Japan and Australia Travel Bubble: Everything You Need to Know, Including When Australians Can Travel to Japan, Is It Safe and More | Explanation


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After a year of COVID lockouts and restrictions, if you have itchy feet and an urge to travel, you are not alone.

At the moment, Australians can only travel freely in New Zealand, but if rumors are to be believed, we are not far from creating travel bubbles with other neighboring nations.

With Singapore and Fiji, there has been talk within the Australian government of opening a travel bubble with Japan.

The country –– which officially begins hosting the 2020 Olympics this week –– is a wonderful place to travel and explore. Here’s everything you need to know about where to go, what to do, and how to stay safe.

Mount Fuji, Tokyo (iStock)

Can I travel to Japan now?

As of July 2021, the only country where Australians can travel freely is New Zealand. However, our government is said to be in talks to open similar bubbles with other countries.

In April, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Singapore, Japan and South Korea are being assessed as potential future travel bubbles.

When can Australians fly to Japan?

There is no date set for Australians to travel to Japan yet. However, if we get our ducks in a row it might be sooner than you think.

The famous passage from Shibuya to Tokyo. (iStock)

Infectious disease specialists speculate that once we are all vaccinated, the coronavirus can be treated like a common cold. Expert in infectious diseases, Professor Robert Booy said Today in early May he thinks more travel bubbles will open between Australia and other countries over the next few months.

He said country after country would say yes if all agreed that they were in control of the virus well.

Are the Tokyo Olympics canceled?

The Tokyo Olympic Games – initially scheduled for 2020 – are still ready to move forward July 23, 2021, against all odds. This, despite the withdrawal of top athletes, banned spectators and athlete reports already tested positive for COVID-19 at the Olympic Village.

The organizers have a strict playbook in place to help ensure the safety of everyone involved. Some stipulations include:

  • No spectators allowed. Initially, organizers had predicted a 50 percent Japanese fan capacity, but that number fell to zero after the Japanese prime minister declared a state of emergency in Tokyo.
  • Athletes must wear a mask indoors at all times, except when eating or sleeping.
  • Athletes will be tested every few days and must submit an itinerary of their visit.
  • Foreign spectators will not be allowed to travel to Japan for the Games.

READ MORE: Australia ranks in top 10 strongest passports after one year without traveling

Tokyo Olympics organizers have marked 100 days before the Games start. Here, Tokyo 2020 mascot Miraitowa poses with the Olympic rings after a symbol unveiling ceremony on Mount Takao in Hachioji, west of Tokyo. (PA)

Who is part of the Japan travel bubble?

Most travel bubble talks have been put on hold amid the escalating coronavirus situation in Japan.

Is it safe to fly to Japan? What are the travel restrictions?

As of July 2021, overseas travel from Australia has been banned. At present, Australians are discouraged from traveling for leisure outside of New Zealand. Japan is currently suffering from a spike in coronavirus cases, with Tokyo in a state of emergency, making it a dangerous destination at the moment.

How does a travel bubble work?

A travel bubble is an agreement between two or more countries that have had relative success in suppressing the spread of the coronavirus over the past year. People will be allowed to travel freely between these areas without needing to self-quarantine or self-isolate.

How to visit Japan –– the requirements of the travel bubble

It is almost certain that travelers wishing to take advantage of the Japan travel bubble will need to be fully immunized. Once vaccinated, you will receive a certificate that will allow you to travel.

Travelers departing from Australia to New Zealand must complete declaration cards before arriving in each country and it is likely that a similar system will be put in place if a travel bubble opens with Japan.

READ MORE: The most Instagrammable places in the world for 2021

Golden Gai district in Tokyo, Japan
Golden Gai district in Tokyp (iStock)

Where to travel in Japan

For a small country, there is certainly a lot going on in Japan. From big cities to ski slopes, idyllic beaches and pretty mountain towns, here’s a quick rundown of the best places to visit in Japan.

Tokyo

This one is obvious. The mega-city of Tokyo is worth at least a few days of your trip, although you’ll inevitably be tempted to stay much, much longer. Things to add to the to-do list include: walking around Shibuya Crossing, doing real Mario Kart, shopping in Harajuku, eating so much ramen as possible, visit the Robot Restaurant, see the teamLab Borderless visual exhibit, binge on a sushi train, and go bar crawling in Golden Gai.

Okinawa

Did you know that Japan is home to beautiful white sand beaches and crystal clear water? Well, it’s in the Pacific after all. Okinawa Prefecture is an archipelago chain of 160 islands, some large and others simply patches of sand. This area could be Japan’s best kept secret, and the perfect place to come and relax after the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.

Snorkeling in Okinawa
Japan’s idyllic island chain, Okinawa, is still a best kept secret (David Kirkland)

Ishigaki Island is your best bet for postcard-perfect beaches, Iriomote Island is a beautiful national park and international starry sky site with a subtropical forest and jade green rivers. On Taketomi Island, visit what looks like a traditional village lost in time, filled with friendly locals and beautiful architecture.

Hakone

This mountain town, just over an hour by bullet train from Tokyo, is located in an area known for its onsen –– spa resorts. The views are breathtaking, with Mount Fuji visible in the distance over Lake Ashinoko. There is an original open-air museum to explore, as well as the Hakone Shrine and endless walks in the mountains. For scenic mountain living, Hakone is it.

Kyto

Once the country’s capital, Kyoto embodies old Japanese culture as you can imagine. Think of: geishas in brightly colored robes, wooden teahouses, bamboo forests, red and gold temples, raked gravel Zen gardens, graceful tea ceremonies, and bustling local markets.

If you are visiting a place in Japan, go to Kyoto. Tokyo can seem a little overwhelming at times because it’s such a big city, but Kyoto is where you will find the heart and soul of Japan.

Nikko

It is a temple city –– and a UNESCO World Heritage Site –– in the mountains a few hours north of Tokyo. The region comes alive in the fall, with stunning orange and red foliage covering the trees.

The main attraction is the Toshogu Shrine, a complex with a dozen sprawling buildings decorated in that iconic old Japanese style in red and gold. If you’re up for an adventure, hike up the mountain to the peaceful Takino Shrine. Once back in town, reward yourself with a street food feast: a must try the dango, which are grilled rice balls on a stick.

How long is the flight from Japan to Australia?

From Sydney, there are nonstop flights to Tokyo that take around nine and a half hours.

Photographer explores Japan’s forbidden ‘ghost island’

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