Of all the countries that we Singaporeans love to travel to for a holiday, Japan is perhaps on the top of everyone’s list. Pre-pandemic, holidays to the likes of Hokkaido, Tokyo and Osaka were our go-tos, be it for the sights, shopping, and of course, food.
While Japan has yet to fully open its borders for tourism, we’ve finally heard some good news about the resumption of leisure travel that’s putting us at the edge of our seats. Here’s what we know so far:
In the initial announcement according to the Japan Tourism Agency’s news release, visitors from only 4 countries – Australia, Singapore, Thailand and the United States – were allowed to enter. However, as of 26th May 2022, Japan announced that the country will allow tourists from 36 countries – including Malaysia, Spain, and Britain – from 10th June 2022 onwards.
Travellers will only be allowed as part of guided tour groups and have to be triple-vaccinated, have private medical insurance, and comply with all infection control measures while in Japan.
The group will have to be part of a packaged tour group with a set itinerary, operated by selected Japanese tour agencies. Details of the said tour agencies are pretty hush-hush for now, so it might be best to hold out for the full reopening before making any plans to head over.
That being said, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida hinted in a recent press conference that the country is slated for a broader reopening sometime in June this year, though details are scant for now. Fingers crossed there will be good news then!
Outside of this experimental entry of tourists, Japan’s border control is currently pretty strict. Visitors are only allowed for non-leisure purposes, and arrivals are capped at 20,000 a day. The list includes Japanese nationals, those with families residing in Japan, students, and those travelling for short work trips of less than 3 months.
Depending on which country you come from, there are differing quarantine requirements when you enter Japan. You can check the updated border measures if you’re planning a business or long-term trip over.
According to a Bloomberg report, Japan will be categorising countries by risk level. Tourists arriving from “blue” list countries will not be required to undergo quarantine if they have a negative pre-departure PCR rest, while those coming from “yellow” list countries will need to present a “proof of vaccination with selected vaccines”.
For one, Japan’s version of safe management measures have never been legally enforced, though the majority of the population have been pretty compliant with the guidelines.
Just like in Singapore, masks are expected indoors and on public transport, and you can only take them off during meals. Social distancing is still in place, and most of the tourist landmarks will require visitors to reserve places in advance. Some places enforce a capacity limit, and people are encouraged to avoid having meals in large groups.
All in all it isn’t the strictest of rules, and since we’ve been through a similar-ish set of rules with P2 and P2(HA) here in Singapore, it should be easy-peasy for us.
While we eagerly wait for a more proper reopening, it certainly doesn’t hurt to start planning for the places we can’t wait to visit. Here’s what we’re putting in our to-do list:
Shibuya Sky Observation Deck
If you’re planning to start your trip right in the capital itself, there’s no short supply of things to do. Every trip to Tokyo must involve visiting the iconic Shibuya crossing, as well as the whole gamut of shopping options in the area. While you’re here, head up to the Shibuya Sky Observation Deck at Shibuya Scramble Square, for a breathtaking view of the city.
Anime fans can go ham on merchandise at Animate.
Image credit: @jean_._g
Speaking of teenage culture, if you’re a closet otaku waiting to unleash your final form, be sure to head over to Ikebukuro in Tokyo. The area is famous for anime and cosplay culture, and is home to Japan’s largest anime mall Animate, which has 9 floors teeming with collections of manga and anime-related merch.
Another must-visit in Tokyo has to be Tokyo DisneyLand. It’s entirely possible to spend almost an entire day here with the rides, parades and shows, and reliving our childhoods with our beloved Disney cartoon characters. Pro tip: for a truly magical experience, be sure to stay till the fireworks show at night.
If you’re on a tight budget, not to worry; there are many free things to do in Tokyo like strolling through the gardens of the Imperial Palace, taking a scenic boat ride at the Yokojikken Gawa Shinsui Park or even going on a brewery tour at Suntory Musashino’s factory.
Away from Tokyo, another popular destination that Singaporeans love to travel to is Osaka, which many say are synonymous with Japan’s street food culture. A must-try food that we recommend are takoyaki balls, which you can get at Takoyaki Park.
Of course, no trip to Osaka is complete without a day spent at Dotonbori, which is iconic for its food options across street stalls and restaurants. For some inspiration, check out our recs on the must-try food items in Dotonbori.
There are plenty of worthy sites such as the Osaka Castle.
Other than food, you can also do a bit of retail therapy, shopping at Osaka’s thrift stores and retail outlets. Options span across a wide range from high-end Hypebeast goods, vintage luxury brands to preloved goods.
And then there’s of course Universal Studios Japan. Now you might be thinking: why go to the one in Japan when we already have one here in Singapore? Well for one, the park boasts attractions unique to Japan, such as Sailor Moon and Godzilla shows. It’s also home to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where you can try gems like Butterbeer Ice Cream.
If cities are not really your thing and you prefer the call of the wild, you might want to visit Hokkaido instead. The northernmost of Japan’s main islands, Hokkaido teeming with natural hot springs, free-flowing greenery and fresh seafood at Hokkaido fish markets.
Image credit: @okkoqhey
You can also venture out to hike at some of Hokkaido’s nature spots, not only to walk off the calories from bingeing on all that delicious food but also to take in some breathtaking sights such as the flower fields in Farm Tomita or the coast of Cape Kamui.
Kochi’s Niyodo River – considered the most beautiful river in Japan.
More things to do in Japan:
Towida Shrine in Aomori.
While Japan has still yet to fully open up to tourists, there are some good signs that point towards a broader relaxation of border closures in the horizon. With the small “test” of 50 tourists per day in place, hopefully the Japanese government will fully open up the borders so we can visit all our favourite spots once again.
In the meantime, do check out some more Japan guides:
Article originally published on 24th May 2022. Last updated on 27th May 2022 by Ra Krishnan.
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