View of Yokohama

COVID QUARANTINE IN TOKYO

Travelife Magazine Publisher Christine Cunanan

I just finished the three-night mandatory quarantine at a government facility upon arriving back in Tokyo from La Esperanza Granada in Spain, and now I am finishing the rest of the 12 quarantine days at home.There’s no escaping this quarantine if you are actually allowed entry into Japan from most countries in Europe, and no one would dream of doing so.

Like every other country, Japan has set quarantine protocols for arrivals from various destinations and these are all dynamic rules. They change depending on the COVID situation in the place of origin and the sentiments of the government of Japan towards these. But these are all standard procedures everywhere now.

However, unlike quarantine experiences in many other countries, arrivals in Japan don’t get to choose their hotel or order food from their favorite takeaway. They can’t get friends or relatives to send something delicious over either.

QUARANTINE HOTELS IN JAPAN

The Japanese government decides everything for arriving passengers from abroad and everything is efficient and no-nonsense. Their quarantine hotels are not luxury hotels. The Japanese government allocates arrivals to a range of basic business hotels within driving distance of the international airports, Most of the hotels are in the three-star range. They are clean, functional and more than adequate in many ways — except for size.

So travelers are confined into a hotel room the size of a closet for three days — no Park Hyatt Tokyo suites this time — and there’s no contact with the outside world save for the daily phone call from the quarantine people and an o-bento box placed outside your door at mealtimes. You’re left on your own for three days so please make sure you’ve brought your laptop if you’re headed for quarantine in Japan.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE DAY

Once all the bento boxes have been put outside the door, someone turns on the loudspeaker that’s connected to every hotel room and says: “You can get your food now but please wear your mask when opening your door.” Shades of a comfortable imprisonment here.

HOW TO GET AN UPGRADE

View of Yokohama

Still, quarantine had its perks. Initially I was given an inner room with a view of the other wall because I was a single traveler. This room gave me claustrophobia — it’s the size of my walk-in closet in Tokyo — and there was no getting around the fact that I could not open my two bags at the same time.

So when the efficient quarantine team made its first check-up phone call, I asked, just for the heck of it: “Can I please change to a room with a better view?”

Lucky me. They actually “upgraded” me to a room with a beautiful view of Yokohama. The room was not any larger than my previous room but the scenery certainly made everything more bearable.

QUARANTINE FOOD IN TOKYO

The food wasn’t bad either. The lovely bento boxes, lunch staples of modern Japanese life, were always thoughtfully balanced out for nutrition and dessert was included. There was always a fish or meat portion, a rice or noodle dish, several vegetable appetizers, and a sweet. Nothing wanting or in excess. In other words, so typically Japan.

The Japanese government very generously paid for this quarantine, which includes hotels, meals and transportation. They also pay for two COVID PCR tests. Each arriving passenger must take one upon arrival and one after three days. I reckon it costs the Japanese government a significant amount per arrival to do all this. This may explain why no foreign tourists have been allowed to enter Japan since March 2020. It will just cost too much.

After three days at the government facility and a negative COVID PCR test, arrivals are finally allowed to leave and wait out the rest of their quarantine in their own homes. The only condition stipulated is that arrivals do not use public transportation during their quarantine period.

Japanese bento box

HOME QUARANTINE IN JAPAN

Home quarantine is better, of course. But my mobile phone has been geo-tagged to make sure I don’t leave home. Also, I get two calls a day including one mandatory video recording to confirm I’m at home. The other one is a reminder to confirm one’s location and to send in a health update by 2 PM. This is a small price to pay, though, for my truly amazing normal summer at La Esperanza Granada in Spain.

Read more about traveling to Japan amidst COVID-19 in Travelife Magazine.