From mid-October, Australians will once again be able to travel to Japan without a visa or tour group.
It’s great news for Australians who have been waiting to travel to Japan after the pandemic.
But there are some important things to consider if you’re planning a trip to Japan yourself.
Here’s what you need to know.
How Japan’s border restrictions are changing
From October 11, Japan is making several important changes to its border controls.
To break it down for you, the key points are:
- Tourists from Australia (and other countries with visa exemptions) can now travel to Japan without a visa;
- Tourists no longer required to travel on package tours;
- Travellers are no longer required to return a COVID-19 test on arrival unless they are suspected of being infected with COVID-19; and
- There is no longer a cap on daily arrivals to Japan. Previously, Japan was only allowing 50,000 entrants per day.
What documents do you need to enter Japan?
To enter Japan, you will need to provide a valid COVID-19 vaccination certificate with at least three doses or provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to departure.
It’s important to note that rapid antigen tests are not accepted — you will need to take an approved test, such as a PCR.
You will also need to fill out a COVID-19 questionnaire as part of Japan’s quarantine procedures.
Japan’s authorities recommend you upload your documents and fill out the questionnaire using the ‘Fast Track’ pre-application system and MySOS app.
When you’re in Japan, you can simply open the app your phone to show quarantine officials.
“That’s got your medical history. You show that app and it’s all very efficient and done very smoothly,” says Anthony Luxton, a Japan-focused travel agent in Kingscliff, New South Wales.
Do I need to wear a mask?
In Japan, you’ll be expected to wear a mask when you can’t social distance.
“Japan is still very conservative in terms of its approach to its pandemic and the virus,” Mr Luxton says.
“Mask wearing is a must and social distancing is a must and hand-sanitising and temperature checks are everywhere.”
Some restaurants will also enforce social distancing by physically separating diners.
“In restaurants themselves, you [may] have protectors between you and your partner. You can’t simply sit and have a meal one-on-one, there is a plastic protector separating you,” Mr Luxton says.
If you’re planning a trip to a theme park or other major attraction, keep in mind that it might be harder to a purchase a ticket than before the pandemic.
“There’s a lot of things that aren’t the same: the frequency of some of the transfer services, and entries into the major theme parks [because] they’re limiting pre-purchasing of tickets and controlling numbers,” Mr Luxton says.
Is it expensive to travel to Japan now?
Japan is a relatively affordable travel destination, but flights are more expensive now than they were pre-COVID.
Mr Luxton says to expect to pay at least $1,700 for return flights from Sydney or Melbourne to Tokyo in coming months. However, there are often cheaper deals available on budget carriers.
“Even though more capacity comes on, pricing seems to creep up,” he explains.
“[The airline industry] has to regain a lot of lost territory. There are other factors at play too, fuel prices and so on.”
The good news is that once you’re in Japan, you’ll find your wallet stretches more than it would back home.
“The value for money is fantastic, no question,” Mr Luxton says.
While Japan is a relatively cheap destination to start with, Australians might also benefit from the weak yen.
Each Australian dollar is now worth over 90 yen, a higher rate than at nearly any time in the last five years.
What to do in Japan
Whether you want to experience the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, stroll through the ancient capital of Kyoto or visit Japan’s famous ski slopes, there’s plenty on offer for tourists.
Japan is now entering autumn, which is a great time to explore the outdoors, Mr Luxton says.
“The country is ablaze in colour and the Japanese are great nature lovers,” he explains.
“That rolls into the winter season, and there are quite a few Australians who are so keen to get [to Japan’s ski slopes] because they haven’t been for the last two seasons.
“The ski seasons in Japan have been brilliant [in recent years].”
The peak travel season is spring, from March to May. During spring, the weather is mild, and tourists can see Japan’s famous cherry blossoms in bloom.
“It’s a wonderful country to visit as the seasons roll on.”
“It keeps offering different reasons [to travel] … it’s very attractive from that point of view,” Mr Luxton says.
Where you can get the latest travel information for Japan
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