When I arrive by plane at one of the Tokyo airports, what is the process of going through the border control?

Is it a standard one, as I have experienced it at other airports, meaning: Arrive at the border control counter, they look at my passport, take a my fingerprints+photo, maybe ask 1-2 questions and then I'm off? What is the likelihood that they can speak English to ask me stuff? I don't know any Japanese.

Or are there any out-of-the-ordinary things or questions that differ from other airports?
(Notice: I'm from the EU, and don't require a visa in advance to visit Japan. I also only flew domestically inside the EU so far, so I don't have experience with such processes and habits outside the EU.)

When I leave again Japan, do they take my fingerprints again, to make sure I have left? (My passport is non-biometric, so Japan border control won't be able as match the fingerprints they take from me with the fingerprints in my passport, to make sure it's me - which is, as I understand, the sole "official" reason fingerprints are stored in the passport. Since in my emergency passport there are no fingerprints stored, this is why, for purely logical reasons, it would make sense to fingerprint me again when I leave, to match them against the fingerprints when I entered, to make sure it is me who has left.)

2 Answers 2


Departure is much simpler than arrival. It usually takes 20 seconds. They stamp your passport and boarding pass. Good bye.

As for the arrival, the officers generally speak very little English. When it is time to take the photo and fingerprints, they usually lift their index fingers and mimic the action they want you to do. Unless there's really a problem, you might not even hear the officer's voice! They are usually very courteous, but a bit cold. But it is usually due to their lack of English. I speak Japanese, and they're a little more chatty ☺ On the photo I posted in your previous question, the gentleman had to move me to another line, as the camera/fingerprint machine wouldn't boot. We joked about a good start for the day (it was 6 am).

One thing that is important, and different from the EU. Customs inspection is mandatory, and real. Once you pick up your luggage and go to the Customs line, you need to queue up, and when it is your turn, put up your luggage on the bench. The officer will ask you questions, yeah in broken English, and might even inspect your luggage. Last time, he even patted down the (Japanese) traveler ahead of me. He sent me away with just a few questions and a quick poke at my clean underwear.

Some medicines, which are common in the West, are a no no in Japan. I forgot which, I usually carry nothing but Panadol and Immodium. If you need special medications, you might want to consult with the Consulate. And don't bring fresh fruit and vegetables.


I did this earlier this month, from Tokyo Narita. Also did it 3 years ago (Haneda).

Entry - fill out a form, guy looks at it, passport, barely said anything. Fingerprints and photograph taken. Instructions given to me in English.

Exit - even faster, no fingerprints or photograph.

The only time this changed was coming into Haneda, where I declared my heart medication, only to be taken aside and put in a room without much explanation. I was asked to wait (in English). 20 min later a different guy came in and said I was free to go. Never explained what the delay or room was for.

Regardless, if there's any extra questions, the Japanese are very polite and well aware that their language is not known by many, and will make sure you are understanding them. If things do get tricky (if for some awful reason you've done something wrong and are, I dunno, arrested) you can always request an interpreter if you feel their English isn't clear enough (or other language that you're fluent in).

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