All in all, the whole experience was definitely not as bad as I thought it’d be. I had my own room, I didn’t have to worry about food, and I was able to heal my toe because I barely walked around.
I was pretty impressed with how organized this entire system was, and how careful Japan was being about letting outsiders in.
After not being able to visit Japan for almost two and a half years, quarantining was an easy price I was willing to pay.