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U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Japan
Welcome to Japan
The U.S. Embassy and consulates in Japan are pleased to welcome U.S. citizen visitors back to Japan!
We encourage you to follow us on Twitter ( @ACSTokyo ) and Facebook ( @ACSTokyo ). Travelers should also consider enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
U.S. military members and family with SOFA status should contact their chain of command directly for guidance and adhere to the processes described in the Foreign Clearance Guide.
Visa Free Travel for U.S. Citizen Tourists
Currently, tourists with U.S. passports do not need visas for short-term visits (up to three months).
Because travel regulations and restrictions are complex and are subject to change with little notice , the U.S. Embassy strongly urges any U.S. citizens considering travel to Japan to carefully review the information available from the Government of Japan. Travelers who are unsure of their eligibility to travel to Japan should contact the nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for additional information.
Effective as of midnight April 29, 2023 (Japan time), all travelers arriving in Japan will no longer need to present proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test certificate. For more info: https://www.mhlw.go.jp/stf/covid-19/bordercontrol.html.
Military travelers arriving in Japan under the Status of Forces Agreement should consult with their chain of command to ensure they understand any applicable requirements prior to beginning travel.
The U.S. Embassy’s ability to intervene on behalf of travelers denied boarding at their point of embarkation or denied entry upon arrival to Japan is extremely limited, and those travelers denied entry at Japanese ports of entry will likely be immediately reboarded on flights back to the United States.
Please note travel and entry requirements are subject to frequent change. For more information and the most recent guidance, please reach out to Japanese embassy or consulate closest to your location: https://www.mofa.go.jp/about/emb_cons/over/index.html
Travelers entering Japan may use the Electronic Customs Declaration Gates (e-Gates) for customs clearance, which reduces human-to-human contact. Travelers may wish to learn more about the program before arriving in Japan. Please see the Japan Customs website for details.
COVID-19 in Japan
Currently, there are no COVID-19 testing , proof of vaccination, or quarantine requirements to travel to Japan. However, we strongly recommend all U.S. citizens carefully review the information on Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) website , which provides official guidance. While COVID-19 testing is not required for entry into Japan, a non-comprehensive list of some COVID-19 testing facilities can be found on the Embassy website , should travelers require testing for travel to other countries.
Know Before You Go: Prohibited Substances
Many common medications and over-the-counter drugs in the United States are illegal in Japan, regardless of whether you have a valid U.S. prescription. If you bring it with you, you risk arrest and detention by Japanese authorities. It is your responsibility to ensure you understand what substances are prohibited. The U.S. Embassy and consulates in Japan do not maintain a comprehensive list of prohibited medications or substances. Comprehensive information is available only from the Japanese government and is subject to change without notice. Please check Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (MHLW) website , including the FAQ , or email [email protected] before traveling to Japan.
Travelers who need to bring more than the MLHW’s approved quantity of medication or medical devices should obtain a “Yunyu Kakunin-sho” (importation certificate) prior to traveling and present it with the prescription to a customs officer upon arrival in Japan. Certificate approval by the Japanese government may take several weeks to process and should be received before bringing the medication or medical devices to Japan.
All travelers entering Japan with a prescription medication, including medication that is not restricted in Japan, should consider bringing a copy of their doctor’s prescription as well as a letter stating the purpose of the drug.
For more information about bringing medicines into Japan and how to obtain a “Yunyu Kakunin-sho” certificate, please visit the website of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and email [email protected] .
When you make your email inquiry to [email protected] , please include the following information:
- The drug’s active ingredients
- The name of the medicine
- The dosage and quantity
- Your e-mail address
Make sure you carry your passport at all times during your trip to Japan. It is a legal requirement and local police may ask to check your identification. Your passport should be valid for the duration of your stay. If you plan to travel to other countries during your trip, be sure to check the passport validity and visa requirements of each country.
Lost or Stolen Passports
The Embassy is ready to help U.S. citizens replace passports that are lost or stolen. We will work with you to replace your passport as expeditiously as possible. Our ability to issue passports outside of our business hours is extremely limited. More information can be found here .
Emergencies in Japan
Ensuring the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas is the Department of State’s top priority. U.S. citizens needing urgent assistance should contact us by using our inquiry form or phone (03-3224-5000). If you need after-hours assistance in an emergency, please call 03-3224-5000 and ask to speak with the Embassy’s duty officer.
- Emergency Contact Information for U.S. citizens
- Emergency Preparedness for U.S. citizens in Japan
- Sources of Help, including counseling services
Medical Assistance in Japan
- Medical Assistance
- Japan National Tourism Organization’s Official Guide for when you are feeling ill.
Additional Useful Information:
The Embassy has compiled lists of resources that may have the answer you’re looking for.
- Driving in Japan
- Importing or Bringing Medication into Japan for Personal Use
- Legal Assistance
- A-Z Index of Topics
Japan is a seismically active country with frequent earthquakes, typhoons , and other natural disasters. In some cases, earthquakes can lead to tsunamis . In the event of a disaster during your travel, authorities will provide guidance on what to do in the immediate aftermath. In some cases, an alarm may sound just before an earthquake or other disaster strikes the area. The Japanese government pushes safety alerts to users via several apps, including at least one that provides English language information: the Japan National Tourism Organization’s Safety Tips app.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has a Disaster Prevention Information website with information on how to respond to a natural disaster in the area.
More information can be found on our website .
Visas to Japan and Immigration Information
Visas for U.S. citizens hoping to travel, study or work in Japan are controlled by the Japanese government. While the Japanese Government is the ultimate authority on visa matters, we include some general information on visas for U.S. citizens to aid in your planning. U.S. citizens without a work visa cannot work in Japan. Please check here for detailed information.
The Immigration Services Agency of Japan has established Information Centers and One-Stop Consultation Centers to handle telephone, in-person and e-mail inquiries in Japanese and foreign languages. Contact information for Centers in different prefectures is listed here .
Follow us on Social Media
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The information above is general information provided to the embassy by the relevant local authorities and is subject to change at any time with little or no notice. The U.S. Embassy assumes no liability for inaccuracies in the information above. U.S. citizens wishing to obtain any further or more tailored information must contact the relevant local authority.
Please call your nearest Consulate or Embassy:
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Travel Posters > Japan
Japan Travel Poster
By henry rivers.
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Founded in 2015 by artist Henry Rivers , Travel Poster Co. create vintage style travel posters with a contemporary twist. To keep up to date with our latest designs follow Travel Poster Co. on Instagram and Facebook .
Travel poster details
This is an original vintage travel poster design by contemporary artist Henry Rivers . Inspired by vintage travel advertising of the 20th century, Henry illustrates the world’s best-loved places with cool colours, playful details and a minimalist style.
This vintage travel poster of Japan depicts Mount Fuji with the iconic bullet train crossing a high bridge in the foreground. A minimalist take on the Japan travel poster, this design rests solely of three of Japan’s most adored attractions: the volcano; the bullet train; and the cherry blossom. The text reads Visit Japan.
Keywords: japan, vintage travel poster, mount fuji, mountain, blossom, bullet train, train, bridge, vintage, retro, travel, illustration, art, poster, art print, henry rivers
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Editor’s Letter: Celebrating Our Long-Anticipated Return to Asia
By Jesse Ashlock
Like so many travelers, my family spent the first couple of years of the pandemic dreaming of visiting a place that was very far away and had become very, very inaccessible to visitors. In our case, it was South Korea , where my wife was born. We'd last visited in 2015, when our daughter was learning to walk and our son, as I've often joked since, was with us but we didn't know it yet. We promised the family there that we'd be back within five years, but COVID-19 intervened.
As they got older, the kids were becoming increasingly interested in their Korean heritage, thanks in no small part to the online tae kwon do classes they began taking during lockdown, which then turned into IRL classes. In early 2022, as it became clear that South Korea was readying to reopen its borders, we booked our tickets, and we went last spring.
When we arrived in Seoul , the cherry blossoms were in full bloom, people were out in droves soaking up the balmy spring weather, and the city seemed even more dynamic than I'd remembered. The family had aged a lot—as had we—but they were in great spirits and so absolutely delighted by our children. We went with them to Gyeongbokgung Palace, one of the city's most famous cultural landmarks, where the kids wore hanboks we'd bought for them earlier in the trip, and then wandered along Myeongdong Street food alley, where I could not stop buying spicy snacks from vendors. The vacation also included a pilgrimage to Lotte World Adventure, the planet's largest indoor theme park, which our son professed to be the best day of his life; a day at Donuimun Museum Village, a time capsule transporting you to the Seoul of 50 years ago, which I wrote about in the September issue ; and a side trip to the coastal city of Gyeongju, the capital of the ancient Silla kingdom. We returned home exhausted but also full of gratitude.
Last year, as South Korea, Japan , Vietnam , and other Asian countries reopened their borders, a host of publications, including this one, heralded the “return to Asia.” But no one had really had a chance to visit at that point, so at the time, we also planned this issue to report on what it felt like to actually return to Asia. The stories we got include Danielle Demetriou's gentle meditation on nature, art, and Ainu tradition on the Japanese island of Hokkaido; Gary Shteyngart's own return to Korea, to the magical island of Jeju, with his wife (also Korean American) and son; and Alex Bhattacharji's visit to India with two prominent Indian American restaurateurs.
Alex's story, I should note, is both a return to India and a commentary on the nature of diaspora. This issue also features a number of stories not set in Asia, including R.O. Kwon's exploration of Asian art and food in Paris; Sarah Khan's spotlight on the Cape Malay creatives of Cape Town; and Dan Q. Dao's report on the rise of Viet-Texan cuisine in Houston (part of a much larger digital package on diasporic Asian communities in the US and Canada). These pieces showcase the ways that Asian thought and culture touches virtually every corner of the globe, producing the kinds of unexpected synergies and happy accidents that make this world so endlessly fascinating. This article appeared in the December 2023 issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Subscribe to the magazine here .
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Steeped in tradition and the harmony of ancient sites and natural wonders.
Take in all the sights of Tokyo on a cruise to Japan. As the country’s capital city, Tokyo is Japan’s leading center of business and finance yet also boasts deep roots in history. In the heart of the city, a dense forest glade shrouds visitors from the bustle and houses the Meiji Shrine, its setting symbolizing the separation of the spiritual from the worldly. Nearby, surrounded by stone walls, park area and moats, stands the Imperial Palace. With the Tokyo Tower and Mt. Fuji in view, experience the harmony of modern and ancient on a cruisetour of Japan.
Highlights of Japan Cruisetours
Embark on a magical voyage that leads you along the shores of Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido. Visit Nara’s impressive Todaiji Temple and the breathtaking Kasuga Taisha Shrine. Gaze out over the city from Tokyo’s Skytree Tembo Deck perched 1,148 feet. Experience the breathtaking beauty of Kyoto with stops at Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion) and Nijo Castle.
Discover the beauty of Japan
Japan is a study in contrasts: tranquil retreats of profound beauty lay just outside cities where skyscrapers soar over stunning temples and shrines. Neon-bright architecture and tranquil gardens vie for attention amid the colorful Harajuku district and traditional kimonos. As the No. 1 North American cruise line in Japan with the “Best Asia Itineraries † ,” you can be assured that Princess® will be your guide to the colors, cultures and flavors that define this exciting country.
† Porthole Magazine
Experience Japanese culture with an adventure in Tokyo that celebrates tea, the art of calligraphy, and the essence of the Japanese spirit. Get off the beaten path and discover Taketomi Island, the site of a beautifully preserved, traditional Ryukyu village just off the shore of Ishigaki. In Kochi, don a helmet and headlamp and explore the cavernous natural wonder known as the Ryugado Cave, a National Natural Monument. Stroll through a 17th-century garden and survey 700 years of history at a museum devoted to Satsuma’s Shimazu clan in Kagoshima.
Photo: A Buddhist temple in Kyoto
Princess Cruises is a proud partner of the Japan National Tourism Organization .
Japan Cruise Departure Ports
Cruise from tokyo (yokohama).
There’s probably no other city on earth that embraces the future while honoring its beloved past the way Tokyo does. From its captivating architecture to its meticulously maintained gardens, shrines and temples, Tokyo never fails to delight and inspire. Here, you can learn the miraculous legend surrounding Sensoji, Tokyo’s oldest temple; savor the perfect cup of tea during a traditional tea ceremony; or peer into steaming sulfur springs inside Japan’s famed Hakone National Park, home of Mount Fuji.
Cruise from Kobe
This prominent port may be famous for its succulent beef, but it’s also renowned as the gateway to the splendid sights of Kyoto, Osaka and Nara. Kobe was once considered the cradle of Japanese art and culture during the 8th century. Through Kobe, you can access Nara, home to the immense Todaiji Temple, which holds a bronze Buddha statue that is nearly 50 feet tall and weighs 500 tons!
Let Your Asia Cruise Journey Begin
Lifestyle & culture.
Delight in a traditional Bunraku puppet show, recognized as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, in Osaka. Grab a wicker basket and head to the fields for a hands-on tea-picking adventure in the countryside of Shimizu. Discover the health benefits and social atmosphere of an “onsen” hot spring bath in Aomori. Tour Kagoshima’s shochu factory and learn how grains and vegetables create one of Japan’s spirited elixirs.
Photo: Ashiyu Foot Bath at Japanese Hot Springs in Tokyo
Natural wonders & landscapes
Be dazzled by the panoramic views of Japan's iconic Mount Fuji, an active volcano and the most popular tourist site in the country. Admire the spectacular views of Akita’s Oga peninsula, home of Godzilla Rock and mythical creatures called “Namahage.” Take in the sheer magnificence of Shiretoko Peninsula, an acclaimed Condé Nast Traveler 7 Cruise Wonders of the World – it may just leave you breathless.
Photo: Mount Fuji
Festivals and unique experiences
Japan is a land of festivals and on select sailings you can experience the mesmerizing spectacle known as the Awa Odori Dance Festival in Tokushima, gaze in awe at the Kumano Grand Festival of fireworks, or get an up-close look at the exquisite parade floats used in Aomori’s annual Nebuta festival.
Photo: Nebuta Festival in Aomori
Onboard enrichment on Japan cruises
The journey is as extraordinary as the destination when you travel to Japan with Princess® – awarded "Best Cruise Line in Asia." From the time you step on board a Japan cruise, you’ll be surrounded by a wide variety of Japanese sights, sounds and flavors. Delight in the 400-year-old tradition of comic storytelling known as “rakugo.” Join in an evening of karaoke and watch folkloric dancers bring Japanese culture to life. Watch Japanese-inspired films with Movies Under the Stars®. Indulge in delicious regional dishes from the Noodle Bar or freshly prepared sushi. Sample spirited drinks such as fine Japanese whiskeys, sake and shochu. †
Photo: Japanese singers entertain on board
† Available on select itineraries.
Landmarks & Cultural Masterpieces
Explore Kochi Castle, a designated Japanese National Treasure, and the only castle in the country with its original wooded interior, castle tower, and impressive entrance still intact. Step into Japan’s ancient past with a tour of Aomori’s Sannai-Maruyama ruins, which date back 5,500 years and are designated a Special National Historical Site. Get a bird’s-eye view of Tokyo and Mount Fuji from the special observatory atop Tokyo Tower. Wander through the narrow, winding streets of Kanazawa’s samurai district known as Nagamachi Samurai House Row, which sits at the foot of Kanazawa Castle.
Photo: Otori Gate in Hiroshima
Art & museums
Admire the delicate work of 19th century "ukiyo-e," traditional woodblock prints, with a tour of Shimizu's Tokaido Hiroshige Art Museum. Continue your artistic journey as modern bronze statues depicting the spirit monsters known as "yokai,' greet you along the streets of Sakaiminato.
Photo: Traditional Japanese 'ukiyo-e' woodblock painting
UNESCO world heritage sites
The Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji, and Otsu Cities) is comprised of 17 locations in Japan within Kyoto and vicinity; including 13 Buddhist temples, 3 Shinto Shrines and one castle. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) is the only structure that survived the first atomic bomb (8/6/45), it has been preserved in the same state as immediately after the bombing. Nara (30 minutes from downtown Osaka) is home to 8 UNESCO sites, many conveniently located in the city center.
Photo: The Golden Pavilion in Kyoto, Japan
Japan Cruise Travel Articles
A cruise to Japan will unveil the world's oldest cultures and most modern metropolises, featuring intricate designs and sweeping vistas.
Explore Tokyo's Gardens on a Cruise to Japan
Hidden within the radiant lights and exhilarating sounds of Tokyo are tranquil garden sanctuaries. Put one on your must-see list when you cruise to Japan.
Planning a Japan Vacation: Three Must-See Cultural Attractions
Planning a Japan vacation? Put these three must-see attractions on your itinerary as you cruise Japan.
Meaningful Experiences on Japan Cruises: Discover the History of Japan Through Its Majestic Architecture
Japan cruises will afford you a unique look into Japanese culture with visits to famous national treasures such as the Golden Pavilion and Nijo Castle.
3 South Korean Temples to Visit on a Korea and Japan Cruise
Enjoy the tranquility that surrounds these three famous South Korean temples on your next Japan cruise to Korea.
Travel, Airfare, & Hotels: Let Princess Get You There
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Remove the hassle from air travel and give yourself the gift of flexibility, time and a thicker wallet with Princess EZair flights. We negotiate lower rates with the airlines, allow you to modify your flight up to 45 days prior with no penalty and protect you if your flight is late or canceled.
EZair flight quotes are available on our cruise search result details pages.
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We get you where you need to go
Let Princess pick you up from the airport and take you directly to your ship or hotel when you arrive, even if you didn't book your airfare through us. A uniformed Princess representative meets you at the airport after you've retrieved your luggage and transports you directly to your ship or hotel without you having to worry about the logistics of navigating a new city.
Cruise Plus Hotel Packages
Stay longer and relax
Extend your cruise vacation, and simplify your travel plans with a hotel stay at the beginning or end of your cruise. With a Cruise Plus Hotel Package, a Princess representative meets you at the airport and pier, transporting you to and from your hotel. The package includes the cost of your hotel stay, transportation, luggage handling and the services of the representative.
Need help planning?
Princess Cruise Vacation Planners are a dedicated resource to help you every step of the way through the planning process of your cruise vacation. And the best part is, they are absolutely FREE!
Cruise deals & promotions
Find our top sales, deals, partnerships and promotions for our destinations all in one place. We run promotions throughout the year and sometimes run sweepstakes where you could win prizes!
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The little truck that could: A fresh way to tour Japan's north
Kei-class vehicles are made for narrow streets and crisscrossing rice paddies. they’re also great for exploring the lesser-known corners of japan..
Standing at the summit of Hokkaido’s highest peak, I’m overcome with relief. It’s as though I’d been holding my breath the entire climb up.
Behind me, Mount Asahidake descends into an arid valley, its surface pockmarked by volcanic vents that gradually give way to a sea of greenery. Eventually, the fields turn into the gray mass of Asahikawa, Hokkaido’s second-largest city and one of its coldest.
No bears, heatstroke nor breakdowns (emotional or mechanical) have kept me from this, the roof of Japan’s north. And, though I can’t see it from the summit, somewhere at the foot of the mountain among a thick alpine forest is the little green truck responsible.
“ Kei ,” short for kei-jidōsha (light automobile), refers to the smallest class of highway-legal cars in Japan. Recognizable for their compact dimensions and yellow plates, kei cars, trucks and vans can be seen zipping between tight streets and paddies in every corner of the archipelago.
My college flatmate, Blair Masters, and I acquired our little green Daihatsu HiJet kei truck in Niigata Prefecture, 1,300 kilometers south of where we now stand. Five prefectures, seven days, four tanks of gas and one ferry later, we’d pushed the little engine that could into the far north.
Barely exceeding 80 km per hour for the entire journey, we chose to drive a kei truck for many reasons, but among them was a chief desire to see what Japan’s ubiquitous well-loved fleet of light vehicles can do.
As it happens, they can do quite a lot.
Jacob Sooy knows kei trucks well. He runs Vans From Japan, a Sacramento-based Japanese vehicle import company. What started as a hobby in 2019 turned into a roaring trade thanks to North American demand for affordable, fuel-efficient Japanese imports. Sooy has since sold Japanese trucks in every U.S. state, including Hawaii and Alaska.
“Kei trucks tick a different box for everybody,” says Sooy. “For some, it is pure practicality. The size and capabilities make them ideal workhorses for rural landowners.”
Compared to most Western-made vehicles, kei trucks are almost comically small. Yet, these tight dimensions hide undeniable utility. Kei truck trailers are almost the same size as those of a standard American pickup truck, and their durability is practically equal over long distances.
“As long as you are not pushing them too hard, these little trucks will run forever,” adds Sooy.
Nonetheless, there is trepidation in the air when Blair and I pick up our truck from Osamu Watanabe, a Saigata-based mechanic who has kindly agreed to rent it to us for the month of August.
Though he supports the journey fully, Watanabe couldn’t help but laugh when I first brought the idea up, and he hands us the keys with an air of unease. The truck has already seen well over 150,000 kilometers in addition to many harsh, corrosive Niigata winters.
Concealed rust peaks out between gaps in and outside of the cabin, and the driver’s side window won’t go down.
“Just don’t take it on any highways,” he advises.
Cast in the red glow of our tail lights, Watanabe nervously waves us off into the night.
The next day, after hurriedly packing the deceptively roomy trailer with the cheapest, worst-quality camping gear money can buy, we carve up the coast to Nagaoka. To our left, the Sea of Japan sits under a parade of wispy clouds.
“What should we call it?” asks Blair, patting the dashboard. We consider.
“How about ‘Katie?’” I suggest, “Spelled ‘KT,’ for short.”
“Say no more,” Blair responds, stashing the first of many ice cream wrappers in the glove compartment. And so our steed is christened.
KT is among friends in Niigata, Japan’s foremost producer of rice. The prefecture’s roads, stained red from onsen (hot spring) water pumped down their centerlines during heavy snowfalls, are home to great fleets of farmers and their kei trucks.
That night, in the company of over a million spectators lining the banks of the Shinano, Japan’s longest river, we sit in awe as one of the nation’s foremost fireworks displays rattles KT’s chassis.
Ears still ringing the following afternoon, we cut an undulating route through southern Tohoku’s foothills. Niigata’s red roads disappear as oceans of pine and central Fukushima’s deep, rough-hewn valleys shape the winding road. KT’s little engine groans with each new degree of incline.
The long-suffering truck comes to a halt in Fukushima City at sunset. She sits perched on the top floor of a parking garage while we sit in the trailer, cook a meal on our camping stove and watch throngs of commuters rush in and out of Fukushima Station.
The 11-year-old drifter
“This is awesome!” exclaims Kevin Flynn, a Melbourne-based drift car racer and military driving instructor, surveying KT.
It’s mid-morning the next day and we’re at Ebisu Circuit , the home and birthplace of Japanese drifting. Flynn’s son, James , screeches round the corner in a custom orange Toyota, enveloping us in a cloud of acrid tire smoke.
At 11 years old, James is already a ranked racer and looks set for a long, fruitful career on the track — though he can only just reach the pedals.
Kevin gives KT the once over, checks her wheels and interior. He knows his cars, so any praise from him carries weight.
“God I want one of these,” he says.
Grins plaster our faces while James howls round the corner again. I ask Kevin what he finds so appealing about the truck and he shrugs: “It’s just cool.”
Kevin owns a kei van back in Australia and is keen to import more for his personal use. He reflects a growing trend among drivers around the world who are slowly recognizing the benefits, practical and otherwise, of Japan’s kei fleet.
Vans From Japan’s Sooy agrees.
“(The kei truck’s) popularity is exploding,” he says. “As more people import and purchase them, more people see them, want them and buy them.
“Size and fuel economy are probably the primary inherent benefits,” Sooy continues, referring to the truck’s engine which, on average, consumes half the fuel of a standard American pickup truck over the same distance. Kei trucks are also relatively cheap. Including import fees, the average secondhand truck goes for under $10,000.
“They’re very cheap to repair,” adds Blair, a mechanical engineer by trade who eagerly researched kei-class vehicles for weeks before the trip. “The whole thing is mostly mechanical with few electrical components to fail, and very cheap to replace once they break.”
He also notes KT’s versatility, especially her four-wheel drive functionality, which he says provides “undeserved confidence going off road.”
Leaving Ebisu, we roll KT into her natural habitat: low, flat rice fields. Soon, she is back among her brood. Sun-bleached kei trucks zip along Fukushima’s quiet coastal plains. The featureless scenery has an eerie atmosphere, as enormous black bags filled with irradiated soil begin to line the road. In the distance, a gleaming white sea wall looms, and it occurs to Blair and I where we are, and what happened here over a decade ago.
Shades of blue and green
At The Great East Japan Earthquake and Nuclear Disaster Memorial Museum , we meet Rina Nakamura, a local from the nearby town of Futaba. Nakamura was in the Philippines on March 11, 2011. When the nearby nuclear plant began to melt down and Futaba was evacuated, the ensuing chaos and destruction of homes, records and infrastructure meant she was unable to contact her mother for over three months.
As if on cue, her mother appears and introduces herself. Cheerful and exceedingly resilient, she was one of the few Fukushima residents who returned to Futaba when the evacuation order was lifted in February 2022.
It’s late evening, and the museum is closing. We drive KT to the top of the nearby sea wall. The Pacific, roaring and blue, crashes upon a beach of fine white sand. It looks peculiarly dangerous and uninviting, more akin to an industrial site with its network of buoys strung between stolid ferroconcrete outcrops.
On the horizon, red lights atop the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant’s silhouetted towers blink through a veil of late evening sea fog. We stand in silence and survey the scene, trying to wrap our heads around how we’re at the sight of the most severe nuclear meltdown since Chernobyl. After a while, I give up trying to comprehend what I’m seeing, climb into KT and set a course for Sendai.
We pull into Tohoku’s largest city at dusk, following a growling motorway lined with signs for beef bowl joints, car dealerships and love hotels. The air is hot, drenched in a purple evening haze, and it’s dark by the time we pull KT into the gravel parking lot of our guesthouse.
Soon we’re on a local train bound for the central city and the bars therein, road beers in hand and two more in our bellies. The next morning, we wake battling hangovers. With 10 minutes to check out, we pile into KT.
Once more we’re headed inland, and KT’s engine protests as though it knows what we’re about to put her through. Miyagi Prefecture’s mountains rear up before us, each silhouette a matte shade of pastel blue.
KT disappears deep into these folds. The road markings fall away, and we find ourselves driving slowly and carefully up a single-lane road scarcely wider than a footpath. The cabin glows green from the encroaching forest and fog layers KT in a film of glistening dew. Her engine strains for every meter the green tunnel creeps upward. Then, waterfalls appear on both sides of the eroding tarmac. I’m reminded of how, in Shinto belief, the deep mountains are where the corporeal and spirit worlds intertwine.
A locked gate shatters the illusion, barring KT from leaving the valley and crossing into Yamagata Prefecture. The forest is slightly less magical on the hour-long return, and we rattle slowly downhill in search of the highway.
Morale sinks, yet Blair reminds me that, for all the hours spent in KT’s cramped cabin, these detours are part of why we’re driving our little green truck and not riding a shinkansen.
The only way to travel
Journey over destination may be a cliche, but it’s also part of what inspires travelers across Japan to eschew the nation’s high-speed infrastructure in favor of slower, more ponderous adventures.
Haruka Makiuchi and Kanta Sasaki are two such travelers. From April 2022 until July 2023, the couple roamed the length and breadth of Japan in their retrofitted Suzuki Carry kei van. They documented their travels on Instagram and YouTube under the username @harukan_tv, amassing some 3,000 followers across both channels.
They’re part of Japan’s growing community of kei van-based travel influencers, forgoing office jobs and mortgages in favor of adventurous, unpredictable lives on the road.
“I want to enjoy nature more than famous sightseeing spots. To find a way of life for myself (among) places, things and atmospheres,” says Makiuchi, explaining why she and her partner both embarked on their year-long odyssey.
They chose their kei van because it was inexpensive and easy to maintain, drive and park. The engine’s relative lack of horsepower wasn’t necessarily a drawback, not least because it encouraged them to take scenic routes that exposed them to stories and places they’d have otherwise zipped by.
There appears a growing urge among Japanese travelers to seek unbeaten paths that veer away from the nation’s comfortable network of trains, hotels and sightseeing hot spots. In 2022, the Japan RV Association found that domestic campervan ownership had almost tripled since 2005.
Toshiya and Yuka Kambara noticed this trend in 2017 and established Road Trip Japan , one of Japan’s few suppliers of fully equipped campervans.
“The shinkansen is convenient for reaching popular places, but not so much for very local destinations,” says Yuka, adding that Japan is well-equipped for long trips on tarmac.
“The camping sites in Japan have very clean toilets and showers,” she says. “Additionally, there are many convenience stores in Japan that also offer clean restroom facilities.”
“By road tripping, you can experience true Japanese nature and easily stop wherever you want.... It’s an excellent way to explore this country.”
After our uncomfortable and long — if not spectacular — detour, Blair and I stagger out of KT and into a pitch-black forest on the outskirts of Yamagata City. There we set up camp and fall into a fearful sleep, serenaded by drift cars racing nearby and the unearthly croaking of dozens of toads.
In the morning, we make a solemn pact to set up camp earlier and be more prepared lest we have to spend the night in any more spooky forests.
The next night, we find ourselves wandering through a wooded hillside on the edge of Akita City at 11 p.m. We’d taken an accidental detour from the train station and were still a 30-minute walk from our campsite, a grassy knoll outside Akita Omoriyama Zoo . Sleep was again elusive thanks to swarms of bulbous ants and a keen fear of curious bears.
Two restless nights in a row make for a joyless drive up to Aomori. We burn through our supply of secondhand CDs by noon and stay transfixed on the road, saying little. Akita’s array of offshore wind farms wheel past like a cold steel forest dwarfing the highway and the little green truck striving north.
Along Honshu’s west coast, the scenery we’d left behind in Niigata re-establishes itself. The ravages of heavy snows, harsh Siberian winds and scorching summers cause each building we pass to look as though it has stood for centuries as opposed to decades. KT is once again rolling over red-stained roads alongside a sea of other kei trucks. Coastal pines, lashed by sea spray, sit desiccated along a scraggy coastline marred by piles of slowly disintegrating fishing waste.
Aomori Prefecture greets us with a storm. The downpour drums against KT’s cabin, drowning out the encroaching thunder and forcing her to trundle through the deluge at a crawl. It is the first bad weather we’ve encountered since our journey began, and KT handles it well, powering through the wind and rain and arriving in Aomori City spotless.
That night, the storm’s fringes make for an excellent sleep aid, providing a steady cool wind that fills our tents.
KT rolls into Aomori’s northernmost point, Oma, hours before the Hokkaido ferry is set to depart. Blair and I stroll through the sleepy fishing town. The only passersby we meet are a parade float full of children and a trio of men dressed as samurai heading off for a pre-festival cigarette break.
A handful of the kids rush up to Blair and I to show off their flute-playing while a confident third-grader in sunglasses announces that he can beat box.
“Go on then,” I say.
The boy summons his courage then freezes and slinks away, declaring that he’s not in the mood. We depart to shouts of “I love you” and “This is a pen,” and wheel KT into the bowels of a northbound ferry.
In Hokkaido, herds of 18-wheelers carrying livestock dwarf KT as they tramp up and down the Oshima Peninsula between Hakodate and Sapporo. We carve a line beside the sea toward a pale range of distant mountains. Gone are Honshu’s rice fields. In their stead unfurls an ocean of corn interspersed by bright red barns.
We trundle along noticeably wider roads. The sea fog chases us inland yet through the haze we can see naked hills, no longer covered in the south’s thick, steaming greenery. The landscape reminds Blair and I of our native New Zealand, and we cut loose to Shiraoi at an engine-rattling 80 kph.
“KT loves 80!” exclaims Blair, flooring the gas pedal. The engine screams into life, and we barrel down the highway — still being passed by almost everything else on the road.
There are slightly fewer kei trucks in Hokkaido, the islanders seeming to prefer larger engines more capable of speeding between the region’s faraway towns.
This isn’t to say kei trucks don’t thrive in Japan’s far north. Over the winter of 2019-20, Bristol-based photographer Charlie Wood, alongside fellow snowboarder Henry Johnson, toured Hokkaido in a second-hand Honda Acry kei truck . The duo built a small cabin in the truck bed and traversed the island’s frozen wastes in search of fresh powder.
“It went a long way and performed really well,” says Wood, referring to Sabi-chan, their erstwhile tiny home on wheels. “It was super impressive.”
“When you’re working with something like the kei truck, you have a surprising amount of room but you really have to think how you can use it to your advantage, you have to be smart with the space,” he adds. “And that is quintessentially Japanese.... In the end, it felt right to travel in something so specifically Japanese.”
This quintessence is also a big part of why Blair and I had chosen KT for our journey, which was drawing to a close. KT is certainly a novel vehicle, which, according to Sooy, forms a major part of her overseas appeal.
“Own a traditional pickup truck and you’re just like everyone else,” he says. “Own a kei truck and suddenly you are part of an exclusive group that anybody with $6,000 can join.
“There are already car shows and clubs dedicated strictly to kei trucks. I have seen companies doing raffles and giveaways of kei trucks, and they’re all over social media.”
Stephen Tyrell, the Sydney-based founder of the Kei Truck Appreciation Society (KTAS), agrees. “I think initially what catches people’s attention is the novelty factor. They turn a lot of heads because of how small and funny they look.”
At time of writing, Tyrell’s KTAS Instagram account has accumulated some 67,500 followers. On it, he shares content from around the world of kei truck journeys, modifications and stunts.
“When I first saw a kei truck driving on the road, I laughed at how ridiculous it looked in the Australian traffic,” Tyrell says. “I love cars that seem like toys so I wanted to learn more. When I dug deeper and actually drove one, I realized they’re probably the most versatile vehicles on the planet.”
On our penultimate day with KT, Blair and I summit Asahidake. From there, we drive to Sapporo Station and part ways.
Later, Blair would tell me he felt strange on his return flight to Tokyo. We’d experienced so much on our long drive north; camping in parks, eating innumerable roadside cup noodles, and thrashing KT’s engine up hills. Then, all he had to do was sit on an airplane for under two hours and he was more or less back where he began.
The fact he could make such light work out of our long, ecstatic — yet no less tiring — kei-odyssey felt discombobulating, and leaves one grappling with what the whole point of the trip actually was.
Before our journey, we’d thought long and hard about how we could find unbeaten paths in Japan. The country is already famously well-traveled, with hordes of tourists, writers and photographers documenting what feels like every nook and cranny. Perhaps the point of our journey with KT was less to find unbeaten paths and more to discover an atypical way to traverse them.
In any case, the old cliche rings true: It’s not the destination, but the journey — and our journey was enriched by our kei truck.
Two weeks after bidding farewell to Blair, I wheel the vehicle onto Watanabe’s rental lot.
“How was it?” he asks unceremoniously as he retrieves the keys. “Any issues?”
I survey KT one last time. “None,” I reply.
Watanabe nods and returns to his office, awaiting the arrival of KT’s next driver.
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Three out of ten trending cities to visit in 2024 are in Japan
Skyscanner's 2023 trend report gives us insight on the hottest travel destinations for next year
Ever since Japan reopened its borders to the world last year, travel has returned in full force. While the country is filled with many beautiful places , including some of the world’s most captivating Unesco sites and tourism villages , its major cities remain top choices among visitors to Japan.
As revealed by flight comparison site Skyscanner , three cities in Japan have been listed in its ranking of trending cities to visit in 2024. To come up with its list of the hottest travel destinations for next year, Skyscanner compiled stats from a study of 2,000 UK participants as well as data from millions of flight and hotel searches.
So which Japanese cities made the list? Sapporo is ranked the highest at No. 5, while Osaka came in at No. 6 and Tokyo at No. 10. The title of top trending city in the world goes to Vigo in Spain, followed by Leipzig in Germany (No. 2), Rimini in Italy (No. 3) and Bydgoszcz in Poland (No. 4).
Hokkaido’s capital Sapporo is praised for its amazing seafood , annual snow festival and proximity to some of Japan’s best ski resorts .
If you’re heading to Kyoto, you should also tag Osaka onto your trip as the Kansai city is just a 20-minute train ride away. Osaka is notable for its street food, shopping and art spaces. The city is also gearing up to host the World Expo in 2025. You can find out more about Osaka in our inaugural issue of Time Out Osaka here .
While Tokyo might be an obvious destination when visiting Japan, the capital offers plenty to explore beyond the usual sights. Next time you’re in town, pay a visit to Tomigaya , the trendy neighbourhood ranked as one of the coolest in the world. Visiting this autumn-winter season? Don’t miss the best spots for autumn leaves and illuminations .
To see the full list from Skyscanner, visit the website .
More from Time Out Tokyo
Here’s the official 2023 forecast for autumn leaves in Japan – updated
Japan has one of the world’s ten most captivating Unesco World Heritage Sites in 2023
Tokyo's Hana Biyori flower park is getting a new onsen in March 2024
Japan has four of the best tourism villages in the world for 2023
The amazing illuminations at Ashikaga Flower Park are here until February 2024
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- Kaila Imada Associate Editor, Time Out Tokyo
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What Nearly 300 Vintage Posters Say About the Future of Travel
Dawit Habtemariam , Skift
November 8th, 2023 at 10:14 AM EST
These nearly 300 vintage travel posters tell us companies will always chase the middle class and destinations will always win over tourists with their oldest sightseeing attractions.
In 50 years, tourists will visit the same famous attractions they went to a century before. Companies will invest in marketing for countries where there’s a rising middle class and access. Those are two patterns I noticed when I explored a collection of nearly 300 vintage travel posters at New York City’s Swann Auction Galleries .
Nicholas D. Lowry, the director, gave me a tour of the collection in advance of an auction Thursday. Some of the posters go back as late as the 1890s. Many are valued at over a $1,000 – the most expensive is a travel promotion for Atlantic City valued between $10,000 and $15,000.
Australia, Italy, Scotland, Canada, Poland, Egypt, India and other countries are represented. The posters were paid for by airlines, railroad companies, cruise lines, hotels, tourism bureaus and at least one tour operator. Many of the businesses like Pan Am and TWA are long gone, while others like Air India, United Airlines, and Air France are going strong.
Travel Marketers Follow the Middle Class
Travel companies targeted the new middle classes of the West. “They are all dealing [with] the middle class. The upper classes didn’t need to be advertised to,” said Lowry. “It’s like, if you can afford a Rolls Royce, you don’t need to see an ad to be like ‘I need a Royal Royce.’”
After the industrial revolution, this class expanded and had more money to spend on travel. More destinations became easier to reach.
We are seeing this pattern today with companies targeting emerging outbound markets like India . The country’s middle class is expanding and airlines are adding nonstop flights and weekly service to new international destinations.
The U.S. tourism industry is chasing the Indian traveler. “Where we’re looking to grow is India, it has so much opportunity and potential,” said Fred Dixon, CEO and president of NYC Tourism + Conventions . “Air connectivity was always a concern with India, one of the things that was holding us back, and now we think that’s going to accelerate in the years to come.”
‘Touristy ‘ Attractions Will Dominate the Public Imagination
Designers made the posters be colorful enough to “catch your eye quickly as you walk by and impart the message right away” on the street or a train platform, said Lowry.
Many companies simply advertised a destination’s world-renowned attractions: Egypt’s ancient statues, India’s Taj Mahal, Australia’s kangaroos, and New York City’s Statue of Liberty and Times Square.
Companies promoted famous attractions even if they didn’t travel to them. A Greek rail company advertised the famous Temple of Poseidon even though it didn’t stop there. “This is basically what Greece is,” said Lowry. “We’re a railroad company, we’re showing Greece, but you’ll have to take a bus.”
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Tags: air france , australia , destination markeing , egypt , india , new york city , tourism
NEWS... BUT NOT AS YOU KNOW IT
Top 10 trending cities for 2024 revealed – and three are in Japan
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Japan was a little later than most to bounce back with tourism following the pandemic, only re-opening its borders last year.
But it’s clear travellers were happy to wait, as interest in the country is now rising in popularity.
So much so, that not one but three destinations in Japan have been named within the top 10 trending travel destinations for 2024.
Skyscanner’s latest research compiled stats from a study of 2,000 participants, along with flights and hotel data, to come up with the rankings.
Sapporo was the highest ranked at number five on the list, followed by Osaka in sixth place, and Tokyo taking tenth position.
And as someone who has just got back from a two-week trip to Japan, I can confirm these spots are well-worth your consideration (along with numerous other cities – but that’s a topic for another time).
While my own jam-packed itinerary wasn’t able to feature Sapporo, the capital of the mountainous northern Japanese island of Hokkaido is absolutely worth a visit – especially if you love skiing.
Known for having some of the best ski resorts in Japan, as well as an annual snow festival, the spot attracts travellers far and wide during the winter months. So if you want to switch up your European ski trip next year, this could be an alternative to try.
Other notable spots in this area include Sapporo Beer Museum, which is the only of its kind in Japan, as well as Jozankei Onsen – a steaming, natural hot spring.
Osaka is another bustling spot with plenty going on. Just two-and-a-half hours on the bullet train from Tokyo, it’s easy to combine the two cities into one holiday.
At night Osaka truly comes alive. The Dotombori District is a neon playground of nightlife – and the bar scene is one to absolutely check out here, filled with speakeasy-style spots and more traditional watering holes.
If you’re more of an early bird, there’s plenty of culture to soak up elsewhere in this city, including Osaka Castle as well as Universal Studios Japan.
It might be tenth on the list, but Tokyo is not to be missed – even if it seems an obvious choice.
The sheer size of this city is worthy of a visit alone, and can be witnessed in full glory from observation decks across the city (Shibuya Sky, Tokyo Tower and Skytree to name a few). Elsewhere, there are Michelin-star restaurants, award-winning bars, gaming cafes and fascinating museums to explore.
When night draws in, be sure to head to Omoide Yokocho, or Memory Lane, where you’ll find rows of vendors selling ramen, yakitori and more delicious treats. Bar-hopping in Golden Gai is also a guaranteed great night out.
If Japan isn’t for you next year, you can see the full list of trending destinations below…
Skyscanner's 10 trending destinations (% increase in searches):
Vigo, Spain (+1235%)
Rimini, Italy (+362%)
Bydgoszcz, Poland (+313%)
Sapporo, Japan (+276%)
Osaka, Japan (+231%)
Nantes, France (+229%)
Chiang Mai, Thailand (+221%)
Billund, Denmark (+219%)
Tokyo, Japan (+208%)
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Minister Joly to travel to Japan to attend G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
From: Global Affairs Canada
Minister Joly will take part in sessions with her G7 counterparts to discuss the unprecedented and rapidly evolving conflict between Israel and Hamas, the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, Russia’s ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine and shared challenges in the Indo-Pacific, including foreign interference.
November 5, 2023 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today announced that she will be travelling to Tokyo, Japan, from November 6 to 8, 2023, to attend the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, hosted by Yoko Kamikawa, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan.
She will also meet with Minister Kamikawa and other foreign ministers, to discuss shared priorities such as strengthening the rules-based international order, promoting gender equality, protecting human rights around the world and addressing climate change.
“My G7 partners and I are meeting at a time when the world faces unprecedented challenges. From Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the Israel-Hamas conflict and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, to the erosion of democratic values and violations of human rights globally, it is crucial that Canada and its G7 partners continue to work together to address these challenges .” - Mélanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs
The G7 is an informal group of like-minded partners that brings together Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.
This year, Japan holds the G7 presidency. Canada will next host the G7 in 2025.
Japan last hosted G7 foreign ministers from April 16 to 18, 2023, in Karuizawa, Japan G7 foreign ministers last met on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly on September 18, 2023, in New York.
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Isabella Orozco-Madison Press Secretary Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Isabella.Orozco [email protected]
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