Coronavirus / COVID-19 updates
Update on 09 May, 2022
Inbound tourism set to return to Japan from June
The Japanese prime minister announced the news we have been waiting for on Thursday the 5th May. Starting in June, the Japanese government plans to further ease border restrictions in stages to bring inbound travel to Japan in line with other G7 nations. The last month has seen the value of the yen continue to drop, which has strengthened the economic argument for reopening our borders.
While the prime minister didn’t detail how this was going to work, government sources suggest that initially, a limited number of travellers will be allowed to enter the country on group tours with a fixed itinerary. The current limit on daily arrivals will also likely be doubled to 20,000 people.
For us here at Adventure Hokkaido, this still means that while it won’t be a return to business as usual from June, there is light at the end of the tunnel after a long 2 years. We hope that as restrictions ease, we will be able to host you on a Hokkaido adventure before the end of summer. We will keep you updated as the timeline to reopening becomes more clear.
Update on 11 April, 2022
Further easing of restrictions, but still no tourism
Recent news reports on our government lifting entry restrictions for people arriving from 106 countries may have gotten you excited that you can finally take your dream trip to Japan. However, while these changes are another step in the right direction, removing the “denial of landing” sadly still doesn’t mean that Japan’s borders are open for everyone. To understand why, we will take a deeper look at Japan’s covid-19 border measures.
Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, the Japanese government has primarily employed methods to control the country’s borders; landing restrictions and visa restrictions.
In the pre-covid era, visitors from many countries could travel to Japan without applying for a visa in advance. However, in response to covid-19 spreading around the world, the government suspended visa exemptions in 2020, requiring all visitors to obtain a visa prior to travel but embassies do not currently issue tourist visas.
As of March 2022, embassies will issue visas for people coming to Japan for work or to study, provided they have a host organisation. However, until the latest changes to landing restrictions many people would still have been denied entry to the country. This latest round of changes allow anyone holding one of the new visas to enter the country and also lift the cap on daily arrivals to 10,000 people.
This a long way of saying, if you are not a Japanese national, then unfortunately we still don’t know when we can welcome you to Japan, unless you are coming to Japan for work or study. While we would love to give you an optimistic timeline, we believe it is more important to be honest and realistic. Our gut feeling is that restrictions may not ease in time for summer travel. Our government has no timeline for when they will open up to tourists and the majority of Japanese presently don’t think restrictions should be eased further.
If things do change quickly, we are here ready and waiting to show you our island. The trails, roads and food are as good as ever!
Update on 28 February, 2022
Travel to Japan is coming back
As the Omicron wave subsides, the Japanese government is again beginning to relax border restrictions. From March, some non-residents will be allowed to enter the country for business and to study. New arrivals are required to be hosted by a sponsoring organisation, such as a university or their business. Unfortunately tourist visitors are still not allowed in at this stage.
The quarantine period for arrivals will be shortened to 3 days, while visitors from certain countries will not be required to quarantine if they have had 3 shots of an approved vaccine. The limit on total arrivals will also be raised from 3,500 to 5,000 people per day.
While we are still unable to welcome overseas guests (unless you happen to be coming for work), at Adventure Hokkaido we are glad to see things moving in the brighter direction again. The new quarantine and vaccine requirements also give a hint of how the government may further relax inbound travel.
Hokkaido has, like much of the world, experienced a wave of infections over the past month. However, the infection rate has begun to decrease and we are hopefully over the peak. The current “priority preventive measures” are due to finish on the 6th of March. The government will decide this week if these measures need to be extended.
At Adventure Hokkaido we have been sticking to our policy of getting plenty of fresh air in our great outdoors! While it is still early days for the border restrictions, we are allowing ourselves some cautious optimism.
Update on 2 December, 2021
Omicron sets travel back
There had been some cautious optimism growing for a while here in Hokkaido. Border restrictions were being relaxed, over 75% of the Japanese population is vaccinated and case rates are the lowest in over a year. There were even murmurs of travel bubbles.
However, the newly discovered Omicron variant is a major blow to our chances of welcoming visitors from overseas until next year at the earliest.
Our government has decided to close the borders to all non-residents until they know more about the new variant. The new restrictions will be in place at least until the end of December. The government has also asked airlines to stop taking new flight bookings to limit the number of residents arriving back into the country.
It is understandable that the government is being cautious. But the setback is disappointing for us. Like everyone, we had hoped that the positive news last month was the start of a return to normal.
Until we see how Omicron plays out, it is a good time to explore closer to home.
Update on 8 November, 2021
Travel to Japan now open for business travellers and students
As many countries are reopening their borders, we have received several questions about when people can come to Japan. It has been hard to honestly give an accurate timeline with the government remaining tight-lipped about its plans.
However, our government announced on Friday (the 5th) that they would start allowing business visitors, students and interns to enter the country from today (the 8th). There are some caveats, but for business visitors, if the plan submitted by their host organisation gets approval from the government, their quarantine time is cut to 3 days. We are yet to see if a hiking trip counts as a valid activity.
However, for our guests and others dreaming of a holiday to Hokkaido, the more important news is:
While this current easing of restrictions doesn’t apply to tourist arrivals, the government said they will assess the situation within the next 2 months and consider relaxing restrictions further.
All going to plan, we will know by the end of the year when we can welcome our overseas friends back to Hokkaido. Watch this space! Things move a step at a time here, but it feels like we are just a few steps away from summitting this mountain.
Update on 1 October, 2021
The State of Emergency is lifted for all of Japan
Due to declining numbers of new cases and inpatients over the last few weeks our government has decided to lift the State of Emergency (SoE) and Priority Preventative Measures (Semi State of Emergency) declarations from all the prefectures, including Hokkaido, on the 1st of October.
Restaurants and bars will still be asked to close by 8 pm, or 9 pm if they are taking sufficient preventative measures, but they may now serve alcohol again.
As for international travellers, there is only a small relaxation taking effect from the 1st of October: those who are fully vaccinated and with existing residence status of residence are now required to self-isolate at home for only 10 days after arrival; it had been 14 days previously.
Unfortunately, anyone without an existing entry permit is still unable to enter Japan. For further details and updates, please refer to the advisory information outlined by JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organization).
Over 58% of the population in Japan are now fully vaccinated. It is expected that people will start dining out and travelling again whilst still taking precautions such as wearing masks, sanitising hands and measuring temperature, which have all become common place.
Taking tests prior to long distance travel is still encouraged, with testing centres being installed at some airports, including Tokyo Haneda, with certificates for negative test results issued on site. However this is more for peace of mind than a requirement to travel.
Our green season in Hokkaido is coming to an end, and we are now preparing for snowy winter adventures! We look forward to enquiries from travellers and are taking bookings for our winter tours.
We will keep you posted here on any further relaxation on entry to Japan from abroad. Stay tuned!
Update on 13 September, 2021
The current measures are extended to September 30th
The number of new cases is declining steadily nationwide, however, the number of patients with severe symptoms remains high. As a result, our government extended the current State of Emergency (SoE) in 19 prefectures until the end of this month. That means that here in Hokkaido the current measures remain in place in Sapporo, Asahikawa and Otaru, as well as the regions around Sapporo.
In the targeted areas, bars have been closed and the operating hours shortened at restaurants and shops. People are being asked to avoid unnecessary travel but there are no lockdowns in place and daily life continues, albeit cautiously. Outside of the targeted areas, businesses continue to operate and we continue to travel whilst taking the now familiar precautions.
We, like everyone, are hoping this extension is going to be the last one. Almost a half of the Japanese population has now received two doses of the covid-19 vaccine, and the government is aiming to have everyone eligible and willing fully vaccinated by around November. The government is planning at that point to relax restrictions around travel, serving alcohol and large-scale events.
There is no significant change for international travel. However, fully vaccinated people who are still eligible to enter Japan (i.e. Japanese citizens & those with resident status), could see the quarantine period to be reduced from 14 to 10 days under a proposal expected to take effect as early as the end of September.
Update on 27 August, 2021
Hokkaido under the State of Emergency until 12 September
Like much of the world, Japan is currently experiencing a surge in cases with the delta variant spreading here too. Hokkaido has also seen an increase in infections, mainly in the population centers. To address the rising infection rate the current Priority Preventative Measures (Semi-State of Emergency) for Hokkaido have been elevated to a State of Emergency (SoE), taking effect from today the 27th of August until the 12 of September, 2021.
There are two different levels of measures within Hokkaido; Otaru, Asahikawa, Sapporo and the seven cities surrounding Sapporo (Ebetsu, Chitose, Eniwa, Kitahiroshima, Ishikari, Toubetsu and Shinshinotsu) are higher priority areas with stricter measures around restaurants offering alcohol and karaoke. All in all, people in Hokkaido are requested to refrain from unnecessary outings and travel.
The SoE is also expanded to seven other prefectures; Miyagi, Gifu, Aichi, Mie, Shiga, Okayama and Hiroshima, now indicating that 21 of Japan’s 47 prefectures are under the SoE up until the 12th of September unless otherwise extended again.
We at Adventure Hokkaido will remain open for business through the State of Emergency. The overnight tours we have scheduled in the rest of the green season (that is, our Japan’s Far North and Japan’s Far East) operate on dates unaffected by the SoE. For extra peace of mind we are limiting the numbers of these tours to keep the group size small and private. We will hold off running our Day tours until the SoE is lifted or until further notice.
We have been conducting antigen tests on all our guests and guides pre- and post-tour to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Fortunately we have all tested negative and clear throughout, but we are also aware of the limitation and uncertainty of the effectiveness of the antigen tests for the purpose of screening people with no symptoms.
In the light of the current travel advice, Adventure Hokkaido will ask all our guests to be fully vaccinated before travelling with us, and likewise we will assign our guides who are also fully vaccinated, while Hokkaido and/or the place of residence of our guests is under an SoE.
See the Cabinet Secretariat Covid-19 information for the latest official updates.
See the Covid-19 Situation Report in Japan for the latest stats by prefecture.
Update on 18 August, 2021
Further extension and expansion until 12 September
Our government announced yesterday (17 Aug) that the current state of emergency has been extended to the 12th of September with seven more prefectures added. They are Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka Prefectures.
Likewise, the current Priority Preventative Measures (semi-state of emergency) have also been extended to the 12th of September, with the addition of ten more prefectures; Miyagi, Yamanashi, Toyama, Gifu, Mie, Okayama, Hiroshima, Kagawa, Ehime and Kagoshima Prefectures.
Hokkaido also remains under the current Priority Preventative Measures until the 12th of September. However, eight cities and towns surrounding Sapporo have been newly added to the list. They are Ebestsu, Chitose, Eniwa, Kitahiroshima, Ishikari, Toubetsu, Shinshinotsu, and Otaru. This evening, the Hokkaido Governor announced that Asahikawa, our neighbouring city, has also been added to the list, to make a total of ten cities and towns in Hokkaido that are under the Priority Preventative Measures.
See the Cabinet Secretariat Covid-19 information for the latest updates.
Update on 2 August, 2021
State of Emergency extended and expanded
In response to a rising number of cases, especially in the large cities, the Japanese government has expanded the State of Emergency to cover Osaka, the prefectures surrounding Tokyo (Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa), in addition to Tokyo and Okinawa prefectures. The government also extended the State of Emergency until the 31st of August.
The national government also designated five prefectures for “Priority Preventative Measures“, including Hokkaido. However, the Hokkaido prefectural government is currently choosing to focus the measures on Sapporo, the largest city in Hokkaido, and areas that we visit on our current tours are unaffected by the new measures.
See the Cabinet Secretariat Covid-19 information for the latest updates.
Update on 25 July, 2021
What are the current restrictions in Japan?
The Japanese constitution prevents the government from imposing lockdowns like those seen in other countries. Instead the government can restrict business hours and request people to stay at home through declaring a state of emergency or targeting an area with “priority preventative measures”. Prefectural governments can also impose restrictions in specific areas and Hokkaido’s governor has been proactive throughout the pandemic.
People living in areas under a state of emergency are being asked to only go out when essential. Travelling to and from prefectures under a state of emergency should also be avoided unless essential. The most recent state of emergency in Hokkaido finished on the 20th June, 2021. Currently, Tokyo and Okinawa Prefectures are under a state of emergency until the 22nd August, 2021.
Click here for the up to date status by Cabinet Secretariat
Practically it is like the state of emergency but with lighter measures, for example restaurants are still being asked to close by 8pm (9pm in some places), but are allowed to serve alcohol up to 7pm. People living in areas under priority preventative measures are also being asked to limit travel to over prefectures. Currently, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, and Osaka Prefectures are under priority preventative measures until the 22nd of August, 2021.
Can I travel to Hokkaido now?
- Domestic travel
Currently domestic travel is being undertaken with caution, both for leisure and for business. The Japan Tourism Agency outlined guidelines for travellers and these are being adhered to well.
- International travel
Officially there is a ban on entry from the majority of countries and single entry visas have been suspended for all other countries. This effectively means that Japan is closed for travel for anyone without “special exceptional circumstances”.
While the government is introducing vaccine passports this month, there is still no information on when the border restrictions will begin to lift.
Click here for the border enforcement measures by Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Hotels and restaurants
Some hotels had closed over the period of time when the state of emergency was imposed. Most of them have now returned to regular business after the state of emergency was lifted and are now catering for people travelling on their summer vacations. Likewise some restaurants were limited to reserved guests only at one time, but they have also gone back to normal business.
In Hokkaido, like much of the world, we sense the trend of spending time outdoors is picking up even more under Covid. Many Japanese campers and hikers are enjoying the outdoors in small groups of close family and friends.
Vaccination status in Hokkaido
After a slow start the rate of vaccination has picked up in Hokkaido and vaccination for those in the health care sector is almost done. Vaccination for the general public is handled at each municipal level so the speed and the prevalence differ from town to town. Generally speaking, those who are aged 65 or above are taking their first shot in July. Younger age groups are waiting for the next announcement to be made by their local councils. At the time of writing, about the 21% of Hokkaido’s population has been fully vaccinated and at the current rate of vaccination, Hokkaido’s population could be fully vaccinated by the end of the year.
Update on 20 July, 2020
Adventure in Hokkaido today
The novel coronavirus hasn’t totally disappeared from this island. However, the tourism and hospitality businesses have come out of some closing periods and restarted to accommodate more and more customers and visitors as the summer season kicks in. The roads, hiking trails, and camping grounds have come to life again with people – mostly local tourists – who seem to be enjoying domestic travel and adventures closer to home than usual years.
“Is Hokkaido open to adventure?” – We were recently asked this question, so here is a summary of what we are observing locally these days.
Hiking trails – As far as we know, apart from one trail to Mt Poroshiri-dake in the Hidaka region, there is no hiking trail in Hokkaido that has been closed due to the covid-19. However, the huts that are normally manned with wardens are not manned this year. They remain available as emergency shelters, and people are encouraged to sleep in tents within the designated area.
Accommodation – Due to the Hokkaido government subsidy scheme to boost the local tourism by Hokkaido residents, there are signs of revival in the hospitality sector. The accommodation facilities are taking all possible measures to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection. A very perceptible example we witnessed recently was to set out all dining tables and chairs spaciously, facing in one direction, so that no one is facing one another. It felt a little awkward but that’s a new normal we need to get used to!
Our borders are not yet open to everyone to travel freely, as the travel restrictions are still in place like your countries. However, we remain open for business as a tour operator, and to our great delight, we’ve been able to serve people from other regions of Japan who are looking for a summer getaway in the north. We are grateful for the support given towards the local tourism, and look forward to sharing the Hokkaido outdoors with local adventurers this summer.
Update on 26 May, 2020
State of emergency is now lifted at all prefectural levels
It was announced yesterday evening that the government is lifting the emergency declaration for the five remaining prefectures, where the state of emergency was still in effect. One of the five was our home Hokkaido.
Although the declaration is removed, Hokkaido Government urges that we continue to refrain from unnecessary outings and travelling to/from Sapporo until the 31st May, due to the city still having new cases daily.
Our team at Adventure Hokkaido follows the measure mentioned above as well as the new guideline outlined by Hokkaido Government as below, so called “New Hokkaido Style”:
- Wear a mask and wash hands frequently
- Self-manage our health
- Ventilate indoor spaces regularly
- Clean and disinfect sequentially touched surfaces and objects
- Reduce close contact between people
- Encourage cough and sneeze etiquette and hand washing among customers
- Keep customers informed of these protective measures and efforts
All the businesses in Hokkaido are asked to cooperate with this guideline in order to promote new ways of carrying on with our life and businesses all across the island while combating the novel coronavirus. We will ensure that the suppliers we use on tours also follow this guideline in their operations. International travel restrictions remain in place, which we will keep monitoring closely and update here if there’s any movement.
Update on 5 May, 2020
State of emergency now extended to the end of May
The nation-wide state of emergency, which was originally set to expire on the 6 May, is now extended to the 31 May. This measure is applied to all across the prefectures including Hokkaido. There is a possibility that the state of emergency may be lifted earlier than the end of May, if the expert panel deems it appropriate to do so. Our team at Adventure Hokkaido remains in the same operation from home until the state of emergency is lifted at our prefectural level.
Update on 18 April, 2020
Situation in Japan and Hokkaido
For many it has been a long and uphill battle, and Hokkaido has been no exception. Our prefecture had its first case on 28th January 2020, and is now undergoing its second more severe wave of COVID-19. The national state of emergency takes effect from the 18 April to the 6 May, and we are urged to refrain from any non-essential outings across prefectural borders to help contain the virus.
Within Hokkaido, a measure of the same kind is applied to travel in and out of Sapporo City which has the highest coronavirus infection cases in Hokkaido. Although this is not a mandated lockdown, we are urged to reduce person-to-person contact by 80% to allow the state of emergency to be lifted as currently scheduled.
Situation at Adventure Hokkaido
Our team members and families at Adventure Hokkaido have managed to stay free from infection, and we are taking all the necessary precautions according to the advice given by the central and local authorities. We continue to work from home, retaining our normal office hours. We are able to correspond to enquiries by email and phone as usual during the state of emergency.
Now is not the time to travel, but here in Hokkaido we stay in good spirits and are adventurers in our own shelters. We hope you stay safe and well until we can all overcome this crisis together.
Currently, extensive travel restrictions are put in place in the area of entry, visa, quarantine and airports/ports for arrival (for details please refer to the link below). Both international and domestic flights have been reduced significantly, and inter-city bus and railway continue to operate less frequently. Furthermore, facilities such as museums, theme parks, shopping malls will largely remain closed.
Up-to-date information in English
Here are some useful links for the latest updates in English.