While the gradual easing of travel restrictions in Japan has started preliminary moves to open the country up specifically to business travellers from Thailand, Vietnam, New Zealand and Australia, it is also no longer against guidelines for residents of Japan to cross into other prefectures and regions for non-essential travel, as of June 19th.
That means that, in the UK/Europe we’re going to have to wait a bit longer, but summer holidays for people in Japan will no longer have to be restricted to exclusively the place where they live, and travel experiences can be had across the country. With so much in Japan to explore, even locals will be able to get out and see something new, and the domestic-tourism focused Go To Travel campaign, set to launch in August, will aim to help get Japan get itself moving again.
Still, the situation does remain volatile on a global scale so new initiatives from hotels and tourist spots, as well as fresh guidelines issued to prospective Japan-based travellers by the Japan Tourism Agency, have been introduced in an effort to ensure that the slow but steady return to travel is as safe and responsible as possible.
Here are some of the guidelines and the ways travel around our favourite country is currently adapting for the people living there.
Before leaving the house
- Start the day with a health and temperature check and have a look for up-to-date travel guidelines on the intended destination.
- Wear and pack masks and sanitizer. Wash and sanitize hands regularly whenever possible.
- Plan a light and flexible itinerary - try and incorporate open outdoor spaces and avoid close, crowded spaces.
- Book online in advance to avoid queues and waiting - come back to an attraction later if it feels like there are too many people.
Continue practicing social distancing at all times.
Out and About
- Try to limit conversation on public transport as the particles released, particularly by loud talking, risk spreading infection. Now’s the time to send sneaky texts to friends from right next door to them.
- Choose an off-peak time for any train travel and open the windows where possible to keep fresh air circulating in the carriage.
Leave trains for only the most essential parts of your journey - enjoy the journey by foot, or hop on a bike to get around more easily where feasible.
At the Hotel
- Remember to keep that mask on and follow hotel floor signage and advice from staff on how to maintain social distancing at check-in and throughout a given stay.
- Hotels are generally fitted with protective screens in communal areas, and guests will be asked to undergo brief temperature checks and give details of their itinerary upon arrival, in case anything should happen.
- Save any debriefs for back in the room, and try to keep the room well ventilated with fresh air, too. Prince Hotels & Resorts are placing safety stickers across the seams of room doors after each deep clean to reassure guests that no one has entered their room since sanitation.
- Disinfect hands after touching door handles, elevator buttons etc. Hotels are committed to thoroughly sanitising all high touch surfaces but every little helps.
If visiting the onsen hot springs, wash thoroughly before and after and avoid loud conversation throughout. Many hotels are reducing the capacity of their onsen to allow greater distancing, too, so guests should remember to plan around this.
- Eat outside, wherever possible. The fresh air and atmosphere will be the garnish no one ever knew they needed.
- Be guided by the restaurant staff, who will be managing social distancing. Many hotels are also now operating with digital menus available by scanning a QR code so be prepared with a phone.
- Sit side by side with fellow travellers and use the unobstructed view and quiet time to take in surroundings and appreciate every part of the meal. Guests should pour only their own drinks and let the waiter divvy out portions from shared dishes.
Seeing the Sights and Checking Out the Shops
- Avoid spending long amounts of time in enclosed spaces. Check it out from afar, get in when it’s not looking busy, take some snaps, and get out.
- Make a reservation in advance and skip the need to hang about in queues. If there is a queue, keep a respectful distance between fellow queuers, encouraging others to do the same. Remember this includes cash registers!
- Take things at a pace, zoom in on the smaller details and bide time until it looks clear to have a look at something.
- Looking is done with the eyes, not with the hands! Window shop without touching things and don’t put items directly back on the shelf. Let the shop assistant know and they can deal with it safely.
- Make sure to have money on cards or on a Monzo and don’t be afraid to pay using contactless even for smaller amounts. Many machines will accept payments even if the card only hovers near the reader without touching it directly.