a red pagoda with Mount Fuji in the background

If there’s one question dominating the #revengetravel threads, it’s “when will Japan reopen, because I’m desperate to get back?” – me too. Japan brings so much reward to visitors, and with the Olympics still potentially on the horizon, and dreams of fall foliage on the minds of many, planning desire is at a fever pitch.

Positive signs are beginning to emerge, and previous predictions coming to fruition, with all indications suggesting Japan will reopen travel on some level in 2021, and perhaps sooner than many think.

Japan Exiting State Of Emergency

Japan never had a formal ‘lockdown’, instead relying on individuals and businesses to do their part to stop the spread, with incentivized rewards for businesses doing so. It has however experienced states of emergency, which encourage extra caution.

The latest period of review for lifting these alert levels was expected to come on March 7th, but 6 prefectures in Japan have been allowed to release their states of emergency early, amid positive developments. It’s expected the next council meeting will end the state of emergency for all prefectures.

On March 7th, the country will also simultaneously allow all competitors scheduled to participate in the Olympic games to enter Japan once again, and added considerations are being made for an extension allowing 20,000 people into Olympic sporting venues, from 10,000 as previously hoped.

a crowd of people crossing a street
Image by Sofia Terzoni from Pixabay

How Will Travel To Japan Work?

According to reports, all competitors will be allowed to skip any quarantine period, so long as they stick to athletic venues and accommodation. This initial reopening purely for athletes and Olympic stakeholders is seen as a soft launch for wider rollout, with up to 70,000 officials, athletes and delegates expected.

These sorts of conversations, as noted by the Japan Times, tend to indicate that Japan is readying to welcome international visitors from abroad, and is considering an entire removal of its ‘state of emergency’ status too.

Japan has indicated that vaccination won’t be required for visitors hoping to enter for the games, but negative covid-19 tests prior to travel will be, as well as potential for rapid tests on arrival.

Japan previously hinted at slowly beginning to reopen wider travel from April or May, pending continued positive downward trends with virus concerns and these newly released timelines appear relatively “on time”.

Many travelers speculatively bought Olympic tickets for the cheapest events on the assumption that ticket holders may be entitled to early access into the country. Tickets remain on sale via third party websites and other avenues.

GSTP is optimistic that these dates will hold, and is aiming for autumnal travels to Japan, accounting for a bit of wiggle room for any changes. Despite many challenges, it’s looking more and more like the summer Olympics will go ahead.

Whether you’re headed to Osaka, Tokyo, Kyoto or any other enthralling city, Japan is always worth the trip. With hope, it won’t be long before you can make one. We’ll update this article as news continue to develop.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. I love your optimism regarding the potential for April to May reopening to international travel in Japan, but I highly doubt that it will happen. AA canceled all my flights to Japan in April and I haven’t had the heart to call in to reschedule them for fear of further disappointment. I think reopening will coincide with the vaccination effort in the country and right now it is moving very slowly.

    1. Bloomberg is reporting a third party report, which the government has already denied. The answer is: no one knows. Until we hear officially, will follow the breadcrumbs which show Japan easing restrictions. Whether that includes foreigners or not remains to be seen.

        1. This is the same report that Bloomberg reported, which has been denied by Olympic officials. If it’s true, so be it, but all other epidemic based moves in Japan right now are positive.

  2. This has been discussed in a press conference yesterday in Japan. The relevant stakeholders, IOC, JP government and Tokyo Metropolitan government will make a decision based the advice of an official expert guidance as well as the level of infection of Covid19 at the time, on whether to allow foreigners to attend the Olympics as spectators by March 25th. The governing bodies will then decide by sometime in April, following the standards set in other sporting events in Japan, as to the total level of (if any) of spectators who will be allowed to attend events.

    In Japanese:

    For my part, if this is being discussed in this way publicly now, I would put the chances of foreigners being allowed to attend as spectators at a very slim. The decision has most likely already been made after considerable deliberation. Remember Japan is traditionally risk averse, and even with only a small chance of infections due to foreign attendance, the government and JP IOC would most likely block overseas attendees much more willingly than other countries in an abundance of caution approach.

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