Japan travel advice
Posted on 12th Jul 2022 by Bob Heffill

Kyoto ryokan nakai-san
Kyoto ryokan nakai-san

Japan Travel Advice

12 July 2022

About a month ago, on 10 June, the Japanese government announced the opening of borders to tourism. There was excitement as inbound operators, agencies, and destination management companies fired emails off encouraging prospective clients to book. However, this is only an initial phase. The door is hardly ajar. There may be a chink of light, but don’t get too excited. Japan is opening at a snail’s pace.

Having looked into the situation more closely, I discovered that only fully-guided package tours allowed in, but these can only be arranged by Japanese companies registered as travel businesses in Japan. In short, the government is doing it again. Prioritizing the biggest Japanese travel businesses, hoping they’ll again start packing through package tour after package tour once again. Most favoured companies working hand-in-glove with the not-so-liberal ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The opinion of Japanese friends of mine who have worked in the travel industry in Japan for decades is that the government is making yet another mistake. Package tours, they believe, are not the right way forward for Japan. Which is a real shame, a missed opportunity to look to the future and develop a more sustainable form of inbound travel.

I’ve several small groups and individuals who have been postponing their trips with me for a couple of years or more now. What should we do? Book for the autumn and hope for the best, or push their trips still further down the road to next spring?

I recently did a recce trip to Japan, when I visited accommodation owners, restaurants, as well as friends I’ve worked with over the years. I found Kumano, Asuka, Yoshino, and Nara, very quiet. Many establishments were closed. Fortunately, I also made some new contacts, locals – some of whom have changed their jobs or moved into country areas – who are looking to cooperate and welcome small groups. Always positive, I’m looking forward to improving on what were already some excellent tour itineraries, and continuing to work with our great, local English-speaking walking and mountain hiking guides.



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