We believe planning a trip to Japan should be fun and stress-free, yes, even in the time of coronavirus (Covid-19).
For many of us, the act of trip-planning itself — brainstorming fascinating destinations, daydreaming about beautiful hotels — is one of the countless joys of travel.
Yet for many people the year of 2020 has included not only less travel, but also less trip-planning for the future. This despite the fact that we all know how much joy it brings us to have the excitement of an adventure to look forward to.
So to make planning as delightful — and worry-free — as possible, we offer travelers a flexibility guarantee (see below).
To make planning easy, enjoyable, and stress-free, we offer you the peace of mind to plan for the future, with built-in flexibility. After all, planning a special trip should be fun and worry-free.
If you have to reschedule your trip because of Covid, you have the flexibility to decide up to 30 days before your trip start date.
You will not lose out (there are no change fees), and all of your trip funds will be applied fully to your rescheduled itinerary, whether you choose to travel later in 2021 or 2022.
Should Covid force you to reschedule even closer to your trip start date, we will do our absolute utmost to provide maximum flexibility, and make rescheduling as seamless and effortless as humanly possible.
Due to the extraordinarily personalized nature of our trips, once in a while there may be a unique service or experience with a less flexible policy. If this comes up in the process of designing your trip, we will let you know up front before you commit.
Our goal is to make everything easy and clear, with no surprises and no stress.
Up-to-Date Japan Intel
Especially nowadays, keeping up with the latest developments on the ground is one of the most important parts of our job, and means as one of our travelers you don’t have to navigate everything on your own.
Along with keeping close tabs on both news and official developments, our team is also in constant contact with our close-knit colleagues and friends throughout Japan, including guides, local experts, and hotel and ryokan staff.
When planning your trip, we obsessively consider countless factors to ensure your experience will be as safe, enjoyable, and memorable as possible.
This includes everything from monitoring travel restrictions, to selecting destinations, accommodations, and experiences where you can feel secure in the knowledge that protocols are in place to ensure the safest environment possible.
What to Expect on the Ground in Japan
For visitors to Japan, a couple of things that typically stand out as impressive are how respectful people are (it’s an integral part of Japanese etiquette), and Japan’s cleanliness. Both are among many reasons we love Japan.
Japan’s culture of respect, outstandingly high levels of hygiene and cleanliness, and the fact that Japanese people have been accustomed to wearing masks for years, have all been factors in Japan’s relative success in handling the coronavirus pandemic thus far.
While life in Japan has been impacted as it has everywhere on Earth, the country has generally avoided the severe lockdowns imposed in most other parts of the world.
For the most part, you’ll find that restaurants, cafes, shops, and many other places are operating with a relatively high degree of normalcy.
This being said, travel in the time of Covid comes with a few “quirks,” and 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 face coverings 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
Of course, policies and procedures can vary widely, and when it comes to your trip we are here to walk you through everything — including insights on what to expect for our clients taking their very first post-Covid flight.
Coronavirus (Covid-19) Japan Travel Restrictions
While a small handful of countries (such as New Zealand and Taiwan) have had even more success, Japan has been fortunate to avoid the degree of devastation seen in other parts of the world. (For example, despite its large population, Japan has experienced relatively low mortality, as demonstrated by Our World in Data.)
The Japanese government continues to enforce temporary border restrictions, though they have signaled plans to steadily ease travel restrictions to allow tourism to safely resume as soon as possible.
For general updates on this fluid situation we also recommend the following resources:
- Official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
- Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advisory Information
- Japan Guide’s Travel Alerts and Disaster Updates
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.
When Will You Visit Japan?
We hope the above information helps you as you consider your Japan travel plans. Contact us if you’re ready to begin planning your trip, or have a look at our sample trips and favorite destinations if you’re seeking further Japan travel inspiration.