Questions about travel to Japan and the coronavirus?
At Boutique Japan, we have been closely monitoring the situation since the early days of the outbreak, and have answered countless questions about visiting Japan now and in the future.
While the current global situation means very few people are traveling to Japan or elsewhere this spring, many travelers are nevertheless excited to plan for the future.
Along with our personal explorations of Japan, we are also in constant contact with our various colleagues and friends throughout the country, including guides, local experts, hotel and ryokan staff, transport providers, and many others.
Having answered questions from travelers from around the world, we know different people get their news and information from a variety of sources. As you think about your own future travel plans, we hope you find the information below clear and helpful.
Additionally, we’ve included ideas on how to give back to those in need during this unprecedented crisis, plus a short list of great Japanese books and films to keep you inspired in these extraordinary times.
This post was last updated on Tuesday, April 7th, 2020.
As all experienced travelers are well aware, dramatic travel restrictions and advisories have been implemented by cities, regions, and countries around the world in an effort to stem the outbreak of Covid-19.
In the United States, the Department of State has a Global Health Advisory in place, designating all travel abroad as Level 4: Do Not Travel and recommending that US citizens refrain from international travel.
Countless other countries have imposed similar restrictions and advisories.
In Japan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has implemented travel bans and quarantine requirements for travelers from various countries around the world.
In some countries, the situation has shown signs of improvement, while others are in the eye of the storm. At this stage, it is too soon to know how things will unfold over the next few weeks, and both dire and hopeful predictions abound.
With trusted contacts around the world, we’ve encountered a diversity of perspectives. Some people are more concerned about the virus itself, while others worry more about the accompanying economic and social effects (many are concerned about both).
Despite the abundance of predictions, nobody knows what the future holds.
In Japan as elsewhere, preventive measures are being implemented widely, with many sites, museums, and other attractions temporarily closed.
Additionally, the Tokyo Olympics have been postponed to the summer of 2021.
As we all know by now, this is a fast-evolving situation and things can change very quickly.
From our perspective, when it comes to planning travel to Japan (or anywhere else), it seems wise to take a stance of patience where possible. While those scheduled to travel in the very near future are likely eager to make decisions, for others with less imminent travels there is a strong argument for waiting to see how the situation unfolds.
Coronavirus: Helping Those in Need
Daydreaming about future travels is a wonderful diversion, but sadly these are very difficult times for a lot of people. Along with the unfolding public health crisis, many parts of the world are facing concurrent social and economic crises as well.
With so much happening at once, it can be hard to know where to begin if you want to help. Fortunately, plenty of people and organizations are doing great work, and we’ve compiled a short list of ways to help those in need during this unprecedented crisis, including ideas large and small:
- Support healthcare workers. Healthcare workers need all the support they can get. Even in the most affluent countries, equipment is in shockingly short supply. Ways to support healthcare workers range from donating supplies or money to hospitals, to devoting time to helping workers in even small ways at a time when doctors, nurses, and others are under extreme stress.
- WHO Covid-19 Fund. Donate to the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
- United Way Community Fund. This US-based non-profit helps vulnerable individuals and families who need help now through their Covid-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund.
- Order from your favorite local restaurants. In many parts of the world, restaurants (along with other small businesses) have had to scramble to adjust to the new reality. Many have done so brilliantly, transitioning to adjusted menus and convenient pick-up and delivery services. If you can, support them by ordering from them. At least in the US, many restaurants may not survive this downturn, given its severity.
- Donate to your local food bank. If you are fortunate enough to have food to spare, contact your local food bank to find out how to best support them.
- Give blood. While coronavirus is our most prominent medical challenge, patients worldwide continue to need blood. Contact your local blood donation center to learn how to give safely.
- Support your staff and coworkers. If you have a business, do all you can to support your staff during this extraordinary time. People are dealing with all sorts of new challenges. Similarly, if you work with others — whether in person, or virtually from home — remember that most everyone is dealing with some form of hardship right now.
- Throw a party. Virtually, of course. Many creatives, including musicians and DJs, are going all out to create surprisingly entertaining live events online. Students stuck at home are organizing Power Point parties where they teach each other about subjects of particular interest to them. Families and groups of friends are meeting up for Zoom happy hours. Hosting a get-together is not only a fun diversion, it also helps lift others’ spirits.
Great Japanese Books & Films to Keep You Inspired
Lastly, for everyone staying closer to home for the moment, we’ve included a short list of our favorite Japanese and Japan-themed books and films to keep you inspired.
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).
- Anthony Bourdain: Go back and watch Bourdain’s Japan episodes on his shows No Reservations and Parts Unknown.
We hope you’ve found this post helpful. Whenever you decide to visit Japan, we hope you have a wonderful trip!