Whether you’re planning a trip, or just daydreaming for the moment, we’ve compiled essential information about traveling to Japan in the time of Covid and beyond.
We have continually updated this page since the early days of the pandemic. Along with keeping close tabs on news and official developments, our team is also in constant contact with our close-knit network throughout Japan.
While some travelers may not be ready to begin making plans for the future, many are already plotting adventures for later this year and next.
Table of Contents
- Flexible Planning Policy
- Can You Visit Japan Now?
- Covid in Japan and What to Expect on the Ground
- Japanese Books and Films to Keep You Inspired
This post was last updated on February 23, 2021.
For travelers who can’t wait to travel (or at least want to get a special trip on the calendar!), we offer built-in flexibility to make it easier to plan for the future with peace of mind.
Contact us to begin dreaming up your bespoke Japan itinerary for 2021 or 2022, but don’t worry too much about things being fully set in stone. After all, a bit of uncertainty is part of life these days!
Start planning now to get ahead of pent-up demand, but if you need to change your plans we’ll help you do so effortlessly. Just give us thirty days’ notice from your trip’s start date, and you can simply reschedule for later — with no change fees.
If you have any questions about our policies, please say hello.
Can You Visit Japan Now?
While many people have trips planned for later in 2021 and 2022, Japan has had its borders closed to tourists since the early days of Covid.
When will travelers be allowed to enter Japan?
The exact timing remains uncertain. However, based on official reports and on-the-ground intel, it’s generally agreed that the Japanese government hopes to begin the gradual process of reopening to tourists this spring.
Reopening is expected to occur in stages. For example, it’s likely that travelers from places with relatively low infection rates may be allowed to enter before those from higher-risk countries.
In light of ongoing vaccine developments, some spring travelers are holding out hope that Japan will reopen more quickly than anticipated. This being said, as anyone following the news knows, there are still question marks around even the Tokyo Summer Olympics.
If you’re thinking of visiting and have flexible travel dates, have a look at our guide to the seasons, weather, and when to visit Japan in general.
Regardless of when reopening happens, we expect the first travelers to enter Japan may have the very unique chance to experience the country with far fewer tourists than usual.
Because it’s still too soon to know how quickly reopening will progress, we are monitoring developments closely and updating this article frequently. For additional reference, we also recommend the following resources:
Covid-19 in Japan and What to Expect on the Ground
What’s it like in Japan now?
Daily life in Japan has been impacted by Covid as it has everywhere on Earth. However, despite the challenges, Japan has been somewhat fortunate to avoid the degree of devastation seen in places like the Americas and Europe.
For example, despite Japan’s massive population of 126 million people, the country has suffered strikingly low mortality rates.
Japan’s deep-rooted culture of respect (an integral part of Japanese etiquette) certainly helps. So do the country’s outstandingly high levels of hygiene and cleanliness – not to mention the fact that Japanese people have been accustomed to wearing masks for years.
As with other countries in the northern hemisphere, Japan experienced a winter surge. Because of this — and also due to the threat of new variants appearing worldwide — some parts of Japan are currently under a state of emergency.
Under the temporary state of emergency, businesses such as bars and restaurants are being asked to reduce their hours or temporarily close (with financial support from the government) to help curb the spread.
This being said, Japan has overall been very fortunate to avoid lockdowns as severe as those in many other parts of the world, and during most of the pandemic restaurants, cafes, and shops have been able to operate with a relatively high degree of normalcy.
Health and safety are taken very seriously in Japan, and travelers are often amazed by how clean and organized the country is. Over the past year, travel service providers — from hotels and ryokans, to bullet trains and airlines — have invested extensively in revamping health and sanitation procedures to enhance the safety of both travelers and staff.
As far as common-sense precautions go, wherever you go in Japan it’s safe to expect widespread adherence to best practices for hygiene and sanitation. This means you’ll find virtually universal mask wearing, ubiquitous hand sanitizer, polite social distancing, etc.
Expected Entry Requirements
At this stage, Japan has not specified what the entry requirements for tourists will be when reopening begins.
Based on the current requirements for citizens and residents entering Japan from abroad, it seems safe to assume that a negative Covid test will be required before boarding your flight. Testing may also be done on arrival.
Measures beyond this are not yet clear, but it’s also expected that visitors may be required to install a Covid-monitoring app, though details have not yet been specified. As for whether proof of vaccination will be required, this also has yet to be determined.
For all of our travelers, Covid or not, we always recommend purchasing comprehensive travel insurance.
Unlike in the early days of the pandemic, many if not most travel insurance companies now provide medical coverage when it comes to Covid (it may go without saying, but for precise details make sure to discuss with your insurance company directly).
Japanese Books & Films to Keep You Inspired
We hope you will have the chance to visit Japan as soon as possible. In the meantime, to help keep you inspired here’s a short list of our favorite Japanese and Japan-themed books and films.
Japan Reading List
- Essays in Idleness: This book is not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are interested in history, Buddhism, and philosophy, make sure to read the brilliant Donald Keene translation.
- Rice, Noodle, Fish: A fun and fascinating culinary coffee table book.
- Tokyo Vice: Written by one of the foremost English-speaking experts on Japan’s underworld.
- The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon: Another Japanese classic for fans of ancient literature.
- Snow Country: A modern classic by the Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata.
- Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II: Essential reading for history buffs, a Pulitzer Prize-winning tome.
- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: Arguably still the best of Haruki Murakami’s novels.
- The Housekeeper and the Professor: Author Yoko Ogawa is widely considered one of Japan’s best contemporary writers.
- The Sound of Waves: A classic by the legendary author Yukio Mishima.
- WA: The Essence of Japanese Design: Gorgeous and illuminating coffee table book.
For more reading inspiration, see our full Japan reading list.
Recommended Japanese Films
Below you’ll find several of our favorite Japanese filmmakers and a selection of the best Japanese films, along with a couple of shows:
- Akira Kurosawa: Perhaps the most renowned Japanese director of all time, with too many remarkable films to list.
- Hayao Miyazaki: The one-and-only Studio Ghibli is behind some of the world’s most beautiful animated films including Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Totoro, and countless others.
- Hirokazu Kore-eda: Brilliant contemporary director, with notable films including Shoplifters and Nobody Knows.
- Yasujiro Ozu: Another legendary Japanese director, with classic films such as Tokyo Story and Late Spring.
- Seijun Suzuki: Fans of Quentin Tarantino should not overlook Suzuki’s action-packed films including Branded to Kill and Tokyo Drifter.
- Jiro Dreams of Sushi: This highly recommended modern documentary is about much more than just sushi.
- Terrace House: Definitely not for everybody, but those who love it swear by this famously slow-paced yet surprisingly intriguing “reality show” (start with the season Boys & Girls in the City).
- Tokyo Olympiad: Beautiful account of the 1964 Tokyo Summer Games by director Kon Ichikawa.
- Anthony Bourdain: Go back and watch Bourdain’s Japan episodes on his shows No Reservations and Parts Unknown.
Planning a Future Visit to Japan
We hope the above information helps you as you consider your Japan travel plans.