Traveling to another country with a guide dog can be a challenge. In addition to the quarantine guidelines, due to the laws regarding guide dogs in Japan, only Japan-trained dogs are covered by the law – and therefore the right to use public facilities with your guide dog will not be recognized. However, as a workaround, people traveling to Japan with a guide dog are able obtain credentials from the Japan Guide Dog Association to ensure equal access.
In 1938, a young American man visited Japan with his guide dog – the first guide dog to be used in Japan. A year later, Rita, Astor, Podo and Luthi were imported from Germany and trained as the first guide dogs in Japan. After the war, guide dog training stopped until Kenichi Shioya began studying dog breeding and eventually trained Champy as the first domestic guide dog.
Now there are approximately 1,000 guide dogs actively helping their owners in every day life. Within Japan, 130-140 guide dogs are trained every year.
In May of 2002, The Act on Assistance Dogs for Physically Disabled Persons was established to guarantee access to public facilities, stores, and hospitals for people with visual impairments* using guide dogs. The law also stipulated that the owners must control the behavior and sanitation of their guide dogs and display a sign to inform others that the dog is a guide dog. The organizations breeding guide dogs are also held to high standards by this law.
For a look at the life of a Japanese guide dog, read our review of Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog.
While it is great that this law has now been established, it has one problem – it only acknowledges dogs certified in Japan. If your dog was trained in any other country, it is not considered certified in Japan and you will not be guaranteed access to public facilities, public transportation as well as private facilities, such as hotels, restaurants and shops, which are open to the general public.
In response to this problem, the Japan Guide Dog Association has stepped forward and now provides temporary IDs for foreign guide dogs. They require that that people applying for the temporary certification be a graduate of a member organization of the International Guide Dog Federation. Processing the temporary certification can require a number of weeks, so please see their website here: https://www.moudouken.net/en/
In addition to this certification, your guide dog will also need to follow the rules of quarantine for Japan. The Japan Guide Dog Association doesn’t handle this, so please see the website of the Animal Quarantine Service, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and fisheries of Japan: http://www.maff.go.jp/aqs/english/index.html
In preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) created an English version of the Assistance Dog portal site, including information on immigration procedures: https://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/policy/care-welfare/welfare-disabilities/assistance_dogs/
The Travel Paws website offers great resources based on person experience and research: https://www.travelpaws.org/countries/japan/
*Unfortunately, the law currently only covers persons with visual impairments, not persons with mental illness or other physical disabilities. Please contact the Japan Guide Dog Association for more details.