Before Arrival

Planning steps

  1. Inform us about your desired term of appointment, i.e. arrival and departure days in/from Okinawa (precisely if possible) and departure airport (large international airport nearest your home institution). Note that we may not be able to accommodate you on those dates due to housing and other constraints. We usually have a zoom call with you to go over these and other points. For example, things like lectures for students and childcare have to be planned well in advance.
  2. Invitation letter from OIST (please sign and send to by the indicated Deadline).
  3. Health Insurance is required for the whole duration of your stay and travel to OIST.
    Under 3 months stay: Please send us proof (certificate/email with details/etc.) of health insurance valid during the whole duration of your stay in Japan as well as during the trip to/from Japan.
    Over 3 months stay: you will be required to join the Japanese National Health Insurance (ca. 3000 JPY per month - more details below), in addition please send proof of health insurance which is valid during your trip to and from Japan.
  4. Visa application, if required (we might ask for your passport and other information). Details below.
  5. OIST guest registration (to securely get your address, bank information, etc.)
  6. Flight booking: be sure to send us your suggested itinerary including booking class and price information and wait for our confirmation before booking (to check the reimbursement limit and other details). In general, OIST can only reimburse a simple round-trip airfare from the large international airport nearest your home institution. Arrival in Okinawa should be the day before or on the day the term of appointment at OIST starts (for visitors from Japan: not on a Saturday). Departure should be on the last day or the day after the appointment ends (not on a Sunday). Please contact us if you have special circumstances.
    After you received OIST approval and booked the flight, please send us the booking confirmation and/or detailed itinerary from the airline (email, pdf, or screenshot). The document(s) should include your full name, price information (for one adult passenger), payment confirmation, travel dates, airports, and the booked class.
  7. In case of family: do you need a larger apartment / child care? Details here.
  8. In case you want a rental car: Check if your license is valid in Japan first. If you want to pick up a rental car on campus, contact OIST Resource Center via their inquiry form to make a reservation. More information: On Getting Around Okinawa (approximate cost 40,000 - 80,000 JPY per month for small/regular cars, outside the main season).
  9. If you want a SIM card for mobile internet, it is easiest to order a prepaid card in advance and pickup at the airport in Tokyo or get it delivered. Details below.
  10. Regarding health and vaccinations, a few points are listed below.
  11. Arrival: we will arrange your on-campus apartment and transport from the airport in Okinawa (Naha) to OIST (usually a taxi)
    >> If you think you are missing a piece of information please do not hesitate to contact us (e.g. the PIN for your apartment or the room number). We strive to send you all necessary information but sometimes junk filters or other issues get in the way.

  12. After arrival: Please submit paper boarding passes and other required documents by the deadline in order to receive reimbursement.

Covered by OIST

For long-term Visiting Scholars, the following is covered:

  • A simple round-trip airfare between the international (large) airport nearest the home institution and OIST.
    • Visitor informs TSVP Team of intended flight schedule. After review, we will tell you the reimbursement price limit. Do not book before you have received approval from OIST. Reimbursement can only be made if the original paper boarding passes and other required documents are submitted by the requested deadline. The time of reimbursement might be up to several weeks after the return flight.
    • Please contact us if you have special circumstances.
    • It is the responsibility of guests to arrange transportation from their homes to the departure airport.
  • On-campus housing
  • Daily allowance (OIST per diem)
  • Transportation between Naha Airport (Okinawa) and the OIST campus
    (it is the responsibility of visitors to arrange transportation from their homes to the departure airport)

4. Relocation/Visa

Stays up to 90 days

From many countries Japan now allows visa-free travel for trips under 90 days. For other countries a simplified process to get a short-term business visa is available. In case a visitor earns salary in Japan the visa process via Certificate of Eligibility (COE) will be necessary.

Stays over 90 days

The below websites cover details about coming to OIST. While it is designed for new employees and not visitors, the information is likely to be useful. For example, there is a section covering the details of getting a visa to work at OIST. OIST administration will help you through the visa process, usually a so-called Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is issued on the Japanese side, after which the visitor applies for a visa at their local embassy.

Entry into Japan

Only visitors from a few countries are still required to get a PCR test within 72 hours of departing on a flight to Japan. Please note that the test certificate has to be in a specific format (or at least contain the same information in English or Japanese). We recommend to check your local Embassy's website for test centers in the area that provide certificates in the required format.

General immigration requirements (coming from any country) can be checked on this website (usually involves filling out a questionnaire and uploading some documents):

Japanese border measures:

Entry process:

Getting a visa might involve some bureaucracy

8./9. Getting around / SIM card

Rental Car

OIST is located in Onna village in the middle of the main island of Okinawa. The area is quite rural, so only a few small shops and restaurants are in walking distance. There is public transport and the OIST shuttle bus with which you can reach nearby towns, but most visitors decide to get a rental car. If you do, please be sure to check if your driver's license will be valid in Japan. See here (also about bicycle rental):

SIM Card/Internet/Communication

The OIST Lab Buildings as well as the on-campus have Wi-Fi internet access, however, many visitors prefer to also have internet/mobile network away from OIST.

The two most common options are SIM cards and pocket WiFi. Both of these you can order in advance and pick up at an airport in Japan. It is easier to order in advance then trying to find a shop in Okinawa. Note that you might need a proof of your address in Japan to get a phone contract (mobile internet only/prepaid is easier).

The OIST resource center provides the following guide regarding phone numbers in Japan:

So-called Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) are the cheapest option. Some common providers are listed at the above link, or at and You might also consider an international eSIM card with which you can access the internet in Japan, e. g. from airalo or ubigi. (external links; not intended as endorsement of the listed products).

Finally, if you are already in Okinawa there are some local shops like Bic Camera (3rd floor at AEON shopping mal in Okinawa city) offering short-term Data-only Sim cards:
3 GB --- 2,480 yen
6 GB --- 2,980 yen

When you visit them, please head to the cashier and show the following sentence.
(I would like to purchase 6 GB travel SIM.)

Detail of the SIM Card

10. About Health and Vaccinations

Japan National Health Insurance (NHI): for adults of working age 70% of health expenses are covered by the insurance while the rest is paid out of pocket. A threshold for out-of-pocket payments protects enrollees from catastrophic costs (the limit is about 90,000 yen per month). More details can be found, e.g. on this website.

Information from the OIST Health Center: It is recommended to complete the routine vaccination recommended for Japan in advance, however there is no vaccination legally required when you enter the country. List of routine vaccination in Japan is HERE.

Regarding Japanese encephalitis: Since most of Japanese children are vaccinated with Japanese encephalitis at very young age, risk of getting infected with Japanese encephalitis in Japan is very low. Because of this, OIST Health Center is not strongly recommending people to get vaccinated prior to your visit to Okinawa. It takes about a year to complete a course of Japanese Encephalitis vaccination. You receive the first 2 doses with about a month of interval between them, then receive the 3rd dose after at least 6 months from the 1st shot (ideally about 1 year). The cost of receiving the Japanese Encephalitis vaccination at a local clinic in Okinawa is about 5000yen/dose.
If a visitor is likely to visit areas such as pig farms, open water area (swamp, etc.), participating in field work, please consider getting vaccinated.
For more details, please check National institute of Infectious Diseases’s webpage HERE.

Regarding bringing medicine to Japan, please see this summary from the OIST Health Center:

For more information, please check "Q&A for those who are importing medicines into Japan" by Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan.

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