In “yokoso” (welcome) news for travellers around the world, Japan is finally beginning to allow tourists once again.
The Japanese government confirmed that the reopening process will begin with small-scale tours for tourists from four countries, with Australia lucky to be on the list, alongside the United States, Thailand and Singapore.
The staggered re-start of the country’s tourism sector will begin as soon as this month, working towards a planned full reopening by June. However, some feel it is unlikely we’ll see a full reopening until after Japan’s parliamentary election in July this year.
Whether you’re hoping to cast your eyes over endless blankets of cherry blossoms, ski on picturesque slopes or experience all the bright lights and culture shock of the big cities, Japan has long been a favourite for Aussie travellers, so here’s all you need to know about the reopening so far.
What are the current travel restrictions?
Currently, Japan is only allowing 10,000 visitors per day, however, this is only for those visiting the country for reasons other than tourism. This cap is planned to double in the near future.
When the small-scale tours begin, tourism will only be available to those who are triple vaccinated. Furthermore, you will need to submit a negative COVID-19 test taken with 72 hours of departure, and then test again upon arrival.
On the tours there will be pre-planned itineraries and groups will be limited to 50 people in total. Travellers will also need to be accompanied by travel agency staff. There will be six travel agents participating in the program, including JTB, Nippon Travel Agency and Jalpack.
More information is expected shortly on how travellers can book a slot on one of these tours.
Getting there to Japan from Australia
Qantas will only begin flying to Japan much later this year. Flights to Japan from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are scheduled from September to October, although it is presumed that flights will resume earlier if Japan opens its borders fully before then.
Other options for making the journey across include All Nippon Airways, which flies direct, or Singapore Airlines, which offers flights to Japan via Singapore.
What’s new in Japan?
Even while foreign tourists have been kept at bay, Japan’s thriving culture hasn’t stopped pumping out new attractions for travellers to enjoy once they can. Here’s a little taste of what’s new to keep you overwhelmed by entertainment, culture and food in true Japanese style.
The opening of Ghibli Park
The beloved Studio Ghibli, known for creating films such as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and My Neighbour Totoro, is getting its own theme park. The park houses to themed shops, playgrounds, life-size models of character, a cinema and more.
The park will be divided into different areas based on different Studio Ghibli films. To be completed in 2023, it will open this year to initial visitors as part of a soft launch.
See Mt Fuji differently
One of Japan’s true crown jewels is the beautiful Mt Fuji. Thanks to a skywalk at the new Fijuyama Tower, it will be more accessible than ever. The skywalk is part of the thrilling Fuji-Q Highland theme park, which is already home to record-breaking rollercoasters and haunted houses.
From the top deck of the 55-metre tower, you can enjoy panoramic views of Mt Fuji and the beautiful surrounding Aokigahara forest.
Another new way to experience the iconic peak is through the new Tocoro Camp and Glamping. It’s just 18 kilometres from Mount Fuji and two kilometres from Fujiomuro Sengen Shrine. You can book yourself an extremely luxurious tent in a stunning location, starting from $414.
Kadokawa Culture Museum
Nestled into Japan’s backcountry sits the freshly opened Kadokawa Culture Museum. It offers all the visual chaos and immersive entertainment you could dream of on your Japan escape.
See the dream-like vertical library and admire the work of Olympic architect Kengo Kuma, including the transcendent Musashino Reiwa Shrine. Spend the night in an anime-themed hotel and enjoy the forests of Tokorozawa, the inspiration for My Neighbour Totoro.
Kyoto is ready for you
A worthwhile stop on Japan itineraries, Kyoto spent its time out of the spotlight preparing to be as sparkling and awe-inspiring as ever.
After undoing repairs since 2017, Kiyomizudera temple is completely finished with construction. Kinkakuji Golden Temple’s signature gold leaf is also resored after a lockdown makeover. Mimuroto-ji temple’s new grove of plum trees meals winter visitors can expect popping colours of pink blossom.