Whether it’s your first time visiting, or you can’t wait to return, the moment Japan reopens to travelers we’re anticipating a huge rush of bookings.

Even now, despite the fact that borders currently remain closed (like nearly everywhere in Asia), we’re already planning Japan trips for the future for travelers who want to beat the crowds.

If you’re like us, you’ve had to postpone at least one or more big adventures due to the pandemic. It can be a pain, we know, which is why we offer a painless rescheduling policy outlined below.

Wondering when Japan will reopen, and when you should plan to visit?

Along with keeping close tabs on official developments, our team of Japan experts is in constant contact with our wide-ranging network throughout Japan, and we update this page frequently.

Bamboo onsen hot springs Yufuin Kyushu Japan

When to Visit Japan

Like most everywhere in Asia and Oceania, Japan has had its borders closed to travelers since the early days of Covid-19 (while some parts of the world have opened their borders, Asia remains stricter overall).

At the moment, we expect that autumn of this year (2021) would be the soonest Japan reopens to travelers. We have many clients planning to visit during this beautiful period, and we’re all hopeful it will turn out to be possible. If so, it should be a truly unique time to be in Japan, before mass tourism returns.

Huge numbers of travelers are looking ahead to Japan’s famous spring, which even in normal years is extraordinarily busy (see: cherry blossom season). Thanks to its popularity, combined with pent-up demand plus everyone’s postponed trips, we’re expecting next spring (2022) to be even more crowded than usual.

With this in mind, if you’re looking towards spring and have flexible dates, consider a less crowded time of year such as mid-May, which boasts fewer tourists and wonderfully pleasant weather. For more on Japan’s seasons, see When Is The Best Time of Year To Visit Japan?

teamLab Borderless digital art museum in Odaiba, Tokyo, Japan

Why Plan Before Japan Reopens?

If you’re hoping to visit Japan — and especially if you’re eyeing fall 2021 or spring 2022 — we recommend planning before things start selling out.

For anyone who hasn’t traveled much since the pandemic started, it can be hard to imagine supply being a concern. But despite global uncertainty, services are booking up: even though Covid-19 has made it harder to plan for the future, availability is already dwindling for unique accommodations and 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 to later this year or next. Add in all the pent-up demand we’re seeing from people eager to get on a plane, and we have a recipe for potentially unprecedented demand.

As soon as Japan announces its reopening plans, demand is expected to skyrocket. So if you want to get ahead of the crowds, now is the time to start the planning process (even if you’re on the fence and not quite ready to book, it can’t hurt to start the conversation).

If you’re considering planning with us, please note: we’re likely to see a major influx of new inquiries if Japan opens for autumn, but by then it may already be too late. To ensure quality control, and because we take a seriously meticulous approach to planning, our team usually requires at least a few months’ advance notice.

Japanese mixologist

What if Plans Change?

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 Cover Covid-19?

Fortunately, nowadays most travel insurance companies provide at least some degree of coverage for potential Covid-related issues.

Pandemic or not, we’ve always recommended comprehensive trip insurance, which can help provide protection both medically and financially. For example, in case you need to access medical care during your trip, or if you’re forced to change or cancel your plans last-minute (it can also help save the day in case of more minor issues that can nevertheless wreak havoc on travel plans, such as unexpected flight schedule changes, etc.).

Many of our travelers work with Travelex, and some other companies widely considered reputable include Travel Guard, Allianz, RoamRight, and World Nomads.

To make sure you get a policy that meets your needs, we certainly suggest you speak directly with a travel insurance provider, but to help point you in the right direction we have some recommended resources:

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

Covid-19 in Japan Now

Daily life in Japan has been impacted by Covid as it has everywhere on Earth. On the bright side, Japan has handled the pandemic quite well compared to most countries, with relatively low mortality rates (and no hard lockdowns).

Despite a population of 126 million (far higher than any country in Western Europe, for example), Japan has endured a relatively low number of deaths from Covid. Even accounting for seasonal surges, including the most recent wave, total Covid cases in Japan have also been relatively low throughout the pandemic.

While a few countries have managed to contain Covid more successfully than Japan, no other country has done as well without relying on strict lockdowns. At certain times, some parts of Japan have been under what is referred to as a State of Emergency. However, despite the alarming terminology, the impact on daily life has been notably minimal compared to other lockdowns experienced around the world.

Japan’s Vaccination Rollout

Like most countries in Asia and Oceania, which may have suffered from a lack of urgency (given that the pandemic was not as dire as in places like North America and Europe), Japan’s vaccination efforts got off to a slow start for a variety of reasons.

Along with stringent approval processes and frustrating bureaucratic hurdles, the government and public health authorities conveyed a desire to proceed cautiously to effectively demonstrate vaccine efficacy and safety to the Japanese populace.

Fortunately, the pace of vaccinations has gained significant momentum. For more details on Japan’s vaccination progress, refer to Reuters’ Covid-19 Tracker and Covid-19 Vaccination Tracker.

Covid Precautions in Japan

As anyone who’s been knows, Japan is one of the world’s most incredible destinations for so many reasons: Japanese cuisine, gorgeous off-the-beaten-path destinations, stunning hotels and ryokans, not to mention the country’s legendary cleanliness.

As with elsewhere on Earth, 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.

In terms of general precautions, health and safety are taken very seriously, and travelers are often amazed by how clean and organized Japan is. The country’s deep-rooted culture of respect (an integral part of Japanese etiquette) certainly helps. So do Japan’s outstandingly high levels of hygiene and cleanliness — not to mention the fact that Japanese people have been accustomed to wearing masks for years.

Wherever you go in Japan it’s safe to expect widespread adherence to best practices for hygiene and sanitation (virtually universal mask wearing, ubiquitous hand sanitizer, social distancing, etc.).

Post-Covid Entry Requirements

Japan has yet to specify what entry requirements for travelers will be, but we’ll be updating this page as soon as further details are available.

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

mountain railway Kyoto Japan

Let’s Talk Japan

We’d love to chat about your Japan trip, or answer any questions or concerns you may have about international travel in the time of Covid.

Feel free to call or email us to discuss your travels!

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.