Japan Opens Up to Travellers: Four Tour Groups Leading Japan Trips


The fantastic News first: After being under a strict lockdown since 2020, including a period of hosting the 2021 Summer Olympics, Japan is once again open to visitors from 99 overseas countries, including the United States. United. But, of course, there is a stipulation. Leisure visitors must be accompanied by a Japan-approved tour group. If you imagined yourself wandering alone among the cherry blossoms, catering to your own whims, you’ll have to wait a bit longer – you’ll only be allowed in if you’re chaperoned.

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But all is not lost. If you’ve never been to Japan – the country that brought us forest bathing, crying therapy, onsen hot springs (some fortified with sake) and an incredible Penis Festival, plus the usual suspects of Mt. Fuji, Sapporo, Okinawa and Hiroshima – a tour group is probably the best way to get introduced anyway. They’ll show you the way to the dirt, the best hole-in-the-wall spots to binge (ramen! Sushi! Onigiri! All of it!) and the most scenic spots, all while rooting it all in the country’s checkered history. . If you book soon and visit Kyoto in July, you’ll be just in time for the Gion Matsuri festival, one of the biggest, oldest and most popular festivals in the country, so a tour group might help you out too. find your way around (not to mention providing accommodation, which would now be impossible to obtain).

For our part, visitors from countries with the “blue designation” must participate in fully accompanied tours and purchase a tourist visa. Travel insurance must be purchased that covers COVID-19 treatments, and you must also present a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of departure. No vaccinations or quarantines are required, but masks are.

Then, all you have to do is sit back, relax, and prepare for the frenetic, beautiful, ancient, and futuristic scenery that awaits you. Here are some guided tour options to get your foot in the door.

Intrepid Travel offers tours ranging from a quick seven-day to the 24-day Ultimate Japan Tour, taking you from Osaka to Yakushima through the Iya Valley. But what interests us here is The Japan Real Food Adventure, where you make your way through the Land of the Rising Sun. You’ll take cooking classes and visit fish markets, visit sake breweries, and taste regional dishes. Just be sure to arrive with a sumo-sized appetite.

G Adventures

A great way to get to know a country is to explore its “roads less traveled”. On the G Adventures Back Roads of Japan tour, you’ll get away from the traditional tourist spots while getting a little active. On file? Rafting and biking on some days and hanging out with Japanese snow monkeys at Jigokudani Monkey Park on others.


Country Walkers specializes in walking and walking tours, for those who prefer to experience Japan on foot. With their Kyoto, Nara, and Kumano Kodo package, you’ll also be immersed in history, tackling part of the Kumano Kodo route, an ancient Japanese pilgrimage route once traveled by emperors. It takes you through sun-kissed forests and stone temples and, for good reason, spring-fed onsen hot baths.


Contiki caters to travelers aged 18-35, with lively offerings to match. Their Japan Unrivaled trip spans 12 days and hits all the major players including Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kyoto and Osaka. You’ll visit ancient temples, take a cable car ride with views of Mount Fuji, sleep in a Buddhist guesthouse, and visit Gothic castles. And, hey, maybe you’ll even make some friends along the way.

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Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist’s senior travel writer.


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