Japan is completely open for travel. What’s new in 2023?
With covid restrictions, tests, and quarantines now firmly in our rear view mirror, 2023 is the time to visit Japan on a tour. Monthly visitors recently reached a record, filling hotels and tourist locations. After essentially closing for tourism, there are a variety of new opportunities available for travel. Don’t delay in planning your travel for 2024. Keep reading for an update of new spots and summer festivals.
There is no doubt – Japan is fully reopened to foreign travelers. This is fully borne out in the numbers, but more obviously in the ubiquitous smiles and energy of both those visiting and those playing host. Businesses are back in business, guides are guiding, cultures are mixing, restaurateurs are serving their magical meals to delighted diners.
Japan is finally open! Travelers from most countries can now enter Japan without applying for a visa in advance. Best of all, there are NO Covid protocols to enter Japan: You do NOT need proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter Japan.
On April 29, the Japanese government lifted the Covid vaccine/negative test requirement for visitors to Japan. So there are now NO Covid formalities to enter Japan. To put it more bluntly: You do not need to be vaccinated against Covid to enter Japan. You do not need to show a negative Covid test to enter Japan.
You can use the Visit Japan Web app to upload your immigration and customs details in advance. See our Guide to the Visit Japan Web app and Japan Entry Procedures for all the details. Note that the app is strongly recommended but not mandatory for entry to Japan.
On March 13, the indoor masking recommendation was dropped in Japan. You do not have to wear a mask in stores, restaurants, attractions, and on public transport. Some shops and restaurants may still ask that you mask, however. We ask that you follow the customs of the locals around you and common sense.
Visiting Japan is so much more than hotels, meals, and attractions. A proper exploration consists of cultural gems, unique sights, and the spirit of adventure. When shared with your family, cultivate learning, grow closer and build memories.
New Opportunities 2023
If you have the opportunity, there are plenty of new ways to experience a busy, post-pandemic Japan. Here is what’s on offer:
A high-speed train that connects Hokkaido to the rest of Japan. The train offers breathtaking views of the Hokkaido landscape, from snow-capped mountains to scenic coastal towns. The Hokkaido Shinkansen is a convenient and comfortable way to explore the beauty of Hokkaido.
A new luxury gondola serving the Hanazono resort in Niseko – one of our favorite places to snowboard. There are plenty of new hotels: from the Sansui Niseko, available now, the New World La Plume resort opening next year, and the newest Aman resort location – the Aman Niseko coming in 2027.
A popular neighborhood in Tokyo known for its bohemian vibe, vintage shops, and live music venues. In recent years, the neighborhood has undergone a major renewal. The Shimokitazawa Station South Exit Area has been transformed into a pedestrian-friendly zone with new shops, cafes, and restaurants. There are also outdoor seating areas and event spaces that host live music performances and other cultural events.
A digital art museum located in Toyosu, Tokyo. It features a series of immersive installations that use light, sound, and digital technology to create a unique and unforgettable experience. Visitors can walk through rooms filled with interactive projections, immerse themselves in a pool of illuminated water, and explore a maze of glowing tunnels.
Nara Yamanobe-no-michi Trail
This moderate hike offers a picturesque journey through the countryside of Nara prefecture. The trail is approximately 20 kilometers long and takes around 6 hours to complete, and is known for its beautiful scenery and historic landmarks, such as ancient burial mounds and shrines.
Another new hiking trail is the Hakone Kowakien Yunessun Forest Trail, which offers visitors a chance to explore the beautiful forests and waterfalls of Hakone. The trail is located near the popular Yunessun hot spring resort and offers a range of different routes that cater to different skill levels and interests.
One of the newest wellness experiences in Japan is the Shinrin Yoku, or forest bathing, which involves immersing oneself in nature and taking in the forest atmosphere to promote relaxation and reduce stress. Japan has a number of beautiful forests, such as Yakushima Island and the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, which are perfect for this type of activity.
And though not technically “new” the Setouchi Triennial, started in 2010, has continued to grow, expand and evolve in wonderful ways and with great success. The Setouchi Triennale is an art, architectural, and cultural festival held every three years on seven islands of the Seto Inland Sea of Japan. It’s a fantastic event for art, culture, nature-lovers, and those with a social conscience. Over the last few years, it has become one of the most important art festivals in Japan and one of the most important ones in Asia.
The next Triennial will be held in 2025. Typicially, there is a Spring (April-May) , Summer (August-September) and Autumn (October-November) session. Seven islands play host to the Triennial: Naoshima, Teshima, Ogijima, Shodoshima, Megijima, Inujima, Oshima
Summer Festivals held this year were really amazing celebrations. They are a great way to see Japan’s culture from a different perspective.
Gion Matsuri: This famous festival takes place in Kyoto throughout the month of July, with the main parade held on July 17th. The festival features colorful floats, traditional music, and local food and drinks.
Tenjin Matsuri: Held in Osaka on July 24th and 25th, this festival honors the god of learning and features a large procession of boats on the Okawa River.
Nebuta Matsuri: This festival takes place in Aomori City in northern Japan from August 2nd to 7th, but preparations begin in July. The festival features giant illuminated floats made of paper and bamboo, as well as traditional dance performances.
Sumida River Fireworks Festival: Held in Tokyo on the last Saturday of July, this festival is one of the largest fireworks displays in Japan and draws crowds of over one million people.
Tanabata Matsuri: This festival, also known as the Star Festival, is celebrated throughout Japan on July 7th. The festival features colorful decorations and traditional paper streamers, as well as special food and drinks.
Awa Odori: This famous dance festival takes place in Tokushima City on the island of Shikoku from August 12th to 15th. The festival features traditional music, dance performances, and colorful costumes.
Hokkaido Shrine Festival: Held in Sapporo from June 14th to 16th, this festival features traditional Shinto rituals and performances, as well as food and drink stalls.
Kanto Matsuri: This festival takes place in Akita City from August 3rd to 6th and features large bamboo poles decorated with lanterns that are carried through the streets.
Aomori Nebuta Matsuri: This festival takes place in Aomori City from August 2nd to 7th and features giant illuminated floats made of paper and bamboo, as well as traditional dance performances.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony: Held on August 6th in Hiroshima, this ceremony honors the victims of the atomic bombing of the city in 1945 and promotes peace and nuclear disarmament.
Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri: Held in Kishiwada City in Osaka Prefecture on the third weekend in September, this festival features large wooden carts decorated with lanterns that are pulled through the streets.
Jidai Matsuri: This festival takes place in Kyoto on October 22nd and features a large historical parade with over 2,000 participants dressed in period costumes.
Kobe Matsuri: Held in Kobe in early October, this festival features traditional music and dance performances, as well as food and drink stalls.
Miyajima Water Fireworks Festival: This festival takes place on Miyajima Island near Hiroshima on the last Saturday in August and features a spectacular fireworks display over the water.
Ise Shrine Autumn Festival: Held in Ise City in Mie Prefecture from October 15th to 16th, this festival features traditional Shinto rituals and performances, as well as food and drink stalls.