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The Voice of Tokyo for over 50 Years

JAPAN’S NO.1 ENGLISH LIFESTYLE MAGAZINE

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Travel to Japan in 2022

What to expect when traveling to Japan in 2022 as a tourist

By Kim Kahan

Japan is still the strictest of all the G7 countries when it comes to border restrictions and the rate of reopening has been slower than the queue at immigration. It was recently announced that from June 10, 2022, the Japanese borders would be opening to tourists  woohoo  but only those on approved package holidays  ahh. 

Let’s have a proper look at how the current Covid-19 situation affects those who want to travel to Japan in 2022 and what to expect when you finally do get here.

Who Can Travel to Japan?

Last month, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that from June 1 the cap of new arrivals would be increased from 10,000 per day to 20,000. This sounds like a big rise until you consider that pre-pandemic, Japan was welcoming around 87,000 visitors per day. Nevertheless, many commentators are taking this as a sign that Japan is ready to open up fully this year.

Currently, according to the government website, Japanese borders are only open to foreigners without a visa under the following conditions: 

  • Business Trips
  • New Residencies (Students, Employees)
  • Relatives of a Japanese resident

And from June 10:

  • Tourists (with a travel agent). 

If you’re fine with going around as part of a tour, read our next section for information. If you’d rather wait, skip ahead to read about what the environment in Japan is like now and how this might change any perceived experience.

Tours to Japan

So, you’ve decided that you cannot wait any longer and you simply have to get to Japan. It’s the tour option for you, then. 

For those new to guided tours, travel agents offer a number of tours throughout the year. These include:

  • Classic Japan” Tours ones which cover the bases for first-timers, such as Tokyo and Kyoto
  • “Cherry Blossom” Tours tours for March-April 2023 which allow visitors to take in the most flowery parts of the country
  • “Autumn Leaves” Tour tours to appreciate the colors of Japanese fall 
  • “Anime” Tours perfect for the Otaku amongst you
  • Walking and Hiking” Tours for the adventurous who want to experience Japan’s breathtaking countryside.

In addition, tourists must note the tour guidelines. As a visitor to Japan, tour guides are to accompany tourists every step of the way and tourists must have private health insurance and wear masks at all times. 

What is Japan like currently?

Japan, like much of the world, has changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Let’s have a look at the measures that are still in place.

Arrival

Upon arrival in Japan, the compulsory PCR test at the airport is now scrapped for countries on the blue list and some vaccinated travelers from elsewhere. The test is not expected to be reinstated when Japan fully opens to tourists again. 

Arrivals are free to take public transport to their destination. 

Masks

It is well-documented that the general Japanese population likes to wear face masks and when the coronavirus hit, they ran with it. 

Even though the government relaxed a prior outdoors mask mandate in late May, many people are still wearing masks outdoors. For those returning from overseas, where masks are saved for people who deem themselves ill, being back in Japan could come as a bit of a shock. The majority of people outside are still wearing masks. Even if they’re off for a jog or on a bicycle. 

Hand Sanitizer

There is a theory that while wearing a mask doesn’t have much scientific benefit, it does make the wearer more aware of certain measures. This includes hand sanitizer. Back in Europe, hand sanitizer is there at the entrances of shops, railway stations, subways etc. Is it used? No. 

In Japan you are fully expected to sanitize your hands when entering new places. It doesn’t matter if you have just squirted it on at the shop next door, one minute ago. Arguably much like the mask thing it’s about keeping up appearances. We recommend taking hand cream with you as hands do become dry pretty quickly.

Dining

Dining out in Japan does not mean getting rid of the mask. While the stares have eased, and it is okay to take off the mask at the table, make sure you have it to hand if you need the toilet or even to speak to a waiter. 

In addition to masks, the plastic divider screens can still be seen in many establishments. 

If there is no plastic screen, you are expected to practice social distancing. Do not sit directly next to someone if there are chairs elsewhere. 

Single-use cutlery is rife, including disposable chopsticks and plastic forks. Some restaurants expect more self-service, such as helping yourself to water. In many places, people use a QR code to order.

Visiting Tourist Attractions

For visitors, the guidelines for tourist attractions are straightforward. These include: not entering with a fever, checking body temperature on arrival, social distancing when possible and regularly sanitizing hands, in addition to wearing a mask.

Theme Parks, Concert Halls

Before heading to a Japanese theme park or concert hall, it is especially important to have a ticket for each event or time slot, as many are operating at a controlled capacity. Universal Studios has a good guide here regarding what to expect inside. 

Hot Springs

Follow the general guidelines.

Temples

Follow the general guidelines.

Traveling Around Japan

To minimize contact, rental cars are a great option. For those without an international license, it’s recommended to reserve seats on public transport a day in advance.

covid in Japan full train

Before you go

Before heading to Japan to travel, make sure to check the most up-to-date information. The best site is the official government one, here

Other COVID Resources from Tokyo Weekender

Personal Stories

  • Covid Anxiety and How to Deal With it, here
  • Japan, Covid and Climate Change, here

News & Opinion