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For a short stay in Japan (90 days or less) no visa is needed, only proof that the stay will be shorter than 90 days is required.

  1. During this time, work in Japan is not permitted, but what about working for an online, American company, receiving payment from the company to an American bank?

  2. Is there a limit to the number of times I can leave and re-enter Japan, thus effectively resetting the 90 day limit?

  • Welcome! In future, as per the help center, it's best to keep your questions separated. – Mark Mayo Dec 23 '15 at 0:46
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The bigger limit you'll eventually run into is the half-year limit. If you're staying more than 50% of the year within a country, it becomes your primary place of residence, which entails a bunch of rules. Most notably, you must be taxed in your primary country of residence, which is somewhat impossible if you're there as a tourist. So, you cannot spend more than about 180 days per year on a tourist/temporary visa in Japan.

Constantly coming and going shouldn't be an issue, as long as you stay under the 50% limit. It might raise some eyebrows if you're indeed constantly coming and going, but technically there's nothing anyone would do about it besides perhaps asking some more questions. Practically speaking, if you're coming and going often enough within half a year to raise eyebrows, you're probably spending a fortune on plane tickets; and if you have enough money to do that, you are probably in a position to get some actual visa.

Personally I know of "tourists" who did the "Korea run" a few times; flying over to Korea to come back on a new visa. They always maxed out their 90 day visas, they didn't go back and forth enough to test out any limits. I know that in some cases, they were allowed back in a third time (270 days total), but with a stern warning, and never a fourth time (I don't think anyone was dumb enough to try). Such exceptions are entirely at the discretion of the immigration officers, who will judge you on your individual situation, and it's certainly not something you should expect or push your luck on. It's also been a number of years since, I don't know what the current climate is like; they may be much stricter these days.

I did hear of someone who was dumb enough to declare he was working (in Japan, for a Japanese company) while applying for a tourist visa; he was send back home immediately...

  • How would I find out what the limit is? I would like to know for certain.... and just to be clear, there is no visa. It is just the short stay visitor, which requires no visa. – Skeets Dec 24 '15 at 20:22
  • Thinking it over I think there's only a general 180 day limit. I've revised my answer. – deceze Dec 24 '15 at 21:21
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    BTW, even if you call it "no visa", you still get a visa in your passport upon entry. You simply do not need to apply for it in advance or do anything special to obtain it. – deceze Dec 25 '15 at 8:09
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For Japan (And many countries):

  1. It depends. Lots of people do it, but technically your visa is for tourist purposes, and you're meant to be doing that, not working. If you're working during your stay, you're arguably violating that. It's a grey area, as a lot of people do it (See people working in Chiang Mai, Thailand).

  2. In theory, no. However, it's going to start raising questions - they'll wonder if you're trying to 'live' there or 'work' there without getting residence / avoiding tax. At which point they might start wanting evidence of a job back home, or that you have a home elsewhere and that you do plan on leaving eventually. Same with most countries.

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    I'm sorry to nitpick, but your first answer, while it correctly answers the question, has some common misconceptions which are the source of many confusions regarding the Japanese immigration system. First, OP says he enters visa-free, so he will not have a visa. The correct term is status of residence. Like it or not, those are different as far as Japanese immigration is concerned. – fkraiem Dec 23 '15 at 9:09
  • Second, OP will obtain temporary visitor status, which is not intended only for tourism/sightseeing, but for "sightseeing, recreation, sports, visiting relatives, inspection tours, participating in lectures or meetings, business contact or other similar activities during a short stay in Japan." – fkraiem Dec 23 '15 at 9:14
  • And third, reading your answer literally implies that doing any activity other than the one your status is intended for is illegal, which is not correct. What is illegal (in this case, other statuses may have different rules) is to do a remunerated activity. Indeed, that is the case here, but the distinction is an important one to make, because any unpaid activity is permitted, even if it is not enumerated in the legal definition above. – fkraiem Dec 23 '15 at 9:17
  • @fkraiem I was trying to keep it simple, and may have oversimplified by just stating the visitor visa is for tourism. That's not just Japan, it's the same for many countries, but given he's not there for lectures, inspection tours or sports, the most likely alternative was tourism. Valid points, however. – Mark Mayo Dec 23 '15 at 10:31

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