Japan Has Reopened for Tourism—Here's What to Know for Your Next Visit, from Visa Requirements to New Hotels

The latest in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hokkaido, and the southern paradise of Okinawa.
Ace Hotel Kyoto. Table. Hotel. Restaurant
Ace Hotel Kyoto

The moment the world has been waiting for has finally arrived: After more than two years of border closures, last month Japan reopened to tourists from 98 countries, including the United States. But it's not all good news: Travelers from the U.S. now require a visa to enter; meaning you’ll need to make an appointment at the nearest Japanese embassy or consulate, or apply by mail if you want to visit (the government is limiting daily visitor entries to 20,000 due to the pandemic). Currently, all foreign tourists coming to Japan must also obtain private insurance that covers medical expenses related to COVID-19, travel as part of an organized tour group run by a recognized operator, and wear a mask indoors and while on public transportation. Though it’s unclear when the restrictions will be fully lifted, travel experts predict further easing in the coming months.

The great news: even returning visitors will find much to discover in the Land of the Rising Sun. Here’s a list of the best new hotels, restaurants, and things to do following the Japan reopening—from Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, to the northern island of Hokkaido and the southern paradise of Okinawa.

All listings featured in this story are independently selected by our editors. However, when you book something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The pool at Four Seasons Otemachi

Four Seasons Otemachi

What's new in Tokyo

Prior to the pandemic, Olympic fever sparked a frenzy of development in Tokyo, adding a host of new hotels, restaurants, bars, and cafes. With more venues slated to open this summer and autumn, there’s never been a more exciting time to visit Japan’s capital.

The hottest hotel openings were Kimpton Shinjuku Tokyo, the Four Seasons Otemachi, and The Tokyo Edition Toranomon. The buzzy vibe at the Kimpton channels Manhattan with design inspired by New York’s art world, and dog-friendly dining at District brasserie. With expansive views of the Imperial Palace, a tranquility pool in the lounge, and Zen-influenced accents in the guest rooms, the Four Seasons Otemachi is an oasis of calm in the financial district—with Michelin-starred French cuisine at Est and sophisticated cocktails at bar Virtus. Over at the Tokyo Edition, the glittering new Gold Bar offers prime people-watching and a drinks list that pays homage to the pre-Prohibition golden age of tipples—and it's worth a visit even if you’re not staying at the hotel.

Despite a tumultuous two years of pandemic-induced dining restrictions, the food scene is thriving with the arrival of a new wave of ambitious, young chefs bringing fresh perspective and international flair to the Japanese capital. British-born Daniel Calvert kicked off the trend with Sezanne, situated in an art-filled space inside the Four Seasons Marunouchi. In its first year, the venue has already racked up a string of accolades—including a Michelin star and the number 17 slot on the list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants—for impeccable signatures like a layered heirloom tomato tart with burrata cream and Calvert’s French riff on Shanghainese drunken chicken. 

At Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura, head chef Antonio Iacoviello interprets Japanese ingredients through the lens of Italian cuisine (think eggplant Parmigiana-meets-spaghetti aglio e olio, in a smoky dashi of fermented eggplant). Iacoviello’s dazzling presentations match the interior outfitted with antique mirrors and tables set with Gucci cups and plates. A few blocks away at Ginza Yuzan, Japanese-American chef Keiichiro Kurobe (of L.A.’s Hinoki and The Bird fame) offers a taste of California-style multiculturalism with dishes such as claypot-cooked arroz con pollo and egg-filled arancini with umami sauce. Virgilio Martinez’s brand-new Maz Tokyo, led by Santiago Fernandez, explores Peru’s diverse terrain and food culture in inventive combinations like iwana river fish topped with watermelon granita and coconut-herb sauce, and desserts that use every part of the cacao fruit—from the fermented and roasted rind to a sweet-and-tart jelly made from the pulp inside the pod.

Other notable additions include 3110NZ by LDH Kitchen, an art gallery-cum-sushi joint collaboration between gallery Nanzuka Underground and renowned Sushi Saito, set in a futuristic space with glowing recessed lighting cut into the white walls. At Nine by La Cime, chefs Yusuke Takada (of Osaka’s two-Michelin-starred La Cime) and Toru Tokushima create provocative, seafood-centric tasting menus, and Ippei Hanten a hidden six-seat counter devoted to Cantonese fine dining. After 9:00 p.m., the restaurant transforms into the more casual Ye Hong Kong, serving epic family-style feasts in two private rooms.

Looking to indulge your sweet tooth? Head to Azuki to Kouri, a stylish shaved ice spot specializing in fresh-fruit kakigori, or pick up one of Jerome Quilbeuf’s signature burnt Basque cheesecakes at the chef’s eponymous shop in Ginza’s new Exit Melsa. This summer, Quilbeuf will also roll out a second branch of his popular Spanish gastrobar, Gracia, in a larger space with terrace seating in Ichigaya.

Former World Barista Champion Hide Izaki creates “the ultimate coffee break” with rare specialty brews, bespoke Japanese ceramics, and seasonal sweets prepared by restaurant Narisawa at Cokuun, which launches in early autumn. The experience marries coffee culture with elements of traditional tea ceremony and takes place inside a pod-like tea room, shaped like an iron pot, with seats for four guests.

A room at the new Ace Hotel Kyoto

Ace Hotel Kyoto


The past two years have seen expansion in Kyoto’s luxury hotel space, starting with Kengo Kuma’s lattice-covered Ace Hotel and the elegant Hotel the Mitsui, a 161-room property built on the grounds of the Mitsui family’s centuries-old former residence opposite Nijo Castle. The recently opened The Shinmonzen in the historic Gion district blends the amenities of a Western boutique hotel with the hospitality and aesthetics of a traditional Japanese ryokan. Designed by Tadao Ando with interiors by Remi Tessier, the luxe nine-suite hotel features spacious rooms appointed with hinoki wood bath tubs and boasts an astounding collection of contemporary art. A restaurant by Jean-Georges Vongerichten will launch in late autumn; in the meantime, staying guests can enjoy delightful dinners that make excellent use of organic produce from the mountains north of Kyoto, served in suite, and Provençal-inflected afternoon tea in the lounge overlooking the Shirakawa River.

Opening in August, Maana Kiyomizu offers a unique alternative to a conventional hotel. The handsome complex comprises three suites, a retail shop, and a café within a row of splendidly refurbished machiya townhouses. The light-filled suites come with tea sets, paper lanterns, and textiles from POJ Studio, a collective of artisans crafting modern pieces using traditional techniques.

On the food front, newcomers So Kawahagishi, which serves updated twists on izakaya classics like panko-crusted venison katsu (cutlets) with housemade marmalade, and Suba, a stylish standing soba bar where they make the noodles upstairs, stand out for excellent casual eats and a chilled-out vibe. While Kyoto is best known for traditional fare, creative cuisine is on the rise. Hidden inside the Ritz Carlton’s Italian restaurant Locanda, the six-seat Chef’s Table reflects Katsuhiko Inoue’s experiences working in Spain, South America, and at Tokyo’s Bulgari Il Ristorante Luca Fantin. Inoue prepares genre-blurring dishes beside a table covered with an elaborately constructed miniature moss garden.

A 90-minute drive from Kyoto on the shores of Lake Biwa, Benu alum Coleman Griffin takes inspiration from the landscape to craft innovative terroir-driven tasting menus at Sower, in a minimalist space designed by Teruhiro Yanagihara.

The Living Room bar at W Osaka

Miyuki Kaneko/Marriott International


Osaka, which captured more than 46 percent of the 4.8 trillion yen spent by visitors to Japan in 2019, was hit hard by the lack of tourists. Although sluggish during the pandemic, development has picked up, meaning there is plenty for taking advantage of Japan reopening. Last year, the city welcomed the W Osaka, a dark monolith designed by Tadao Ando that opens onto an exuberant world of colorful design accented with modern Japanese detailing. The hotel’s six dining outlets—including trendy sushi restaurant Ukiyo; teppanyaki Mydo; and neobistro Oh.lala, overseen by La Cime’s Yusuke Takada—add to the allure.

The arts got a boost with the Nakanoshima Museum of Art, which opened in early February after nearly 30 years of planning. Housed in a boxy, five-story structure with a jet-black exterior (a popular look for new buildings in Osaka), the museum boasts one of Japan’s largest collections—more than 6,000 art pieces by modern masters such as Magritte, Dali, and Japanese artists like painter Jiro Yoshihara.

Osaka will always be the street-food capital of Japan, but new establishments are adding a touch of sophistication to the restaurant scene. Innovative chef Hiroyuki Kosuda worked at famed fusion temple Kahala for 20 years before breaking out on his own this year; with only five seats, his eponymous restaurant has become one of the city’s hardest to book. The brainchild of Michelin-starred chef Noguchi Taro, the specialty at Noguchi Taro Ramen is a steaming bowl of housemade noodles floating in an umami-dense shellfish broth, topped with sliced char siu and a truffle-scented fishcake. Wine enthusiasts will find much to love at Rilo Wine Lounge, a sleek and moody speakeasy-style spot (DM them on Instagram for the pass code) with an eye-watering collection of vintage champagne.

Hot pot at the new Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono



Japan’s ski haven and northernmost island, Hokkaido has been trending as an off-the-beaten-track destination for the past five years. But recent developments are turning it into a hub for luxury travel: Most of the ski resorts are concentrated around Niseko, which encompasses six areas surrounding towering Mount Yotei. In 2020, Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono unveiled a sprawling 100-room property with 11 restaurants, a soothing hot spring spa, and its own four-seat ski lifts. Nestled between Mount Yotei and Mount Annapurni on the Shiribetsu River, Raku Suisan’s 18 ample rooms are equipped with baths filled with alkaline-rich water sourced directly from a natural hot spring. Anchored by a traditional Japanese irori fireplace, the resort’s inviting lounge features a cozy piano bar. Shiguchi is a new complex of five beautifully renovated Japanese farmhouses, each adorned with ceramics, paintings, and sculptures from the private collection of founder Shouya Grigg. Grigg’s photography is also on display, along with an ongoing exhibition of art and artifacts spanning the region’s history, including pottery from the Jomon period and work created by the indigenous Ainu, in the Somoza gallery nearby.

Farther afield in the Tokachi region, on the island’s southeastern side, Memu Earth Hotel’s five villas are stunning examples of eco-friendly contemporary architecture set amid a wide-open pasture. Each house has a distinctive character; the white-clad Meme House reflects the light and blends into the scenery, while the Horizon House offers 360-degree panoramic views. The resort’s restaurant serves simple but elegant cuisine made with seasonal, local products in a former warehouse designed by architect Toya Ito.

A sandbar in Kerama Islands National Park, Okinawa

Ippei Naoi/Getty


Looking for something warmer? With fewer new openings during the pandemic, the pace of life on Okinawa remains leisurely—but changes are afoot in Japan’s tropical paradise. Last summer, luxury group One Suite launched The Grand resort on secluded Kouri Island, accessible by car from the main island. The Grand’s trump card is its 114-meter Ocean View Panorama Suite, equipped with a jacuzzi on the 30-meter terrace and offering sweeping views of the East China Sea. Playful French fine dining is on the menu at the property’s La Bombance, an outpost of the Michelin-starred restaurant in Tokyo. Among the latest of star bartender Shingo Gokan’s ever-growing empire of watering holes, El Lequio exudes an island vibe with its kitschy-cool Tiki-bar décor and line-up of cocktails based on rum, tequila, and mezcal.

Located in Onna village, between the main island’s forested mountains and sea, the restaurant inside the brand-new Yumiha resort incorporates unique local ingredients—kokuto black sugar, shimadofu tofu, and Okinawan honey—into modern French preparations like perfectly roasted Agu pork with a sauce made from awamori, the island’s fiery distilled spirit: Staying guests can sample around 30 kinds (included in the price of accommodation) in the resort’s roomy suites.