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Destination spotlight: Japan

You do need to be part of a tour, at least for the time being, but visiting the Land of the Rising Sun got easier last week, when Japan dropped its COVID testing requirement for travelers who are fully vaccinated and have had a booster shot.

"We will ease the COVID restrictions gradually in view of the needs of people in and outside Japan so that travel to and from Japan will become as smooth as it is for the other Group of Seven economies," Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said.

Japan does still have a cap on the number of visitors allowed in the island nation at a time, though it has gone up from 20,000 foreigners allowed per day to 50,000, which represents about half the number of travelers Japan welcomed daily before the pandemic.

"The new quota will be decided in light of the ongoing COVID situation and the quarantine capacity at the border, and will be disclosed as early as possible once decided," Kishida said.

Fortunately, our partners offer fantastic organized tours that highlight the ancient traditions and cutting-edge modernity that make Japan such a fascinating land to visit. In the fall and spring, you can build great itineraries based on the changing of the trees.

Typically leaves begin changing in the northern islands and mountains first in fall, and the colors roll south as autumn progresses. If you time it right, you can follow the changes down through the country. The best times are usually late October through late November. There aren’t many sights better than Mt. Fuji ringed by beautiful foliage in the first days of November.

The ancestral home of Washington, D.C.’s cherry trees, Japan has several areas throughout its islands that are great for viewing sakura in the spring. Utilizing the bullet train system, visitors can make their way quickly from south to north as the warm weather and blooms spread in late March and early April. Set against the backdrop of a 400-year-old, the blossoms in Hirosaki are particularly worth checking out. Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo is a reliable spot thanks to its proliferation of early- and late-blooming trees. Chureito Pagoda in the shadow of Mount Fuji is among the most picturesque spots.

You see a lot more than trees as you traverse the country. There are temples, ryokans, hot spring baths, tea houses, gardens and fish markets. You can even make your way through Tokyo whisky by whisky, sampling the best drams Japan’s artisans have to offer. Through the centuries, the Japanese have built an arts and cultural scene unique and ever-evolving, from the traditions of the geisha and the samurai to the manga and anime creators of the post-war era. By land or sea, Japan is open with all its colors on display.

COVID-19 protocols

Passengers who have been fully vaccinated and boosted with vaccines approved by the Japanese government and who are arriving in Japan as of September 7 will not require a pre-travel COVID-19 test.

Upon arrival in Japan, travelers will be required to complete documentation, and may be required to download several smartphone applications. If a traveler does not have a smartphone, most international airports offer an option for travelers to rent one upon arrival.

Travelers from the United States to Japan, regardless of their vaccination status, are no longer required to conduct COVID-19 testing and quarantine upon arrival. Travelers from countries other than the United States, or who have spent time in other countries in the 14 days prior to travel to Japan, may be subject to on-arrival COVID-19 testing and quarantine.


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