A leashed shiba inu wears a costume including a red headband while sitting next to a carboard mini-shrine float.

Bringing a pet to Japan involves fulfilling many requirements, but the companionship may be worth it. Photo © showbizsuperstar, licensed Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivatives.

You may want to bring your pet to Japan. It can be done, but there are many requirements involved. Keep in mind that most apartments in Japan do not allow pets. A few do, but you will have to hunt for them, and an additional deposit may be required. In my case, I decided not to bring my dog to Japan and left her with several trustworthy friends at home; I didn’t want to subject her to the trauma of air travel, possible quarantine period, and adjustment to an unfamiliar place. Moreover, there was no grass or dirt near my Tokyo apartment, only concrete and asphalt—not much space to run around, and not much fun. If you do decide to bring your pet—you may have compelling reasons—be prepared to follow the requirements of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishers.

Dogs and cats must undergo quarantine inspection. If they meet import requirements upon arrival, the quarantine period ends within 12 hours. If they don’t meet the requirements, they’ll be subject to quarantine, which can last up to 180 days and during which you’re responsible for the feeding, caring, and other associated costs of your pet while it’s housed in a kennel at a detention facility of Animal Quarantine Service. Depending on the results of the inspection, your dog or cat may be prohibited from entering Japan.

Assistance dogs, such as guide dogs, service dogs, and hearing dogs, must meet the same requirements. If you plan to come to Japan with your assistance dog, prepare in advance: Contact the Animal Quarantine Service of the expected airport or seaport of entry no less than 40 days in advance, and undertake the necessary actions.

Import procedures vary depending on the export region of the dog or cat. Designated regions are Hawaii, Guam, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, and the Fiji Islands, which are rabies-free, and generally require microchip implantation and government-issued certificates. Dogs and cats from nondesignated regions must meet further import requirements involving rabies vaccinations and a rabies antibody test. See requirements for both designated and non-designated regions at www.maff.go.jp/aqs/English.

Note that dogs can only be imported through New Chitose, Narita International, Haneda, Chubu Centrair International, Kansai International, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, Kagoshima, or Naha Airports.
Once in the country, you are required to register your dog (91 days old or older) at the local municipal office and receive a dog license. In addition, the dog must have a rabies vaccination once a year April- June and receive a Completion of Rabies Vaccination Tag. The license and tag must be attached to the dog’s collar at all times.

Dogs must be leashed or caged when outdoors, except in designated dog parks. Some restaurants and hotels accept pets. For further information, contact your local municipal office.


Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Living Abroad Japan.