May 25, 2020
Whether virtually strolling gardens in Kyoto or keeping a live stream of Shibuya Crossing open in a tab at all times, Japan is kinda sorta always on our minds—especially as coronavirus cases around the region wane and the prospect of travel opening up becomes more realistic.
Last week, Japanese officials approved a plan to remove the coronavirus state of emergency from Tokyo and four other prefectures, allowing schools, public facilities and businesses to reopen in phases in the coming weeks while watching any signs of a resurgence of infections. So, with this good news, we have begun plotting our next adventure to the country.
As one of the country’s most spiritual sites, eminently peaceful Koyasan is exactly the type of place to ease you back into travel. The thickly forested settlement is nestled in the mountains of northern Wakayama Prefecture and is dotted with more than 120 temples and monasteries within a span of a 40-minute walk. Since Koyasan’s population is only 3,000, with a thousand of them being monks or monks in training, social distancing will be no problem.
2. Okinawa Prefecture
Stretches of sandy beaches, subtropical forests, and an abundance of rich cultural sites, laidback Okinawa Prefecture screams vacation. On Okinawa’s main island, you’ll still have the world-class cuisine and charming, tiny alleyways that Japan is known for, but with a mix of indigenous Okinawan, mainland Japanese, and American influences. Head further to the far-flung Yaeyama or Miyako Islands to find a rarely visited paradise.
Right before the coronavirus outbreak, Kyoto had just debuted some seriously cool new places for stylish eating and sleeping, plus new and improved spots where you can boost your cultural IQ (check out our guide here). Pensive garden and temple strolls can now end at the imperial city’s newest hotels or hip restaurants.
Images of Tokyo’s neon-lit streets and covert izakayas are what motivated us to get through quarantine. A confluence of the hyper-modern and traditional, Tokyo is a dream of a destination. The sprawling city is so big that we will always have something to uncover or a new area to explore. Plus, the Japanese adhere to top-notch hygienic standards, and wearing a mask is the norm, so despite the swarming population, it’s actually one of the few metropolises we wouldn’t be nervous navigating in the wake of the virus.
A zippy Shinkonsan ride trip outside of Tokyo, Hakone is a destination that ticks all the boxes with hikes, history, and dreamy natural landscapes. Quarantine days will feel far behind you from the shores of Lake Ashi where Mount Fuji stands tall in the backdrop. The city is also home to the Hakone Open-Air Museum, which features works from Picasso and Renoir in addition to a host of outdoor contemporary sculptures.