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Japan - Clearance

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Initial entry into Japan must be made at an official Port of Entry.

PRE- ARRIVAL

The JCG (Japan Coastguard) requires all vessels to submit a Pre-Arrival Procedure Form (PAPF) 24 hours in advance, but at least a week in advance is strongly recommended and greatly appreciated by officials. The PAPF (in English) can be downloaded from the Japan Coastguard website and faxed or emailed (jcgbnahakq3-8f5m@mlit.go.jp) to the relevant JCG office.

Submitting a detailed crew list, including nationality and passport information, is strongly recommended; sending copies of all passports will also help expediate the clearance process.

The PAPF is designed for commercial vessels, so don’t worry too much if you can’t fill in all the boxes. The JCG are good at answering emails and use an online translator.

The form requires that you specify a date and time of arrival. It is obviously difficult to know exactly what that will be far in advance, so just write down your best guess. But 48 hours before arriving, email the JCG office and give them an exact day/time, and then arrive at precisely that time, slowing down if necessary — 20+ officials (who are used to handling punctual commercial vessels) will be waiting on the dock to give you a “royal welcome” and so don’t arrive 15 minutes early or late! Try to arrive between 09:00 and 16:00, preferably on a weekday; if clearing in at a marina, don’t arrive on the marina’s weekly holiday (usually Tuesdays, but confirm in advance).

It is recommended to request the JCG to arrange a moorage location with the port authority of your chosen POE, as they probably don’t speak English. Also confirm with the JCG that they will notify Customs, Quarantine and Immigration on your arrival, and ask JCG to notify Customs that you will be applying for a Naikosen (see below).

A Closed Port Permit can also be applied for in advance of arriving in Japan (see below).

PORTS OF ENTRY

Noonsite has limited ports of entry for Japan, but are those commonly used by cruising boats. We are continuing to work on expanding this list.

A full list of Open Ports (Open Port = clearance port) might be helpful [https://www.mlit.go.jp/common/001257673.pdf]. However, bear in mind that not all of the ports on this list offer 24/7 clearance services. Some don’t have officials based there, so they can only clear in/out a vessel if an advance request is made (and those ports tend not be very accommodating for small pleasure craft). A lot of people (20+) are involved in clearing in a boat, so it’s hard to justify moving that manpower to a port to clear in a boat with 1-2 people on board.

It’s also worth noting that Quarantine, Customs, Immigration and Coast Guard each decide how to staff their own offices, with no co-ordination among them. This can mean that clearance takes a long time and travel to the airport, for example, to find Immigration may be involved. Also, some ports (especially in the north) are seasonal: fully staffed in the summer, empty in the winter.

Clearing in-out port guidelines:

  • For yachts going to/from Korea (and sometimes Russia), Izuhara and Fukuoka are the main options.
  • For boats going to Alaska/BC/US mainland, there are four clear-out options in the northern island of Hokkaido. Kushiro is the most popular, however Wakkanai (at the far northern tip of Hokkaido) is a good option with a provisioning/preparation stop in Otaru (on the NW coast) beforehand. Hakodate is popular, especially for those going direct to Canada or Seattle, not via Alaska.
  • For those entering Japan from the Aleutians, Wakkanai is the best option.
  • For boats coming from the south or southeast, Yonabaru Marina on the main Okinawa island is the most familiar with international yachts for inward clearance. Many boats think that they can clear in at Ginowan Marina in Okinawa, but it’s not in an Open Port.
  • When coming from the east, Chichijima, Ogasawara is a natural port of entry, however, it’s important to note that one cannot get Naikosenpaku status here and this can be problematic as should be secured at your first POE (see further details below). Better to choose Wakayama, Yokohama, or various other Open Ports along the Pacific coast.
  • Yonabaru and Wakayama handle 70% of clear-ins.
  • Going direct across the Pacific, one could clear out of Hyogo/Wakayama/Yokohama/Tokyo/Choshi. Clearing out of Hokkaido means you can then head east/northeast, but boats in a hurry will leave from central Japan and take the Great Circle route.

See the anchor symbol in the blue bar to access each port of entry.

ARRIVAL FORMALITIES

Closed-Port Permit System

Ports in Japan are divided into closed ports and open ports. Since May 2018, foreign cruisers can apply, either before or on entering Japan, for a “blanket” closed-port permit that allows them to enter all closed ports at any time, with no expiration date (which is 98% of the country, including all anchorage spots). There is no longer any need to prepare a long list of all the intended ports of call.

There is a very simple one-page form available on the MILT website. Full details can be found at http://www.mlit.go.jp/common/001260368.pdf

The permit is valid indefinitely (as long as the boat is in Japan and its ownership, name, home address, etc. remain unchanged), with no need for permit renewals and there is no fee.

Applications can be made by e-mail, and the permit will be returned by e-mail. It can take up to a week to get the permit.

Customs Naikosen Permit

To be exempted from filing Customs paperwork in every port (open or closed) and from complying with strict Customs regulations/requirements (such as having to file paperwork for everything taken on/off the boat [even a can of Coke!] or getting advance permission for anybody wanting to board the boat [even just to drink a can of Coke!], pleasure boats can request registration as a domestic (coastal) cruising boat — “Naiko Senpaku” or “Naikosen”  on entering the first port in Japan. This is strongly recommended, but you may have to be firm and persistent in order to get it. (Note that it is not possible to get a Naikosen in Chichijima, an island south of Tokyo and a popular place for cruisers to enter Japan when coming from the east/southeast, so clearing in there is not recommended.)

Superyachts (over 24m) are now also eligible to apply for a Closed Port Permit and a Naikosen, exempting them from having to clear in/out at every port.

General Process:

Having done the proper notifications to the local JCG office (see above), 20+ officials will be waiting at the dock for your arrival.

The formalities are time-consuming as there are lots of forms to fill in, but this is mostly routine and officials are always very friendly and courteous.

  1. Quarantine:
    If planning on getting a Naikosen (see above) inform Quarantine as soon as they come on board as they may (depending on the port) need to do a more detailed inspection and give Customs a certificate that then allows them to issue a Naikosen.
    It’s best not to have any fresh fruit/vegetables, meat (fresh or frozen), and (occasionally) spices on board when arriving; if you do, they will be discarded.
    Quarantine officials will request that detailed health questionnaires for each crew member be completed and do health checks.
    There are special requirements for clearing into Japan with pets, and that can only be done at a few Open Ports; for more information seethe pets section.
  2. Customs:
    Will do an extensive search of the boat and have forms to fill in.
    Request a “Naikosen” to change one’s boat to domestic status for Customs purposes; that may be issued during the clear-in process, but, more commonly, one has to pick it up at the Customs office a day or two later.
  3. Japan Coast Guard (JCG):
    May well come with Customs and ask questions in order to fill in their forms.
  4. Immigration:
    Will record fingerprints and take ID pictures, check and stamp passports and issue visas.
  5. Police:
    Depending on the port and the nationalities of the boat and/or crew, local police officials may also join the clear-in process.

It is not necessary to use an agent, although they can assist with completing the advance paperwork, reserving moorage locations, and overcoming the language barrier. Even with an agent, though, there are still a lot of forms to be filled out at the time of clear-in. In total, it takes 2-3 hours to complete the clear in.

Domestic Cruising:

It is not necessary to report to officials in every port, nor are you required to advise any officials of future destinations and cruising plans (although you will often be asked).

If you have a Naikosen, plus the Closed Port Permit, then cruising Japan is virtually paperwork-free.

Officially, when visiting open ports (large commercial ports), one is required to submit a port entry/exit General Declaration to the local Coast Guard office. In fact, though, many Coast Guard offices waive that requirement for smaller pleasure vessels (often boats under 20 tons).

If you do not have a Naikosen, then you may get visited by Customs as you cruise the country, perhaps at every port (open and closed), and be requested to complete a lot of paperwork each time, especially if they apply the letter of the law to you (sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t).

Last updated:  August 2023

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  1. August 4, 2023 at 12:45 AM
    Rob Hurlow says:

    We have just finished a second cruising season in Japan, having taken CAPAZ from Fukuoka up the west coast to Otaru Marina, in Hokkaido adjacent to Sapporo.

    We were able to harbor hop the entire way with no overnight passages. In May the weather and wind conditions were mostly fine as the southern monsoon winds had started. We found the small harbors and towns very welcoming. Most of the tie ups are to a harbor wall and free. Large fenders are strongly advised.

    We were able to leave our boat in Fukuoka between cruising seasons under the excellent care of Kirk Patterson, Konpira consulting. He also was a great help in obtaining services, repairs, haul outs, and dealing with local coast guard and customs officials. We were able to get the equivalent of a Japanese cruising permit and were not required to check in to any ports along the way.

    Otaru Marina in Hokkaido is a wonderful marina. We are leaving CAPAZ there for another off season. The marina manager, Akira Kadano, was able to help us winterize the boat and source a local boat guy to watch over us, also has helped us with repairs. A good yard and haulout option is there for boats under 20 US tons.

    Overall crusing in Japan has been a delight. We have been met with wonderfully kind and curious local people, love the food and affordable prices.

    1. August 4, 2023 at 4:31 PM
      profile photo
      Sue Richards says:

      Rob, thanks for this great feedback on cruising Japan. I suspect more and more boats are going to start heading that way now the officialdom has become alot simpler. If you have a blog about your time in Japan, or similar, please do let us know and we’ll add it to our Japan Links section.

  2. July 25, 2022 at 1:17 PM
    profile photo
    sue-richards says:

    Update from Kirk Patterson of Konpira Consulting, Japan: Japan has just entered a seventh Covid surge, setting a new record in infections since the pandemic started (but fortunately not in hospitalizations or deaths). So far, the national and local governments are not re-imposing any restrictions on activities/movement, but they have postponed the start of a campaign to promote domestic tourism. I had previously thought that Japan might open up to foreign visitors in September, but I think this latest surge makes that unlikely (especially as Japan has been carefully monitoring NZ’s experience of a major surge in infections after it ended its long, strict border restrictions). There are some rumors of an October 1 opening, but I think it will probably be late fall or even January 1. All of which makes it hard for the many cruisers trying to make yes/no decisions on whether to prepare for entering Japan next spring (the normal time to arrive in Japan).

  3. June 24, 2022 at 9:46 AM
    profile photo
    sue-richards says:

    The announcement that Japan was opening to all foreign tourists from 1 June led to a great deal of misunderstanding: it does in fact only apply to tightly scheduled tour groups with guides. The number of tourists that can enter Japan each month is capped and maritime borders for yachts are still very much closed. Kirk Patterson of Konpira Consulting Japan told Noonsite; “A national election is scheduled for late July, so it is unlikely that any major opening will be announced before then. September is the earliest likely date that cruisers would be able to enter Japan, however there is still a great deal of uncertainty about what visas will be avail-able. In any case, April-June is the time for foreign cruisers to enter Japan so a September opening is too late for cruisers to come to Japan in 2022.” He adds “I do know, though, that a lot of foreign cruisers are wanting to come to Japan. Compared to 20-30 boats in a typical pre-pandemic year, I’ve got a “possible client” list for 2023-2024 of about 30 boats….and that’s just people who have contacted me, so I would guess that the total number of boats seriously con-sidering coming to Japan as soon as it opens is well over a hundred.”

  4. April 23, 2020 at 6:40 AM
    maximum says:

    Hello ? everyone I am an Argentinian living in japan for a while now in Tokyo ! and getting interested in Buying a boat sailing and using the boat as House !
    Can someone advise me place to find cheap used boats for buying ! Websites , suggestions, how to save in getting the license for sailing ! Any public institution? For practicing and taking exam ? Any advise is welcome.
    Messenger Maximiliano Paradiso
    What’s app +5491164166669

    1. April 24, 2020 at 7:38 AM
      kirk says:

      Hi, Maxim…I am a Canadian who has cruised Japan for six years (and lived here for a total of 32 years, 25 in Tokyo). I currently operate a marine-tourism company (see Konpira Consulting ad). For what you want to do, the best way to start is to join the Tokyo Sail and Power Squadron…https://tspsjapan.org; the membership chairman is John Marshall — trelving@gol.com. TSPS is a group of foreign sailors n Japan, mainly the Tokyo area. Through them you can learn how to prepare for the Japanese boat-license exam and take it in English, can sail on other members’ boats, and get ideas on how to search for a boat (there are several websites for buying/selling boats, but they are all in Japanese). You can’t technically make a boat your official, registered residence, but you can use it as a floating cottage! To moor a boat within commuting distance of Tokyo, though, is very expensive (some TSPS members actually moor their boats in the Seto Inland Sea and fly there 1-2 times a month for some weekend sailing…cheaper than keeping the boat near Tokyo). Anyway, I recommend that you join TSPS and then take it from there. Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions — kirk@konpira-consulting.com. Good luck!

    2. May 11, 2020 at 6:29 PM
      maximum says:

      Hey ? Kirk
      Captain Kirk maybe !? ?
      Thank you ? for the info ! I will do that ! Is ok with the Japanese websites I have Automatic translation, if you can give me some of them I really appreciate!

      Keep in touch

  5. August 15, 2019 at 8:08 AM
    toddst says:

    I just concluded a passage from Portland, OR to Yokohama, Japan, spending about a month moving from a Wakkanai, Hokkaido landfall to Yokohama Bayside Marina where I left my 60’ s/v Elcano.
    I had the excellent assistance of Kirk Patterson of Konpira Consulting for the month I spent in Japan and recommend him most enthusiastically for help understanding and navigating through the complexities of Japan. He knows boats having circumnavigated Japan solo and made numerous offshore passages; he knows Japan and the considerable Japanese marine bureaucracy having lived there for decades; he is fluent in Japanese and he is well known in the marinas and sailing communities around Japan. In addition, he is a valuable source of local weather forecasts, local charts and fishing gear hazards, which are ubiquitous, and the specifics of where to find moorage in ports.
    Kirk can be reached at kirk.konpira@yahoo.com

    Todd S Thompson
    s/v Elcano

    1. December 28, 2019 at 6:45 AM
      malos says:

      What were the procedures for leaving? Anything special or notice required?

  6. March 13, 2019 at 6:10 AM
    Lynda Lim says:

    Mar 13, 2019 06:10 AM

    Upon arrival in Okinawa from Tahiti (French Polynesia), we were instructed by the Japan Coast Guard (+81(0)98-951-0120) to clear in at Naha harbor. Best to communicate via email (they reply quickly – using on-line translator): jcgbnahakq3-8f5m@mlit.go.jp

    You can easily get the “pre-arrival procedure form” (to mail to JCG prior to landing) with a simple web engine search. The pre-arrival procedure form is rather long, detailed, and clearly designed for large vessels, thus no worries if you can’t fill in all boxes.

    In your mail to JCG, ask them to arrange landing location with the Naha port authority (+81(0)98-862-2328) as they don’t speak English either.

    Our landing position at Naha commercial harbor:
    Quay 5 – N26°12’34 E127°40’22

    Fee: approx. 300 Yen/night (based on tonnage – 5 tons)

    Customs office at Naha Port: oki-9a-k-sokatsu@customs.go.jp / +81(0)98-862-8529

    All Customs procedures are explained and relevant forms available at:
    http://www.customs.go.jp/english/law/customsform/form_C_e.htm

    For tax-free fuel, you need Customs form C2160 – “Declaration of loading of [your] ship’s stores of domestic goods [i.e. Japanese gas!]”

    Sailing boats can’t stay in Naha commercial port. Shortly after completing all entry formalities, you will be asked to move to Ginowan marina (West coast) or Yonabaru marina (East coast).

    We moved to Itoman fishing port “Fisherina”, where we stayed 1 week at a floating pontoon. The Fisherina office is closed on Wednesday. No English spoken but friendly and helpful staff with whom we could ‘easily’ communicate through real-time voice translation app.
    Mooring coordinates: N26°07’43 E127°39’04

    Tariffs: 1500 Yen/night (based on boat length – our boat is 35′ feet long)
    Gasoil/Diesel: delivery by truck at the pontoon upon request (provider called by Fisherina office)
    Fresh water at the pontoon: 50 Yen/hour (long hose available upon request at the office)
    Facilities: WC, showers (hot water – 200 Yen/shower), beverages (vending machines)

    No Internet / WIFI but if needed, possibility to get connected at the Fisherina office
    Free public WIFI networks widely available in Okinawa (e.g. BeOkinawa, NahaCity, etc.)

  7. August 30, 2015 at 11:13 PM
    Data Entry5 says:

    A useful website to get the contacts of the various marinas where you can stop in Japan is http://www.umi-eki.jp (English version available). They do not all speak English on the phone though…

  8. February 9, 2015 at 12:28 AM
    Data Entry5 says:

    Regarding notice of arrival to Japan Coast Guard: The email addresses for the Ogasawara Coast Guard Station in Chichi Jima is jcg3ogasawara-9q3p@mlit.go.jp and for Kawayama Coast Guard on Honshu is jcg5wakayamakotsu2-7g2d@mlit.go.jp.

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