On October 11, Japan will finally open its doors to independent travel after more than two years of some of the toughest border restrictions in the world. The country is also restoring visa-free entry for visitors from more than 60 countries.
Does that mean it will be as easy to visit now as it was before the pandemic? Kind of. Some pandemic era rules are still in place and you may find that locals still take many precautions against the virus compared to other countries. Yet, at the same time, there is much excitement about the return of international tourism, as Japan prepares to welcome visitors back with exciting new attractions and events.
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1. Should I bring a mask?
Yes. Face masks have been a norm in Japan since before the pandemic. People often wear them year-round to protect their lungs from air pollution and to protect themselves and others from viruses, infections, and allergens. Although Japan does not have an official mask mandate in place, you will find that many companies still require people to wear one indoors; you will also see people with a mask on a bus, train or taxi, or in any type of crowded indoor environment. It’s an everyday item for many, and it wouldn’t hurt to have one in your bag or pocket at all times. If you forget to pack one, it’s fairly easy to find a surgical-style disposable face mask at airports and pharmacies across Japan.
2. Have I checked which entry rules apply to me?
Japan has a color-coded classification entry system for all countries, which will continue even after travel rules are relaxed on October 11. The system makes separate rules depending on the country from which you are entering Japan. Travelers from a “blue” country – a list that currently includes the US, Canada, UK, Australia, Mexico, Thailand and many EU countries – will not no longer have to self-quarantine and have the option of showing proof of vaccination or negative test results before travelling. Travelers from “yellow” and “red” countries are subject to additional entry requirements, such as testing on arrival and quarantine. You can view the full list of countries and categories here.
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3. Did I download the MySOS app?
MySOS is a smartphone application (available for Android and iOS) that is used to register your vaccination and health information for entry into Japan. It should help you get through airport security faster by being a one-stop-shop for all your essential documents. If you are traveling with children, their relevant information may also be stored in your MySOS app.
4. Do I need to apply for a visa?
Japan will reinstate visa-free travel on October 11 for travelers from over 68 countries, including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, Mexico, Argentina, Singapore, Thailand and more. If the passport holder is a country on the visa exemption list, you will not need a visa to travel to Japan if you are staying for less than 90 days.
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5. Should I book restaurants and museums in advance?
Japan has some of the most sophisticated, creative and famous restaurants on the planet. And for many travelers, its cuisine is one of Japan’s biggest draws. Getting a front-seat table has always been a challenge in the capital Tokyo (whether it’s Kozue for seafood, Tamawarai for soba, or the two-star Michelin Den, you usually have to express your interest well in advance of showing up). , and in cities like Kyoto and Osaka — but since the pandemic, most restaurants across the country require advance reservations, a rule that hasn’t gone away even as the government eases its pandemic response.
Museums have also introduced new entry systems, and you’ll likely need to reserve your spot before you show up. Check the website of the museum you wish to visit before your trip to guarantee your preferred date and time.
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6. What new attractions can I add to my Japan itinerary?
It feels like there’s always something exciting brewing in Japan. While the pandemic may have halted the momentum, it is now in full gear for the opening of some highly anticipated new attractions. The main event is likely Park Ghibli, a theme park based on the works of animation legend Hayao Miyazaki that will open in Aichi Prefecture on November 1. Unlike traditional theme parks, you won’t find rides here: instead, you’ll ride through the dreamlike, watercolor-style landscapes and architecture of the Ghibli movies like My Neighbor Totoro and Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle.
Earlier this year, the new Ishikawa Prefectural Library opened, with 300,000 open stacks of books (and a capacity of two million). It has quickly become a magnet for anyone who loves books, crafts, art and history, and anyone with even a passing interest in cutting-edge architecture. The exterior of the building resembles the pages of a turned book, while inside you will find works of art made by Ishikawa’s master craftsmen.
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Now that the borders are open, you can visit a new UNESCO site in northern Japan, which has been open since May 2021. The prehistoric sites of Jomon collectively form a cultural heritage site, where you will learn about the culture of the indigenous people Jōmon in 17 archaeological areas.
Japan’s public transportation system is one of the best in the world, its crown jewel being the ever-expanding high-speed, high-tech bullet train network. If you want to test a new route on your travels, the Nishi-Kyūshū line opened in September, taking passengers on a 41-mile journey between the famous hot spring town of Takeo Onsen in the northwest and the city of Nagasaki (gateway entrance to the Gotō Islands) in just 23 minutes.
If you are in Tokyo, go see Okushibu, the Japanese nickname of “Deep Shibuya”. This once well-kept secret in Shibuya’s shopping district has now become a go-to area for late-night cafe culture, as well as some truly unique and creative restaurants. Okushibu runs parallel to the new rooftop Miyashita Park, and you can stay in the heart of the action when the new Trunk Hotel Yoyogi Park opens in 2023. Expect a rooftop infinity pool with views of the park — and the city .