Finally, Japan is fully open to visitors who are on an organized tour or traveling on their own. And while there is no longer a daily cap on how many travelers can enter the country each day, Japan is open to the whole world and a lot of people are trying to get in. As a result, there is a logjam, and our partners on the ground in Japan advise us that they cannot take any more bookings before autumn.
However, we still want you to be able to experience this magnificent country, so we urge you to begin making plans now if you want to go to Japan in late 2023 or in 2024. Regular readers know we are constantly harping on planning in advance. We do it because we want to secure the best accommodations, the best guides and make the experience as excellent as we possibly can for you. In this case, there really are no miracles we can pull off. There simply is not availability in the first half of this year.
Fortunately, the fall and spring are great times to build itineraries based on the changing of the trees. Typically leaves begin changing in the northern islands and mountains first in fall, and the colors roll south as autumn progresses. If you time it right, you can follow the changes down through the country. The best times are usually late October through late November. There aren’t many sights better than Mt. Fuji ringed by beautiful foliage in the first days of November.
The ancestral home of Washington, D.C.’s cherry trees, Japan has several areas throughout its islands that are great for viewing sakura in the spring. Utilizing the bullet train system, visitors can make their way quickly from south to north as the warm weather and blooms spread in late March and early April. Set against the backdrop of a 400-year-old, the blossoms in Hirosaki are particularly worth checking out. Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo is a reliable spot thanks to its proliferation of early- and late-blooming trees. Chureito Pagoda in the shadow of Mount Fuji is among the most picturesque spots.
You see a lot more than trees as you traverse the country. There are temples, ryokans, hot spring baths, tea houses, gardens and fish markets. You can even make your way through Tokyo whisky by whisky, sampling the best drams Japan’s artisans have to offer. Through the centuries, the Japanese have built an arts and cultural scene unique and ever-evolving, from the traditions of the geisha and the samurai to the manga and anime creators of the post-war era. By land or sea, Japan is open with all its colors on display. But you’ll have to start planning now if you want to see it in the next year or so.