(Bloomberg) — After nearly three years of border closures due to the novel coronavirus, Japan has finally opened its doors to vaccinated tourists from most countries without the need for quarantines, PCR tests or visas. Demand is also sure to be high as the yen makes hotels, restaurants and shopping affordable.
Airlines are increasing flights and businesses are starting to welcome tourists from October 11th. Still, it will probably be a while before the crowds return, especially as China restricts travel.
With that in mind, here are some of the top spots to visit while Japan is still relatively empty, curated by the Bloomberg Tokyo newsroom.
For fans of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated films, there is nothing better than this. Ghibli Park, an homage to the characters and scenery that appear in the film, will open to the public on November 1 in Aichi Prefecture, about three hours by train from Tokyo.
Featuring buildings and scenery from My Neighbor Totoro and Laputa: Castle in the Sky, the park is much larger than Tokyo’s modest (but popular) Ghibli Museum. Green space within the 194-hectare (479-acre) park that hosted the Aichi Expo.
But don’t expect roller coasters and thrill rides on the Cat Bus. Instead, the studio encourages visitors to “take a walk, feel the breeze, and discover the wonders” of Ghibli’s world.
Tickets (reservation required) range from ¥1,000 to ¥2,500 ($7 to $17) for adults and ¥500 to ¥1,250 for children to access any of the three parts of the park. In the future, two areas such as “Mononoke no Sato” will be added.
As Japan’s ancient capital and home to centuries of temples and shrines, art and culinary delights, Japan’s list of tourist attractions is far from exhaustive.
The city of 1.5 million people is a beloved tourist destination for both Japanese and foreign tourists, and narrow streets and limited public transport have been overwhelmed by heavy tourist traffic pre-COVID-19. It had a love-hate relationship with its popularity because it was oppressed. Even when crowded, there are enough off-the-beaten-path options to explore, including the National Museum of Modern Art.
Read more: Once overcrowded Kyoto now awaits foreign tourists
A recent visit to the 1,200-year-old Kiyomizu Temple, which overlooks the city, saw only a handful of visitors on a weekday. There are also new ones. Mario fans can visit the former Nintendo headquarters, which has been converted into a hotel that just opened this year, complete with a library, bar and spa. (More on Mario later)
Tokyo fish market
Many returning tourists don’t want to miss sushi.
Tsukiji’s run-down alleys no longer house the world’s largest fish market, but if you venture a little further, you’ll find Yamato Sushi and Sushi Dai at Toyosu Fish Market at Shijo-mae Station.
Many people in Tokyo will say they know the best sushi restaurant in the world: Iwasa Sushi in the new market, where pictures of Quentin Tarantino and other celebrities adorn the walls. Here, sushi chefs lay bamboo leaves on the counter and eat the simmering prawns faster than you can. Follow local customs and drink beer or sake with your sushi. for breakfast.
For hikers, Japan offers excellent terrain throughout its mountain archipelago.
If you venture further afield from Tokyo, consider Aomori prefecture on the northernmost tip of Honshu. Go north using the JR East Pass. Autumn is the best season for hiking, and Mount Hakkoda in Aomori Prefecture boasts beautiful foliage that changes color with the seasons. Hikers can choose a route that ends with a soak in Sukayu Onsen, a famous hot spring at the foot of the mountain known for its Senninburo.
The Michinoku Kaigan Promenade runs for more than 1,000 kilometers along the Pacific coast of Tohoku in Japan. Hikers are rewarded with dramatic views of sheer cliffs jutting out to sea, stunning seascapes, and rugged and challenging terrain. Additionally, the area has incredible seafood.
One of Tokyo’s iconic department stores, Isetan in central Tokyo, has undergone a facelift since borders were closed at the start of the pandemic.
Founded in 1886 as a kimono and clothing store, Isetan has now expanded into a sprawling two-story cosmetics retail area. This should make it easier to hunt and find the popular Japanese beauty and spa products that were a big draw to Chinese and other Asian tourists pre-Corona.
The Hermès boutique on the ground floor has also recently been expanded, but be prepared to wait. There was already a line on a recent weekday.
Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four big islands, is one of Japan’s best kept secrets. From top-notch cuisine in its largest city, Fukushima, to hot springs in Beppu, it’s becoming increasingly popular with both domestic and international travelers.
Nagasaki, a port city on Kyushu and home to Japan’s largest Christian population, is home to numerous churches. A melting pot thanks to centuries of trade with Holland, Portugal and China, the city is home to eclectic cuisine and fresh seafood. A short boat ride takes visitors to Gunkanjima, a concrete island that once housed a coal mining facility that looks like a warship.
The new Nishi-Kyushu Shinkansen, or Higashi-Kyushu Shinkansen, which began operating in September, should make traveling to Nagasaki much quicker and easier.
super famicom world
Experience the world of Mario in action. In March 2021, the world’s first theme park based on Nintendo’s hit video game franchise will open inside Universal Studios Japan. From Tokyo, take the Shinkansen to Osaka, transfer to a local train and arrive in about 3 hours.
The entrance to Super Famicom World is a green warp pipe tunnel that leads to Peach’s Castle and the Mushroom Kingdom.
Mario Kart and Yoshi’s Adventure are the main rides. There are also many key challenge mini-games. After 3 wins, you’ll visit Bowser Jr.’s lair and attempt to retrieve the stolen Golden Mushrooms. When you run out of fuel, head to Toad’s Café for a meal prepared by Chef Toad.
Admission includes admission to the park and use of all attractions, including Super Nintendo World. Tickets are 8,400 yen for those 12 and older, 7,600 yen for those 65 and older, and 5,400 yen for infants. Express passes and VIP wristbands are also available to reduce waiting time for an additional fee. The park is open year-round.
©2022 Bloomberg LP