Do you know what the date is today? If you're a lover of all things Japanese, we bet you're beaming with excitement right now - today (11th October) marks the official day you can travel to Japan visa-free and independently!
A lot has changed in the past two years, so we ask Nazaya Zulaikha, an Indonesian Muslim woman living in Saitama, and Nur Arisa Maryam, a Japanese Muslim woman living in Tokyo, to share with us what we can expect the next time we're finally back in the Land of the Sun.
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1. People are still masking up regardless of loose restrictions and decreasing Covid cases
Nazaya: The number of infections has gradually decreased these past weeks, and Japan is rolling out the 2nd booster dose soon. However, we still put on a mask everywhere we go, or every time we have to come to face people. It is said that the Japanese love wearing masks, and it makes people, including foreign residents like us, feel insecure without a mask ? But no worries, you can remove it when you are outside so long as there's no one around you and you're not talking!
Arisa: It is safe to remove the mask if you are outside, for example, when taking a walk or talking to others, but most people still tend to wear a mask outside. Do remember that masks are still needed in public places and transport ?
2. Expect some of your favourite halal Japanese food stores to be closed
Nazaya: When the pandemic hit, many halal restaurants closed down ? Most of them depended solely on Muslim tourists, and the strict travel rules resulted in them having prevented these stores from keeping afloat during the pandemic. Interestingly, the last two years saw a boom in plant-based products in Japan, as seen by the number of restaurants adding these to their menu. The food served is made from 100% plant-based ingredients (without alcohol too!), so it's safe to consider them Muslim-friendly options! However, some plant-based foods may use a small amount of animal-derived products, so do ask the staff in advance to clear your doubts.
Arisa: Ethnic restaurants such as Indian and Turkish restaurants were not affected much, but the Japanese ones were. We hope that tourists will return and the halal restaurants with them ?
P.S. We're as bummed as you once we read this ? We updated our Japanese food listicles below for your upcoming Japan trip!
- Your Complete Guide To Halal Authentic Japanese Food In Tokyo
- 20 Delicious Muslim-Friendly Snacks You Can't Miss On Your Next Japan Trip
3. Be prepared for a delayed autumn season and large crowds going koyo hunting
Arisa: Autumn this time round, has been hotter than usual, with temperatures going as high as 25 degrees Celsius, even in October! This could affect koyo hunting, as the red leaves we all love to see might be delayed! ?
Nazaya: It’s the peak travel season since many people will come to Japan to immerse themselves in the beauty of autumn foliage. However, I do recommend veering from the less-crowded koyo hunting route (i.e. high-risk places such as Tokyo and Kyoto), and heading to the countryside such as Oku-Nikko (Tochigi Prefecture), to capture the fantastic autumn foliage! ?
4. Two new attractions you must check outCredit: Ghibli Park
Arisa: If you are interested in visiting the Ghibli and Harry Potter theme parks, you may want to do so, too. Ghibli Park will have its soft opening in November; get tickets beforehand! Do note that attractions like Universal Studios Japan and Tokyo Disneyland offer places of worship for Muslims, so it is easier than other theme parks in this respect! ?
Nazaya: We can expect the Harry Potter Studio Tour's new amusement park that plans to open in 2023. Ghibli Museum is also recommended to visit! If you love Sailormoon, there is also the Sailormoon Museum in Roppongi that opens until the end of December 2022 ?
Disneyland and USJ are still two recommended amusement parks to go to! They've changed up attractions time by time so it should be way more interesting and exciting these days! Disneyland currently seems to limit the number of visitors still, and still pretty difficult to get a ticket, but we hope they will welcome more visitors after the border re-opens!
With this in mind, we hope we have helped you plan your best trip to Japan yet! Before you go, check out these itineraries and guides!