Travel to Japan – What’s Next?

It seems like it has been ages since I last published a post here on my travel blog. Unfortunately, we are still in the midst of a pandemic that is choking our world and delaying many well-deserved holidays and vacations. COVID is still a threat as of this writing, and my thoughts and prayers are with those that have been affected, especially the first responders that continue to put themselves on the line.

If COVID wasn’t a thing, I would be in Japan this coming December. Soon after the threat of COVID became a reality, Japan slowly closed its borders, enacting one of the strictest entry bans in the world: No foreign nationals who have stayed in most countries and territories affected by the virus – 159, as of this writing – are being allowed to enter Japan in principle, except for extraordinary circumstances. Those foreign nationals who lived in Japan and left the country were generally not permitted to come back.

In recent months, Japan has begun to allow some foreigners to enter or re-enter the country. Foreigners with permanent resident status in Japan were allowed to re-enter Japan earlier this month. In recent weeks, business travelers and long-term residents from certain Asian countries where the virus was deemed to be under control were permitted to enter Japan.

Those allowed to enter Japan are required to follow a strict framework:

  1. Apply for permission (i.e. permit) to enter or re-enter Japan from the local Japanese embassy or consulate.
  2. Take a COVID PCR test within 72 hours of departure, and receive proof of a certified negative result.
  3. Take a second COVID PCR test after landing at an airport in Japan with a negative result.
  4. Self-quarantine at a residence, hotel, or other designated facility for 14 days, avoiding the use of public transportation (certain short-term business travelers do not have to quarantine if they submit their travel plans to the Japanese government in advance).
  5. Install a contact tracing app on their smartphone.

In the last week, the new Japanese government led by new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was formed. Suga was the Chief Cabinet Secretary for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who stepped down for health reasons. Suga appears to be placing a priority on revitalizing the economy, telling a government panel on September 25 that it is “indispensable to resume international travel.” To that end, Japan has decided that starting in October, entry restrictions will be lifted on all foreign nationals who will enter the country for purposes other than tourism or short-term stays. (source: Kyodo News)

Those who intend to stay in Japan for at least 90 days for professional purposes (i.e. students, medical, cultural, sports-related activities) will be permitted to enter Japan, provided they follow the new protocols for permit application, COVID testing, entry and quarantine.

Entry into Japan for tourism will still not be permitted for the time being, as will stays of less than 90 days unless it is for business purposes.

This news is a positive step for foreigners wishing to go to one of the most beautiful places in the world. However, absent of further mitigation and treatment of COVID-19, it will likely be some time before Japan reopens its gates to international tourism.

In the coming weeks I hope to share my thoughts on some things you can check out when visiting Japan… when it is permitted and it is safe to do so.

Stay health and safe, and thanks so much for your continued support of this blog.

One final chance to watch me on J-Trip Plan

Happy New Year, and thanks for continuing to support one of my favorite side projects, my Japan travel and tips blog. May the year 2020 be a successful one for all of you reading.

My 2020 plans… may or may not include a trip to Japan. It’s too early to say, but I’ll try to keep you posted without giving too much away. If it doesn’t happen this year, it’s very likely to happen in 2021.

Meanwhile, this post is a quick self-promotion: As some of you remember, back in 2017 (the last time I visited Japan) I was fortunate enough to be a correspondent on one of NHK World-Japan’s English-language travel programs J-Trip Plan. In a short segment I offered tips and tricks on how to navigate Japan’s busy trains.

All J-Trip Plan episodes stay up for one year; the episode I was featured in originally aired in January 2018, which meant that the video expired in January 2019. Then, in February 2019, the episode that I took part in was renewed as part of NHK World-Japan’s focus on Miyazaki Prefecture for the month. The bulk of the episode features Nick Szasz, a Japan-based reporter, touring the mystical town of Takachiho with its rivers and gorges. One of the highlights of Takachiho is the Amano Iwato Shrine, which is located near the cave where it is said the sun goddess Amaterasu hid away after becoming so outraged by the cruel pranks of her brother.

To see Takachiho and my segment about taking trains in Japan, here’s the link to the NHK World Video-on-Demand page for J-Trip Plan, which is hosted by Thane Camus and Amy Ota. I highly recommend seeing all of the available videos for J-Trip Plan to help you plan for your next trip to the country… and for that matter, all of NHK’s videos on demand. You can easily make a day out of their informative programs covering everything from Japanese travel, food, documentaries, politics, sports and everything in between.

Anyway, the J-Trip Plan episode that I am in is called A Mystical Land of Myths and Getting Around Japan, so scroll down until you see that episode title with a picture of a large waterfall. The episode expires on February 11, 2020, so you will have until then to see it before it goes away again.

Enjoy the episode, and once again, may 2020 bring you happiness, health and fortune… and perhaps your first visit to a wonderful country, if you haven’t been to Japan already!

Japan 2017 Video Log Project Started!

vlog2Hello all!

Last week I began what I am now referring to as my Japan 2017 Video Log project.

If you saw my last post, I announced that I would put together some sort of compilation video with the highlights from my 2017 trip to Japan. I’ve decided to put them into a video log and release the content on YouTube in small chunks so that I can share Japan with you from my perspective. Some of the video content that will be introduced has not been released before.

This series will revisit my trip from two years ago in a simplified manner, using video clips with text descriptions and occasional musical soundtracks obtained license-free from the Internet. Since I have to start saving these videos and take them off of my phone before my next big global journey, I decided to share the videos to the public in a way that differs from the original online series that was created and uploaded entirely from my phone.

As of this writing, I have completed three videos. The fourth video should be up later today.

Here is the direct link to the Video Log playlist.
If you want to revisit my original video series, that playlist can be found here.

I hope you enjoy a different perspective of my Japan trip. Thanks as always for your support!