Customs regulations in Japan

Updated 2024-02-27 06:15

Before even considering moving to Japan, a quick tour of the customs regulations and procedures is necessary. What products are allowed in the passenger compartment and the hold, and in what quantities? Can you bring fruit, meat or alcohol? Here is the essential information you need to know about customs in Japan to avoid unpleasant surprises upon your arrival.

Filling out the Customs Declaration Form before landing in Japan

All passengers entering Japan must submit a Declaration of Accompanied Articles and Unaccompanied Articles as per Japan Customs regulations to prevent terrorism and smuggling and to ensure smooth customs clearance. 

Customs forms can be obtained easily on the airplane, the ship, or at customs. You should fill out the declaration with care. It should include the cash, type, and value of goods carried. Like other countries, Japan restricts what and how much can be imported. 

When you bring unaccompanied baggage, you must fill out two declaration forms and submit them when you enter. A Customs officer will give you one copy back with a seal of certification. This declaration is essential to get duty and tax exemption.

If the baggage is mailed, you must include it in your declaration and label the parcel as "unaccompanied baggage".

It is also recommended that declarations be submitted electronically through the Visit Japan Web platform starting April 1st, 2023.

Products that are tax-exempt when purchased and imported into Japan

Personal items and unaccompanied baggage intended for personal use (including clothes, toiletries, other personal effects, and portable professional equipment that will be used during your stay in Japan) are exempt from duty/tax as long as they fall within the specified allowance.

However, if you have both personal effects and unaccompanied baggage, they will be considered together when determining the allowance. Additionally, it is essential to ensure that the items are not intended for sale and are within reasonable quantities.

For example: 

  • Alcohol: 3 bottles (approximately 75 cl per bottle);
  • Perfume: 2 ounces (about 56 ml);
  • Cigars: 50;
  • Cigarettes: 200; 
  • Other types of tobacco: 250 grams.

Exemptions of tobacco have changed since October 1st, 2021. 

When authorized quantities are exceeded

If you plan to buy or import more than the allowed quantities, you must file a declaration and simplified Customs duty and tax rates will be applied. 

For example: 

  • Whisky, Brandy: 800 yen per liter;
  • Cigarettes: 15yen per cigarette;
  • Tobacco sticks: 15yen per stick.

Find more information on tax-free goods on the Japan Customs official site.

Restricted and prohibited products in Japan

Be wary of products that are prohibited from being imported. If you bring anything, you risk serious legal consequences.

Products prohibited from importation into Japan 

The law prohibits the entry of the following items:

  • Illegal drugs such as heroin, cocaine, MDMA, opium, cannabis, stimulants, psychotropic substances, and other narcotics (excluding those specified by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare Ordinance);
  • Materials used as precursors for chemical weapons;
  • Firearms and their ammunition and pistol parts;
  • Explosives like dynamite and gunpowder;
  • Counterfeit money, bank notes, securities, and forged credit cards;
  • Books, drawings, carvings, or other items that threaten public safety or morals (such as obscene or immoral materials);
  • Child pornography;
  • Articles that violate intellectual property rights.

In addition, it is against the law to import or export ivory products in Japan. Do NOT bring any ivory products with you!

Products authorized in Japan with strict restrictions

Other laws and regulations govern the import of certain goods. These goods require permits and approval from authorities other than Customs or may need to be inspected by a government agency.

Here are some examples of major restricted items:

  • Before Customs examination, plants and animals must undergo quarantine inspection by a plant or animal quarantine officer to protect against the spread of diseases and pests. If caught illegally importing these items, you could face a fine of up to 3 million JPY or imprisonment for up to 3 years;
  • Meat, fruits, and vegetables (if you plan to import food products, it is best to check if they are prohibited or restricted);
  • Hunting guns, air guns, swords, and similar items without a permit to possess them.

Importing animal products into Japan

On July 1st, 2020, the "Domestic Animal Infectious Disease Control" law took effect in Japan. From now on, anyone who illegally imports animal products will be imprisoned for up to 3 years or fined 3 million yen for individuals (50 million yen for legal entities). 

Do be careful with any souvenirs you might buy at the airport. If you have come to Japan with this product, declare it to the customs. You can find more information from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries website.

Bringing medication and cosmetics into Japan

When bringing medicines from abroad, following the regulations set by the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law and the Customs Law to ensure that defective products do not pose any health risk is essential. 

If you plan to bring medication into Japan, you may need to apply for an import certificate (Yunyu Kakunin-sho). You must obtain this form before your trip and present it to the Customs officer when you arrive in Japan. 

To apply for this document, you should submit your application to the Regional Bureau of Health and Welfare nearest the airport where you arrive in Japan.

When you bring your medications to Japan within the specified limit, you don't need to apply for "Yunyu Kakunin-sho". Instead, customs officers will check the quantity of your medications, and you can bring them into Japan.

For example, pharmaceutical products can be imported in an amount sufficient for two months of use, while quasi-drugs and cosmetics have specific limits:

  • Prescription drug: Up to a 1-month supply;
  • Drug for external use (excluding poison, deadly poison, prescription drug): Up to 24 items per product;
  • Injectable drug and syringe for the drug: Up to a 1-month supply;
  • Other drugs, quasi-drugs: Up to a 2-month supply.

For more information, contact the health services at Narita, Kansai, and Naha airports. 

Other mandatory customs declarations in Japan

Purchased tax-free goods

Ensure you do not use or consume your purchased tax-free goods in Japan. If you don't export tax-free goods, you must pay the consumption tax at customs. Customs will inspect your possession of the tax-free goods if necessary.

Transferring tax-free goods before departure may result in penalties such as imprisonment or fines.

If you become a resident of Japan after buying tax-free goods, you must pay the consumption tax to the Tax Office responsible for your domicile or residence. 

Currency including gold

Items valued above 1 million yen or their equivalent that need to be declared include:

  • Cash, including foreign currency;
  • Checks;
  • Travelers' checks;
  • Promissory notes;
  • Securities;
  • Gold bullion exceeding 1kg with a purity of at least 90%.

Ask a Customs officer at the seaport or airport for a blank form. Also, if you are importing gold bullion, regardless of its purity or weight, please remember the duty-free and tax-free allowances.

Airport procedures in Japan

All visitors to Japan are required to complete a declaration form. This form is usually given to passengers on the plane before arrival but can also be picked up at the customs department. You are legally bound to fill in the form; otherwise, you risk a fine.

Once the form is completed, you can go through two channels: 

  • The green channel is for passengers without dutiable goods or prohibited/restricted imports;
  • The red channel is for all other passengers.

Remember to pay any applicable taxes and duties in the Customs inspection zone.

Commercial cargo customs procedures are necessary if the value of dutiable goods exceeds 300,000 yen.

The e-Gates are installed at seven international airports, including New Chitose, Narita (except Terminal 3), Haneda (except Terminal 2), Chubu Centrair, Kansai, Fukuoka, and Naha airports. 

At Haneda, Fukuoka, and Naha airports, passengers can conveniently make electronic customs declarations using the declaration terminal while waiting for their checked baggage. Once they have collected their luggage, passengers can proceed through the e-Gate for customs clearance without any delays or stops.

Useful links:

Japan Customs

Tax-free purchases

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

Traveling with your pet

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