Here’s what to know about heading to Japan as the country reopens

Travelers to Japan, from and through Japan are getting some big news today: Anyone can now travel to Japan, without a visa. And that’s effective today.

It’s been slow going — or no going — to Japan for quite some time. The country was effectively shut down and closed off during the pandemic — until about four months ago, when the government announced that as of  June 10, a limited number of international travelers would be allowed to enter Japan, if they booked a relatively restricted package tour with a guide. Then, on Sept. 7, the government eased the rules somewhat, allowing non-guided package tours from all countries.

And as of Oct. 11, anyone can travel to Japan, without a visa, on an individual basis.

Travelers headed to Japan — and for that matter, to Asia — are also aided by the power of the U.S. dollar against a weakening Japanese yen, which is at a 25-year low against the dollar.

In addition, it opens up dozens of countries to travelers and airlines looking at Japan as a hub. Many airlines, such as Delta, use Tokyo as a main hub for Asia, concentrating their flight schedules first to Japan and then connecting to Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and other countries.

What this also means is that Japanese travelers, eager to fly out of the country, can now do so, to such favorite vacation destinations as Korea and Hawaii. Both destinations are now preparing for a wave of tourists. Japan is already seeing increases in airfares to popular destinations like Korea and Hawaii. And that, in turn, is beginning to translate into higher airfares and hotel rates throughout the 50th state.

The economic impact of Japan’s reopening is huge. In 2022, only a small number of people have traveled to Japan — about 500,000. In 2019, nearly 32 million people visited. Bookings on airlines like JAL have tripled in just the past few days, and the country’s economists are predicting about 34.5 billion in travel spending by visitors within the next six to nine months.

If you want to go to or through Japan now, you won’t need a visa, but be aware that masks are still required to be worn in all public places. A number of Asian airlines will still require masks to be worn during your flight. And either proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test will be required to enter the country — or even to change flights at a Japanese airport.

Ticket prices and hotel rates have already gone up an average of 20% in the last 24 hours as news about the Japan opening has spread.

And lately, the end of quarantine rules for arriving travelers in Hong Kong means that, for the first time in more than two years, visitors can travel freely to and within Hong Kong. This is great news for hotels that were struggling with few guests and averaging about a 25% occupancy rate as Hong Kong once again becomes an aviation hub for flights worldwide.

For both Hong Kong and Japan, though, opening some of the world’s most restrictive border controls doesn’t mean that visitors will find these destinations operating at full blast: 73% of hotels report staff shortages and more than 4,000 stores that closed during the pandemic have yet to reopen.

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