Wondering when Japan will reopen for tourism? You’re not alone. This is the most common question we get from travelers, and below you’ll find essential details on what to know before you plan your post-pandemic trip to Japan.

Currently Japan’s borders remain closed to tourists, though the Japanese government may provide more information on reopening in the next few weeks (more on this below). Yet even in spite of the travel restrictions, plenty of travelers have already booked Japan trips for 2022, with many others planning to visit in 2023.

Making plans during a pandemic can be a pain, which is why we offer a flexible rescheduling policy. Below you can learn more about when Japan is likely to reopen, why you may want to avoid a famous peak season, whether travel insurance is actually worthwhile, and how Japan has managed to minimize the impacts of Covid-19 while also avoiding strict lockdowns.

Note: Along with monitoring developments on the ground, our team of Japan experts is in constant contact with our network throughout the country. We update this page monthly (last updated on November 22, 2021), and more frequently when there are significant developments. For more up-to-the-minute updates, please don’t hesitate to ask us directly.

Bamboo onsen hot springs Yufuin Kyushu Japan

When Will Japan Reopen, and When Should You Visit?

The big question for travelers is, When will Japan’s travel restrictions end? After months of relative silence, the Japanese government has at long last begun hinting that an easing of border restrictions may be on the horizon.

When Are Japan’s Borders Expected to Reopen to Tourists?

Throughout the pandemic, predictions on when Japan will reopen have varied quite a bit, even (or perhaps especially!) among Japan travel insiders and experts. Some believed that travel to Japan could resume by the end of 2021, while others have been predicting that Japan might begin allowing tourists to visit quarantine-free in time for the 2022 cherry blossom season or later.

In early November, the Japanese government finally provided a modicum of insight, indicating that they are starting to consider the possibility of allowing tourism to resume, at least to a degree, by the end of 2021. This announcement came on the heels of the government also unveiling slightly eased restrictions for students and business travelers, and from what we can tell it is probably safe to expect border restrictions for tourists to be eased in phases. While Japan is not known for its hastiness, most people agree that when the announcement comes it has the potential to be quite sudden.

These latest developments are the result of a few factors, including Japan’s successful vaccination rollout and the fact that Covid-19 numbers are dramatically down at the moment (for more on current conditions, skip to the Covid-19 in Japan Now section below). Domestic politics are also at play. Leading up to Japan’s recent elections, there had been speculation that the newly-formed government of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida might reveal some reopening details in the near future. Kishida’s party, the LDP, has shown a relative openness to considering measures oriented around living with Covid, influenced in part by the powerful Keidanren (Japanese Business Federation). 

It doesn’t hurt that the regional situation has also evolved significantly over the past couple of months, with various countries (including Singapore, Thailand, Australia, and others) reopening or unveiling more concrete reopening timelines.

When it comes to Covid-19 and making predictions for the future, virtually anything can happen, but these are welcome developments.

When Should You Visit Japan?

Even in the absence of certainty, plenty of people have continued to plan. At the moment, we’re seeing large numbers of people planning for next spring, summer, fall, and beyond.

If you have the flexibility to avoid cherry blossom season, you may want to consider visiting Japan at another time of year. Even in normal years, sakura season is extraordinarily busy. When you combine its usual popularity with all of the postponed trips and pent-up travel demand, cherry blossom season in 2022 has the potential to be unprecedentedly crowded.

If you’re eyeing spring but prefer to avoid crowds, consider mid-May, which boasts wonderfully pleasant weather and fewer tourists. Another beautiful, though increasingly popular, time of year is fall. And if you’d rather be in the country when even fewer people are around (and don’t mind the heat or cold), consider summer, which is full of lively matsuri, or Japan’s picturesque winter.

For a comprehensive overview of the pros and cons of each season, see When Is The Best Time of Year To Visit Japan?

teamLab Borderless digital art museum in Odaiba, Tokyo, Japan

Should You Plan Before Japan Reopens?

If you’re hoping to visit Japan once its borders open for quarantine-free travel, we do recommend starting to plan as soon as you’re ready to choose approximate travel dates.

Despite Covid-19, availability is already tight for 2022, especially when it comes to peak seasons like spring. For travelers who want to go after travel restrictions end, we offer the flexibility to book your trip now, with the option to reschedule if needed (because pandemic planning can be a pain, we have a flexible rescheduling policy).

If you haven’t traveled much since Covid-19 started, it can be hard to really imagine availability being a concern. But despite the uncertainty, demand remains high, and availability is already limited for unique accommodations throughout Japan, not to mention the most talented guides and local experts.

Think about it this way: countless people with trips planned for 2020 ended up postponing to 2021 or 2022, and most everyone who’d planned for 2021 has had to reschedule, as well. Add in all the pent-up demand from travelers eager for an adventure, and we have a recipe for an extraordinarily busy 2022.

We expect availability to become even more scarce after the Japanese government announces a reopening timeline. If you’re on the fence and waiting for an official pronouncement on Japan’s reopening, consider initiating the planning process now to get ahead of the crowds.

As an important side note if you’re thinking of planning with us at Boutique Japan: thanks to our meticulous and highly personalized approach to trip planning, our clients typically begin planning at least a few months in advance (and further out for peak seasons). You can see our current availability here.

Japanese mixologist

Flexible Rescheduling Policy

What if you plan now, but travel cannot commence due to government border restrictions relating to Covid-19? Obviously we hope this doesn’t happen, but to make things as painless as possible we offer a flexible rescheduling policy.

Flexible Rescheduling. Reschedule with ease. Simply take your postponed trip within 2 years of your original trip dates.

No Rescheduling Fee. There is no fee to reschedule. Your entire deposit is fully transferable to your new dates.

What’s the catch? We do require at minimum 30 days’ notice prior to your trip’s start date to guarantee the above. This enables us to give your guides, accommodations, and other service providers advance notice (our relationships with hotels, ryokans, guides, and local experts are sacred to us, and a key facet of the trips we offer). In rare cases there may be a unique service with a less flexible policy, in which case we’ll let you know before you book.

We would be remiss not to mention that we can’t guarantee rates won’t change between your original and rescheduled trips, as pricing for services (particularly accommodations) can vary depending on the season and even day of the week, not to mention from year to year due to external factors like inflation and exchange rates. On the flip side, we work tirelessly on behalf of our clients, and if needed are always happy to brainstorm creative ways to try and help you work around your budget.

Finally, it’s worth noting that if you need to change your travel plans with us for any reason other than government border restrictions relating to Covid-19 preventing travel from commencing, our regular Booking Terms and Conditions would apply depending on when you decide (whether you’re postponing or canceling altogether). If you have any questions about any of our policies, don’t hesitate to call or email us.

Does Travel Insurance Include Coverage for Covid-19?

The topic of travel insurance was already complex even before Covid-19, and now has become even more convoluted.

Fortunately, the majority of reputable insurance companies do now offer at least some degree of pandemic coverage. Not every single potential issue is necessarily covered, but some key ones — for example, if you get Covid-19 and cannot travel — are covered by many.

Pandemic or not, we’ve always recommended comprehensive travel insurance, which can help protect you both financially and medically. For example, if you have to change or cancel your plans last-minute for a covered reason, or if you need to access medical care during your trip. It can also prove worth the investment in case of more minor issues, which can nevertheless wreak havoc on travel plans, such as unexpected flight changes, lost luggage, etc.

However, even the best policies don’t cover everything, which is why many travelers opt for “Cancel for Any Reason” (sometimes abbreviated as CFAR) coverage. Travelers with CFAR are more likely to be eligible to receive at least some insurance reimbursement for a broader range of reasons (for example, even among policies that offer a degree of pandemic coverage, most do not protect against border closures or other travel restrictions).

As far as providers go, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection is one good option for luxury travelers. Many of our travelers also work with Travelex, Travel Guard, Allianz, and RoamRight (to compare various policies side by side, refer to the insurance marketplaces SquareMouth and InsureMyTrip). For a different degree of protection, more and more travelers are also looking to solutions like Medjet and Covac Global.

To make sure you get a policy that meets your specific needs, we strongly recommend you speak directly with a travel insurance provider. Let’s not mince words: insurance is not a fun topic, but in the Covid era it’s a travel essential.

Standing Japanese soba udon noodle shop

Japan’s Vaccination Rollout and Covid-19 in Japan Now

Like elsewhere in the world, daily life in Japan has been significantly impacted by Covid-19. However, even taking recent waves into account, Japan — which is larger than most people realize, with a population of 126 million — has fared surprisingly well compared to most countries when it comes to Covid-19 cases and deaths.

Some countries have contained the pandemic more successfully than Japan, though perhaps no other country has done as well without relying on strict lockdowns.

At certain points in the past, parts of Japan have been under what was referred to as a State of Emergency. However, despite the alarming terminology, the impact of these “emergencies” on daily life has been on the whole less disruptive than the lockdowns endured in many countries.

Japan’s Vaccination Rollout

Japan’s vaccination rollout started slowly, but has ultimately been quite successful. For more statistics on vaccination rates in Japan, refer to Reuters’ Covid-19 Tracker and Covid-19 Vaccination Tracker.

Covid-19 Precautions in Japan

In terms of precautions, health and safety are taken very seriously in Japan, and travelers are often amazed by how clean and organized the country is (along with Japanese food, it’s one of the best things about Japan). Wherever you go, it’s safe to expect widespread adherence to best practices for hygiene and cleanliness, including virtually universal mask-wearing, ubiquitous availability of hand sanitizer, and respectful social distancing.

Japan’s deep-rooted culture of respect, an integral part of Japanese etiquette, certainly helps. So does the fact that Japanese people have been used to wearing masks for many years (in Japan, people wear masks not only due to Covid, but also during flu season, for allergy prevention, and more).

Naturally, travel service providers in Japan — from hotels and ryokans, to bullet trains and airlines — have also invested heavily in revamping sanitation procedures to enhance the safety of both travelers and staff.

Post-Covid Entry Requirements

Japan has yet to outline what entry requirements will look like after reopening, but we’ll be updating this page as soon as further details are available.

Our general expectation is that, when tourism returns, quarantine-free travel will be possible for travelers who meet certain criteria. At this point it’s not known for sure whether proof of vaccination will be required, but is assumed that at the minimum negative PCR Covid-19 tests will be part of the equation.

For more on Covid-19 and Japan, we also recommend the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, the JNTO, the Japan-Guide, Sherpa, and The Japan Times.

mountain railway Kyoto Japan

Planning on Japan Travel in 2022 or Beyond?

Whether you know you want to go, or are on the fence pending further developments and additional clarity, we would be happy to chat about your trip or answer any questions you may have.

The best way to get in touch is via our contact page (feel free to submit a form, send us an email, or give us a call) but you can also connect with us over on Instagram.

Free Japan Trip-Planning Resources

About Andres Zuleta

Andres founded Boutique Japan to share his passion and enthusiasm for Japan, and over the years he has had the opportunity to help hundreds of wonderful travelers from around the world experience Japan in a truly personal and immersive way.