Want to Fly Solo? Japan Is Finally Lifting Its Guided Tour Restrictions


One of the world’s most cautious countries during the COVID pandemic is finally lifting its international traveller restrictions. After two and a half years of foreign visitor restrictions, Japan will allow in fully-vaccinated, independent travellers as of October 11.

In the last year, the country has slowly been relaxing its international tourist restrictions, with the last update on September 7 allowing visitors from ‘blue’ category countries to enter the country on non-escorted package tours with set itineraries. Previously, you needed to be accompanied by a tour guide. Still, your return flights, accommodation and the travel itinerary had to be handled by a registered Japanese tour operator.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced the update at the New York Stock Exchange on September 22.

Related: 13 New Experiences That Will Draw You Back to Japan Immediately

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“We are a nation that has flourished through the free flow of people, goods and capital,” Kishida said. “COVID-19, of course, interrupted all of these benefits, but from October 11, Japan will relax border control measures to be on par with the US, as well as resume visa-free travel and individual travel.”

From October 11, Japan will also waive its current VISA rules, with tourists from certain countries, including Australia, not requiring them to enter Japan, as long as they are fully vaccinated. It will also scrap the daily cap on international tourist arrivals, which is currently 50,000.

As for what the exact entry requirements will be for Australians, Executive Director of Japan National Tourism Organisation Sydney, Yoko Tanaka, said that at this stage, it’s unclear.

“The news will be warmly welcomed by travellers planning snowsports trips over the winter, or those booking ahead for the popular cherry blossom season next year,” she added.

Before the pandemic, Japan was one of the fastest-growing destinations for international visitors, receiving almost 32 million arrivals in 2019 including over half-a-million (621,800) Australians, a rise of 12.6% on 2018 figures. This meant Japan was the seventh most popular international destination for Australians.

“[…] more details are to be announced,” she said. “We expect to hear more news on the matter next week (week commencing 26 September) from the Japanese government.”

So, where’s new to consider staying on your next visit there? Unsurprisingly, a lot’s changed in the last two and a half years since we’ve been away. Ahead, we round up a few of our favourite new places to stay there.

FUFU Nikko

Within walking distance of the Nikko Toshogu shrine, FUFU Nikko offers travellers an elegant retreat in a beautiful green oasis. All 24 individually designed guest suites overlook the surrounding forests and come with private indoor or outdoor onsen (hot spring) baths. Though within easy reach of bustling Tokyo, Nikko feels like a different world.

With trekking and cycling already drawing visitors in, adventure-seekers can also try their hand at rafting across Lake Chuzenji, canyoning through Urami Falls or trekking and cycling.

FUFU Nikko


Minimalist digs Korinkyo are located minutes from Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen Garden. Onsite, there’s an aroma distillery where guests can create essential oils to be used in-room or while relaxing in the hotel’s rooftop sauna and bath. Its 18 guest rooms have simple wood and stone finishes and a neutral design palette, allowing the surrounding nature vistas to take the spotlight.

Comico Art House Yufuin

Near the coastal city of Oita in Kyushu and located within the stunning yet little-known Comico Art Museum YufuinComico Art House Yufuin is new luxury accommodation, designed by Kengo Kuma. It comprises the ‘Tsuchi’ house and the ‘Take’ house, both inspired by Satoyama culture, where nature and community are deeply intertwined. Both houses boast private onsen, traditional Japanese gardens and spacious rooms with tatami mat floors.


Slated to open in 2024, YOTEL Tokyo will be centrally located in Ginza, one of Tokyo’s most vibrant neighbourhoods. The 244-room tech-savvy hotel will showcase YOTEL’s signature robotic concierge YOBOT, motorised SmartBeds and touchless guest experience from reservation to check-out. YOTEL Tokyo is part of YOTEL’s wider expansion plans across Japan including Sapporo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe. 

Yotel Japan

Club Med Hokkaido Kiroro

Club Med Hokkaido Kiroro will be an all-inclusive winter resort, 90 minutes from New Chitose Airport, set to open in time for the 2023 season. Conducted in two phases, Club Med Kiroro ‘Peak’ will open in December exclusively for guests aged 12 and over, where guests can kick back in a cosy yet hip environment with access to a natural open-air hot spring and spa. Open for all ages, Club Med Kiroro ‘Grand’ will follow in 2023 and will house a wide selection of family-oriented facilities.

Club Med Hokkaido Kiroro

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