Japan launched services on Monday aimed at digitizing the documentation associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and travel.

One is a smartphone app, a digital version of the paper-based vaccine passport that municipalities have been issuing since late July.

Called COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate Application, it can be used by Japan residents who need to show proof of vaccination. Even during a time when infections are high, the app’s certification can be used when people travel domestically, dine out or attend large-scale events, activities that had previously been restricted due to government guidelines.

The app also allows vaccination details to be displayed in English when the user travels overseas.

The other new service, a site called Visit Japan Web, allows travelers to upload the documents necessary for customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) procedures.

Targeting inbound travelers, the online platform is designed to simplify the entry process, which has become lengthier due to the increase in paperwork related to COVID-19.

What do you need to start using the digital vaccine passport app?

The vaccination certificate app, called 新型コロナワクチン接種証明書アプリ in Japanese, is available for downloading on smartphones that operate on iOS 13.7 or later and Android 8.0 or later.

It is currently only available in Japanese on the Japanese app stores (iOS, Android).

The app offers two modes: for overseas travel and for domestic travel.

To log into overseas mode, you will need:

  • your My Number card (an ID card used for social security and taxation)
  • the four-digit PIN code associated with the My Number card
  • your passport

In line with the app’s instructions, you will be asked to enter the My Number card PIN code you set when you applied for it, and to scan your My Number card and passport via the app.

You then select the municipality where you live, which is in principle where your vaccination voucher was sent from, to access your vaccination data, and the vaccination certificate will then appear on screen. The entire process should only take a few minutes.

A QR code for a digital vaccine passport | KYODO
A QR code for a digital vaccine passport | KYODO

For the domestic mode, you only need your My Number card and PIN code. It can be used under the so-called vaccination/testing package, which allows those who have been fully vaccinated or have tested negative for COVID-19 to attend large-scale events, for instance, or dine with a larger number of people.

What kind of information is included in the digitized vaccine passport?

The information includes:

  • Name
  • Birthday
  • Passport number (overseas mode only)
  • QR code
  • Vaccine manufacturer
  • Number of vaccinations
  • Last vaccination date
  • Issue date

Officials can scan the QR code for authentication.

To address privacy concerns, the app’s domestic mode allows users to conceal personal details when they show it to others.

Although Japan’s vaccine passport, as of Dec. 13, is officially recognized by 76 countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, entry to restaurants, bars and events in those countries is not guaranteed.

Why is a My Number card necessary?

Government officials say it is to ensure the vaccine passport is issued to the right person, and at present the My Number card and its PIN code are the best form of verification.

As of Dec. 1, about 50 million My Number cards have been issued, equivalent to about 40% of the population.

How does the Visit Japan Web service work?

After creating an account, service users can upload the files necessary to enter Japan, including a negative COVID-19 test result, a completed quarantine questionnaire and customs declaration. Each traveler, even children, must have an individual account.

The new service is expected to cut down on the entry processing time,  since CIQ officials will only need to scan a QR code to access the traveler’s relevant information.

The site is initially available in English and Japanese, with other languages expected to be added in the future.

For more information, see the site’s FAQ.


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