My friends have a 17 y/o daughter; they are all normal USA citizens.

The parents are already in Japan for some weeks.

The 17 y/o would fly separately and alone to Japan (ie, flying from the states) to meet them.

In fact: can the 17 y/o do that in terms of Japanese entry? (And I guess Timatic?)

I believe USAers can visit Japan visa-free for a short time.

But would they let in a 17 yr old, traveling alone?

Can a USA minor use the visa-free system to visit Japan?

(To meet the parents already there, if it makes any difference.)

Oddly, this information is not available on the web - we couldn't find any mention of child/minor issues in terms of the visa-free arrangement for US citizens visiting Japan. Strange!

  • 1
    Based on this earlier question, having a notarized letter from the US-based parent saying that the travel is authorized might be useful.
    – mkennedy
    Nov 9, 2018 at 19:59
  • 1
    @mkennedy - right on. But that is a separate issue, when you have "only one parent traveling with a minor". Actually I'll edit the question to "remove that issue". It's amazing I can't find any info on this online.
    – Fattie
    Nov 10, 2018 at 4:33

2 Answers 2


While Japanese citizens under 20 years of age are considered minors, Japan is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a brochure, in English, which should respond to your concerns (added emphasis mine).

  • A consent letter for travel from the other parent is required in some countries when you enter/ depart the country. A permission from the court to leave the country with your children is required in some countries before leaving.
  • A consent letter is not required when leaving / entering / departing Japan.

In what cases, does the Convention apply?

  • If they are under the age of 16, the Convention will apply

So, as a US citizen, she may enter Japan visa free; as a 17-year old, under the Hague Convention, she is not considered a minor when travelling; and Japan does not require parental consent for her to enter the country. It would be a good idea for her to have her parents' accommodation details, to know whether they are reachable on their mobile and, surely, they'll be at the airport awaiting her arrival should there be any hiccups.

As an observation, every year, many US teens travel independently to Japan for high school exchange programs, entering both visa free and on student visas.

  • 2
    +1. I'm not a USAer, but I myself came to Japan when I was a minor (18 yrs old) on a 留学 (College Student) visa. Many other students from other (non-USA) countries came on separate flights.
    – DXV
    Nov 14, 2018 at 0:42
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    It’s not only a good idea to have the accommodation details, it is absolutely a must have as the Japanese landing (and iirc customs) card requires you to enter that information.
    – Jan
    Aug 24, 2019 at 18:04

From personal experience: I doubt the immigration officer will raise an eyebrow, especially if you don't speak Japanese.

I visited Japan the first time when I was 16. I traveled with my friends, but did not meet up with them until I passed immigration. At the time, I didn't speak much Japanese, so I showed the immigration officer my passport and he asked me how many days I'd stay. I said I'm staying for 10 days, and they just stamped my passport and let me in. No questions asked.

In fact, I believe the immigration officers see this quite often, as Japan is very popular with young people and many teenagers do travel to Japan alone. Their only problem might be at the airline check-in counter, because some airlines do not allow minors to fly alone, or might have them sign extra paperwork. Be careful about that!

If you do answer them in Japanese, though, they typically will be a bit more interrogative, but just a few questions and you'd likely still be let in.

  • I doubt that any airline restricts 17-year-olds from flying alone. Many airlines refuse to offer unaccompanied minor service to someone that old, even as an option.
    – phoog
    Dec 28, 2018 at 13:16
  • @phoog Yeah I agree. IMO at most the 17yo would get a bunch of papers to sign at check-in.
    – xuq01
    Dec 29, 2018 at 5:34

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