Whether it’s your first time visiting Japan or you can’t wait to return, travelers from around the world are eagerly looking forward to the day when they can travel to Japan.

Like most countries in Asia, Japan has had its borders closed to travelers since the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, despite current restrictions, travelers who want to beat the crowds are already planning Japan trips for the future — and as soon as the country announces its reopening timeline, we anticipate a new rush of bookings.

Making plans during a pandemic can be a pain, we know, which is why we offer a flexible rescheduling policy outlined below.

Wondering when to visit Japan?

Along with monitoring developments on the ground, our team of Japan experts is in constant contact with our network throughout Japan, and we update this page monthly (last updated September 7, 2021).

Bamboo onsen hot springs Yufuin Kyushu Japan

When to Visit Japan

At the moment, most travelers planning to visit Japan are booking trips for this winter, along with spring, summer, and fall 2022 (some are already starting to plan for 2023, as well).

Of course, you may be wondering when Japan’s travel restrictions will end. As with most countries in Asia and Oceania, Japan has yet to formally announce a reopening timeline. Most experts agree that, with the distractions of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics finally in the past, the Japanese government will now be able to focus on a Covid “exit strategy” for Japan.

For more on current conditions in Japan, and the country’s vaccination rollout, see the Covid-19 in Japan Now section below.

Even among insiders and experts, opinions on when Japan’s borders will reopen for tourism vary quite a bit. Some believe it could happen by later in 2021. Others predict that Japan will begin allowing travelers to visit in time for next year’s cherry blossom season. Regardless, despite the present uncertainty, many travelers continue to book Japan trips for the future.

For travelers with very flexible dates, we typically recommend avoiding cherry blossom season, if possible. Even in normal years, spring is extremely busy. Combined with postponed trips, plus pent-up travel demand, spring 2022 has the potential to be unprecedentedly crowded.

If you’re eyeing springtime but don’t like 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 fewer people are around (and don’t mind the heat or the cold), consider summer, which is full of lively matsuri, or Japan’s picturesque winter.

For more on the pros and cons of each of Japan’s seasons see our comprehensive overview, 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?

Echoing the above, as soon as the Japanese government specifies a border reopening timeline, it’s safe to expect a sudden and significant increase in demand for accommodations, guides, and transport in Japan. Because of this, if you’re thinking of visiting Japan in 2022, consider getting ahead of the crowds before it’s too late (even for “maybes,” it can’t hurt to initiate the planning process).

For anyone who hasn’t traveled much since Covid-19 started, it can be hard to fathom travel demand being much of a concern. But even though the pandemic has made planning more uncertain, availability is already dwindling 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 to later this year or next. Add in all the pent-up demand from travelers eager for an adventure, and we have a recipe for potentially unprecedented demand.

At Boutique Japan, we tend to attract early planners, and thanks to our highly personalized approach to Japan trip design, our team usually requires at least a few months’ advance notice.

Japanese mixologist

Flexible Rescheduling

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?

Fortunately, nowadays more and more travel insurance providers offer at least some degree of pandemic coverage.

Pandemic or not, we’ve always recommended comprehensive trip insurance, which can help protect you 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, which can nevertheless wreak havoc on travel plans, such as unexpected flight changes.

However, even the best travel insurance plans don’t necessarily cover everything, which is why many travelers opt for “Cancel for Any Reason” (sometimes abbreviated as CFAR) coverage. Travelers with CFAR are, by definition, more likely to be eligible to receive insurance reimbursement for a broader range of reasons. For example, even though most insurance companies offer at least some Covid-related coverage, the majority do not protect against border closures or other travel restrictions. Unsurprisingly, CFAR policies have become more popular than ever during the pandemic.

As far as providers, many of our travelers work with Travelex, Travel Guard, Allianz, RoamRight, and World Nomads. To make sure you get a policy that meets your specific needs, we strongly recommend you speak directly with a travel insurance provider (it’s essential, as insurance can be convoluted), 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

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 has a population of 126 million) has fared surprisingly well compared to most countries when it comes to cases and deaths.

While some 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 minimal on the whole compared to many lockdowns endured around the world.

Japan’s Vaccination Rollout

Japan’s vaccination efforts got off to a slow start for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, the pace has gained momentum. For more details on Japan’s vaccination rates, 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 whether proof of vaccination will be required, but is likely that 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

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!

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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.