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Japan is still only allowing tourists to enter on a group/package tour. If you arrive as part of a group tour (for example this one), would you be legally obligated to stay with the tour guide? Or could you just make use of the prepaid hotel but otherwise travel around entirely on your own?

This page says you must wear masks when instructed by your tour guide but doesn't mention if you're allowed to do activities without the tour guide present. Note that I'm primarily interested in the letter of the law, not the spirit of the law.

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According to the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Tourism:

  • The tour conductor should "Ensure compliance with infection prevention measures throughout the tour."
  • The tour conductor should "Keep a record of the tour participants' activities."
  • The traveler should "follow the instructions given by the tour conductor."
  • "Failure to comply with the above may result in you not being allowed to participate in or continue on the tour. You may also be required to immediately return to your home country during the tour"

So you Legally have to follow the tour conductor instructions. And you can't visit on your own if the tour conductor is against you doing activities alone.

The question is if there is a tour conductor that would not be against you visiting and touring japan on your own agenda. It seems very unlikely as that would go against the first two items of the bullet point since he would not be monitoring you but rather just taking your word that you will respect preventive measures and report all activities you do truthfully. And they would not take risk just for you, they sold a guided tour and that's the extent of what they have to provide.

Sources: https://www.mlit.go.jp/kankocho/en/shisaku/kokusai/content/001489999.pdf https://www.mlit.go.jp/kankocho/en/shisaku/kokusai/content/001486722.pdf

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    The one eyewitness report I recently read (can't find link, alas) said that they were left completely free in the evenings after the 'official' program ended. So while not a free-for-all, there's also a lot of slack if the tour guide allows it. Aug 3, 2022 at 10:05
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    A bit surprising, it seems Japan created their own version of Intourist.
    – FluidCode
    Aug 3, 2022 at 12:27
  • Thanks. But are these legally binding rules or just “recommendations”? Would be nice to lookup the Japanese language regulation.
    – JonathanReez
    Aug 3, 2022 at 13:49
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    @JonathanReez What does "binding rule" mean to you? It states right there that failing to comply can result in you being deported from the country. This sounds legally binding to me. Or are you asking if it is considered a crime and you could be jailed? Note that being deported will certainly be recorded permanently in your passport/Japan customs and will probably influence future international travel (you will have to answer "yes" on forms asking if you were ever deported from a country).
    – GACy20
    Aug 3, 2022 at 15:26
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    "It states right there that failing to comply can result in you being deported from the country" Japan does this A LOT in their written language, and to be fair from time to time they do follow those written rules, but more often than not they don't care nor there will be consequences if you don't follow them or there will be huge holes as you shared. Of course it's still a risk and YMMV. I'd recommend trying to get a Business visa or just about any other kind instead if possible. Aug 3, 2022 at 15:48
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This question is now more or less moot as Japan has announced they'll allow unguided tourists to visit the country:

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Wednesday that Japan will allow the entry of nonescorted visitors on package tours and raise the daily arrival cap to 50,000 starting Sept. 7 — a significant step toward the full resumption of tourism.

So you'll still need to buy a packaged tour but won't need an escort and would be free to do whatever you want. They're also removing the PCR test requirement for vaccinated people:

Last week, Kishida said Japan will drop pre-arrival PCR tests from Sept. 7 if passengers have received three shots of an approved vaccine.

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  • +1, but you're not entirely free: you need to stay at designated hotels and are expected to stick to the itinerary. It's all on an honor basis, but you could potentially be in hot water if you're somehow busted off track. Sep 2, 2022 at 9:41
  • @lambshaanxy right but if I understand correctly you could just put "get drinks in Shibuya" in your itinerary if you want to do that. The more annoying part is that visa waivers are still not back.
    – JonathanReez
    Sep 2, 2022 at 16:40

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