Whether you’re just daydreaming for the moment, or planning a trip for the future, we’ve compiled essential information about visiting Japan in the time of Covid-19.
While some of us are already planning trips for next year and beyond, many travelers are not yet feeling certain enough to begin making future plans. It’s definitely understandable. This year has thrown a lot at us, and for most there have been more pressing concerns than going on vacation.
But for many people, travel is an essential part of what makes our lives feel rich and adventure-filled. Remember the rush of excitement when booking a flight or big trip? For travel lovers, so much joy comes not only from travel itself, but also the feeling of anticipation before a new adventure.
If you’re ready to think about planning, we want to make it as delightful and worry-free as possible (see our flexible booking policy). Even if you’re not, we hope this post gives you inspiration for the future!
Table of Contents
- What is the current Covid-19 situation in Japan?
- Japan travel restrictions and reopening plans
- Our Flexible Booking Policy
- Japanese books and films to keep you inspired
What is the current Covid-19 situation in Japan?
Life in Japan has been impacted as it has everywhere on Earth.
However, despite the seriousness of coronavirus, Japan has managed to avoid the degree of suffering and devastation experienced in many other places (for example, despite its large population, Japan has experienced relatively low mortality).
Nevertheless, despite the relatively successful outcome thus far, people in Japan continue to take Covid safety seriously.
Japan’s culture of respect (an integral part of Japanese etiquette) certainly helps, as 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.
What to Expect on the Ground
Especially nowadays, keeping up with the latest developments on the ground is one of the most important parts of what we do (and means as a traveler you don’t have to navigate everything on your own).
Along with keeping close tabs on news, and official (along with behind-the-scenes) developments, our team is also in constant contact with our close-knit network throughout Japan.
Health and safety in Japan are taken very seriously, and as you might expect travel in the time of Covid comes with a few “quirks.” Travel providers from bullet trains to hotels, ryokans, and airlines have been investing in updated health and sanitation procedures to enhance the safety of both travelers and staff.
As an example, here is a rough sense of what you can generally expect at accommodations:
- Contactless check-in and check-out
- Hand-sanitizer stations
- Air purifiers
- Staff in masks and gloves
- Temperature checks
- Stringent procedures with regard to the cleaning and sanitation of rooms and public spaces
- Optionally limited housekeeping
- Buffet dining replaced by socially distant dining rooms and in-room dining
- Public spaces such as gyms and bars may be temporarily closed, or have transitioned to new reservation-only systems
When planning your trip, we meticulously consider an array of factors to help ensure your experience will be as safe, fulfilling, and memorable as possible.
Japan travel restrictions and reopening plans
Like many other countries, Japan has had its borders closed to travelers while it focuses on protecting its citizens and working on a safe reopening plan.
According to the latest intel, Japan plans to begin reopening to travelers in spring 2021.
It’s worth noting that we generally recommend avoiding a visit around the time of the the Olympics — and if your dates are very flexible, see our complete guide to the seasons, weather, and when to visit Japan.
Flexible Booking Policy
A lot of travelers are wondering, What if the global situation doesn’t improve, and Covid prevents me from taking my trip?
We offer a flexible booking policy, to make it easy to plan for the future with peace of mind.
If Covid-related border closures or travel restrictions make your trip infeasible, you have all the way up until just 30 days before your trip start date to let us know. There will be zero change fees, and you’ll have the freedom to reschedule for later in 2021 or even 2022.
This means you can plan now, with the flexibility to change your plans down the line if needed.
Thanks to the highly personalized nature of our trips, once in a while there may be a unique service with slightly less flexibility. In the rare event this comes up in the process of designing your trip, we’ll let you know all the details before you commit.
Our goal is to make everything clear and easy, with no stress and no surprises.
We’ll be happy to help if you have any questions, please just contact us.
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.