Japan: The Best Post-COVID Holiday
Japan has an incredible amount of amazing experiences and memories to offer to curious travelers. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, Japan was becoming popular among travelers from all around the world fast in anticipation of the 2020 Olympics. 2019 saw unprecedented numbers of inbound tourists coming to mainly Tokyo and Kyoto, and spreading out to cities like Nikko, Hakone, Hiroshima, Takayama, and Kanazawa.
Why Come to Japan in 2021?
And then… it all stopped. Not only for Japan but for the whole world tourism came to a grinding halt. The government in Japan declared a state of emergency, and the borders closed for all foreigners on April 3rd, 2020. It was only in September 2020 that restrictions loosened slightly for foreigners with a long-term visa, and in October 2020 the rules are set to be relaxed even further.
As of September 2020, it is not known yet when the borders of Japan will reopen for tourists yet, but it is never too early to start looking into your next long holiday trip and enjoy the anticipation and planning. And why not make your next destination Japan? If you are looking for a safe post-COVID trip, Japan is one of the world’s best tourist destinations because of its high standards of hygiene, world-class medical system, and willingness of the public to cooperate with the government for any anti-disease measures.
But of course, safety alone is not enough reason to take a long trip to what might be the other side of the world for you. What does Japan have to offer to a curious, active, and inquisitive tourist?
Japan’s Interesting Culture and Subcultures
The number one reason for many people to travel to Japan is its intriguing culture. Parts of Japanese culture trickle through to for example TV shows, newspaper or magazine articles, or electronics that are made in Japan and available throughout the world. Most people are familiar with excerpts from funny Japanese TV shows, read about ‘funny news’ from Japan, and use products from Sony, Panasonic, or Toyota. But what is Japan really like?
Be prepared to be overwhelmed by what you will experience once you get here! What we hear most often is that people are blown away by how polite people are, how they change once they have a drink in them, the many little rules, the way people dress, the love for nature, the smoothness with which people move through crowded places like the subway system, and of course the extreme punctuality of public transportation. In short, Japanese culture is something you need to immerse yourself as a part of your Japan-experience. It really is part of a Japan trip to feel the culture, as if it is a sight to see.
Then there are the subcultures, some of which you may also already be familiar with like Lolita-style dresses of Harajuku girls, Pokemon, Dragonball Z, and Nintendo games. Many subcultures are more obscure, like the fandom of AKB48 and similar girl groups, lovers of Boys Love manga, Visual Kei music fans, and even groups of people who are crazy about something like moss. Subcultures are a way to escape your sometimes difficult daily life and a society that can be homogeneous and oppressive at times. On your trip to Japan, you will especially have a chance to get to know more about Japan’s subcultures in larger cities like Tokyo or Osaka. We offer special tours that concentrate on subcultures with specialist guides that can help you understand what you see.
People who like history will already know that the history of Japan is full of interesting and intriguing stories. Japan’s culture has been influenced greatly by earlier developed Chinese culture from around the 6th century, and also by Indian culture through Buddhism that was brought to Japan around the 6th century as well. But because Japan is an island nation, the culture that has been brought here has been developed in a unique way. When it comes to product development, there is even a special term for it, the Galapagos effect.
Japan’s history is in some other ways not dissimilar to how Western societies developed around the medieval time; Japanese historical lords have employed a feudal system for hundreds of years that makes you feel like you are reading the Game of Thrones books if you learn about their history. Even those who are not particularly interested in history will like hearing some of the compelling stories about power, loyalty, and treason. And those who do love history will have a field day exploring temples, shrines, and historical houses all with their own stories attached.
All our guides are well-versed in Japanese history and will be able to tell you exciting stories about the places you visit on your Japan tour. Especially our Kyushu Grand Tour and our Japan Summer Complete Tour will be of interest to those who love history and artisanal crafts.
The delights of Japanese cuisine have been spread around the world in the last 30 years, but the very best of Japanese cuisine is still only available in Japan. Many of our customers have said how the food and drinks were definitely one of the highlights of their trip to Japan, some of them have even said that they have never eaten as well as they have during their Japan tour.
Japanese cuisine is so much more than just sushi (although the sushi here is truly to die for), there are incredible meat dishes and vegetable-based dishes as well, and the main feature of Japanese food is the very high quality of the products. Even something as mundane as a cucumber packs a punch in flavor, which is because Japanese vegetables and fruits are grown to have as much flavor as possible. Agricultural land is scarce in Japan, this is why farmers usually don’t have large patches of land and mainly concentrate on growing crops that are flavorful and beautiful so they can sell them for a higher price.
Portion sizes are a bit smaller in Japan than what many foreign tourists are used to, which is partly to do with it being healthier to eat until you feel around 80% full. This is also one of the reasons why obesity rates in Japan are relatively low. The smaller portion sizes are compensated by the fuller flavors and beautiful presentation of the food though, so you will definitely leave any restaurant satisfied. Plus, for those who want it, restaurants often offer free refills for rice, so you will never leave hungry.
Japan is definitely one of the healthiest tourist destinations in the world with its high-quality, healthy cuisine and many options for great outdoor activities.
Nature in Japan
Still not convinced? Or are you simply more interested in a vacation destination with natural treasures rather than cultural riches? In that case, Japan also has plenty to offer both in sights to see as in activities you can do in nature. 70% of Japan is mountainous, which makes for wonderful vistas of which the view of Mt. Fuji is probably the most famous one but by far not the only one. Kyushu has many still active volcanoes, the northern part of Honshu (Japan’s main island) has beautiful lakes, Hokkaido has flora and fauna that can’t be seen in many places in the world, Shikoku has plenty of remote and still wild places, and there is Okinawa with beaches that rival those in Hawaii.
Let’s also not forget about the many onsen areas, natural hot springs that originate in volcanically active areas. Going to a remote village to bathe is a favorite pastime for many Japanese, it is the perfect way to destress while surrounded by nature. The very best time to do this is when it is cold, as nothing beats the feeling of the cold air in your face while the rest of your body is comfortably warmed by the spring water. You will be completely refreshed after a stay in an onsen hotel or in a ryokan with an onsen.
Hikers will love Japan as well with too many options to go to in one lifetime, and courses ranging from well-outlined, easy routes for beginners to very challenging, steep but rewarding routes for expert hikers. Near Tokyo, there is Mt. Takao for those who want to take it relatively easy, and Mt. Fuji (July-August only) for those who are in good physical condition. Don’t be fooled by the many 70something Japanese hikers who scale Mt. Fuji and think it must be easy, hiking is actually one of the most popular hobbies among retired Japanese people.
Those who are looking for action will also love Japan. There are some white water rafting courses in Minakami (around 3 hours from Tokyo), slower rafting courses in Okutama, plenty of kayaking options all around the country, great waves for surfing on the Chiba coast and in Niijima below Tokyo, and riverboarding if you really love the water. If you prefer to stay dry while getting active, cycling with a sports bike or electric bicycle is becoming more popular, and because the roads are relatively safe, motorbike riding is also a great option. Camping is increasingly popular, there are many camping sites with plenty of amenities and there are sites that offer rental tents.
Japan Tour Packages 2021
If you want to avoid the tourist crowds it is very easy in Japan, you only need to get off the Golden Route (From Tokyo through Matsumoto, Takayama, Kanazawa to Kyoto/Osaka/Hiroshima) and you will often be one of the few foreign tourists there. But even on the Golden Route, it is possible to include sights that don’t see much tourist traffic while still being very interesting. If that is what you are looking for, a private guide would come in handy.
The lack of tourists in 2020 gave us the unique opportunity to take our time to optimize our Japan tour packages. We didn’t only improve and update our well-loved city tours that were already popular with tourists before the crisis hit, we also set out to create beautiful Japan package tours for less-traveled regions. We also lowered the maximum number of participants per group tour to mitigate any kind of infection risk, and to enhance our participants’ tour experience.
As seasoned Japan experts, we can help you create your perfect Japan tour. Contact us to start planning your unforgettable holiday to this fascinating country full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, culture, history, nature, and delicious food!