Asia is back to being at the top of travel charts now that the overly strict entry measures and anti-tourism policies have been abolished.
Millions of travelers are flocking to the Orient for the rich culture, delectable cuisine, and centuries-old, picturesque pagodas, with much of the continent now undergoing a tourism revival, but no country has proven to be as successful as this iconic East Asian hotspot:
Tourists Are Finally Back To Japan
Just this week, Conde Nast Traveler revealed its list of the top best countries to visit in 2023, and an unlikely Japan topped the list, outpacing Italy, Greece, Spain and the like, and standing out as the only Asian destination – if Israel is to be excluded – in the top ten.
However, with so many incredible options to pick from in Asia, from soft power, pop culture behemoth that is South Korea to the futuristic Singapore, why is Japan, which remained off-limits for much longer than its counterparts, suddenly stealing the show?
It all boils down to exciting new developments on the tourist front, as well as how affordable Japan has got as a tourist destination in 2023:
Japan Is More Welcoming Than It Ever Was
Following two years of severely restricting tourism, Japan reopened its doors late last year, welcoming Americans and all other foreign nationals under pre-existing entry rules.
As a result, it went from recording just shy of 250,000 tourists in 2021 to 3.83 million in 2022, and the numbers keep rising as news spread that it’s more open and more welcoming than it ever was.
Travelers seem to have forgotten all about Japan’s once-restrictive policies, and they’re back to taking Transpacific flights in hopes of seeing a sea of sakura, sampling actual Japanese cuisine, which can be drastically different from Westernized equivalents, and singing their hearts out in neon-lit karaoke bars.
Why Is Japan So Fascinating?
Japan is one of the most fascinating countries in Asia, and in terms of culture, it stands in a league of its own, as the Japanese are known for their family-first principles, unmatched politeness, and will to thrive as a nation, especially in troubling times.
A nation rebuilt, it is a highly-developed state, having undergone a growth boom in the post-war period, yet it’s retained much of its ancient character, with the towering skyscrapers of Tokyo and the coastal zones providing a unique contrast with the more rural hinterlands.
Whether it’s an exciting city break you’re after or chasing scenic views and majestic peaks dotted with peaceful shrines, Japan will not disappoint, and it’s precisely this dichotomy that has travelers deeply enamored with it in the first place.
Off-Path Sites Are Becoming More Accessible
Then, there is the fact that the Government is actively promoting tourism in lesser-known spots that foreign visitors do not routinely dare venturing to, either due to their inacessibility or merely due to a lack of knowledge.
Soon enough, they will be able to take a bullet train to the Hokuriku region, the gateway to the Northern Japanese Alps, where the hustle and bustle of the big cities give way to small, bucolic settlements full of thatched-roof houses, and nature is still the dominant force.
The shinkansen (bullet train) will depart from Tokyo, arriving in Fukui, one of the largest conurbations in Hokuriku, starting March 2024, without switches in intermediate stops.
As Stefan Schauwecker, founder of Japan Guide, has noted, other previously unheard-of ‘prefectures’ have turned into major tourist destinations after being connected to Tokyo by shinkansen, such as the quaint Kanazawa, formerly a hidden gem, and now Japan’s 12th most popular destination.
More areas of Japan are opening up to tourism, and there has never been a more exciting period to be traveling in the country.
From March, not only will the traditional city of Fukui be more accessible, but also other parts of the Northern Alps, including the historic villages of Gokayama and Shirakawa-go, designated World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
Japan Is Becoming Cheaper To Visit
The seriously devalued yen is yet another reason why foreigners – and particularly Americans – are flying to Japan in droves.
Japan’s national currency has been on a downward trend as of late, having continued to weaken against the dollar and other major global currencies as Japan struggles to find its footing after nearly three years of being sealed off from the rest of the world.
It has reached the key threshold of ¥150 to the dollar, when in 2019, a single dollar equaled roughly ¥109.
In other words, tourists’ money is stretching a lot further in Japan than it did two or three years ago, and while this does not mean Japan is cheap to visit, it will help you make small savings daily that could mount up to a significant sum at the end of your trip.
According to BudgetYourTrip, a one-week trip to Japan costs around ¥132,770 for one person, with average daily expenditure averaging US$128, lower than what vacationers spend in New York, London, or even fellow Asian competitor Singapore.
Due to its weaker currency, Japan is being called the cheapest country in the developed world.
Finally, multiple flight routes to Japan have been re-launched since the country’s wider reopening for tourism in late 2022, and even a new budget airline announcing one-way tickets from the United States to Tokyo for as cheap as US$91.
It’s never been easier or cheaper to travel to Japan than it is right now, and the country’s numerous recent accolades and its rebound to pre-crisis tourism levels are further proof of its regained popularity.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com