You’re a tiger! What’s big in Japan for 2022

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So, here we are again: it’s time to say goodbye to another twelve months of travel restrictions, closed borders, and a serious lack of life-giving Japan adventures. But, just as Christmas comes and goes, party season burns itself out, and a New Year begins – it can’t last forever. Which is why we’re keeping everything crossed that 2022 – the Year of the Tiger, no less – is the year we’ll make our big return to our favourite country on Earth. What better time to spring free from our cages and let loose on Japan? 

After all this wishing and waiting, the next trip is going to be so much more than a holiday. It’s going to be about making the most of every opportunity; of leaping on new experiences, of saying ‘yes!’ to meeting new people, to learning new things, and to immersing ourselves in the moment like never before. Here’s to getting beneath the surface in 2022, in every way we know how. These are the trends we predict are going to be big… 

1. Longer, slower, better  

2022 is going to be about making the next trip count – sustainably and emotionally. We’re hereby committing to travelling less frequently, but travelling for longer; to taking fewer flights, but going further – and staying longer in each destination, to experience as much as possible. 

A bridge in the Iya Valley in Shikoku
Iya Valley, Shikoku

Experience longer, slower travel in Shikoku

The smallest of Japan’s four main islands, Shikoku, has just been named one of Lonely Planet’s Top Ten Regions for 2022. But did you know that there are thousands of islands across Japan, offering everything from neon cities to temple towns, beaches, jungles and snowscapes – all wrapped up in Japan’s unique brand of wonderful culture and traditions? Could be the perfect place for that meaningful, longer trip… 

2. ‘Regen’ generation  

Japan is a country that has suffered population migration to big cities such as Tokyo and Osaka over the years – but there is perhaps a more authentic experience to be found in rural Japan, bringing benefits both to the traveller and the local communities.   

Rural life in the Japanese Alps
Rural life in the Japanese Alps

Experience regenerative travel in the Japanese Alps 

Jump on a train out of Tokyo and you’ll soon reach the mountains. But take another local train, and you’ll be in the middle of nowhere! The mountains, traditional towns and villages that straddle Nagano and Niigata are home to some beautiful scenery, welcoming communities and great walking – and you can experience it all on our Walking the Nakasendo and Beyond Small Group Tour. 

3. Wellness, Japan-style 

There isn’t a single person that doesn’t need a break from the everyday every once in a while. And Japan is just that – it is completely and utterly different. Everything is done with philosophical concepts in mind, from wabi-sabi (the acceptance of transience and imperfection) to  onkochishin (finding new wisdom in old ways). 

A member of staff at the Nishimuraya Honkan ryokan
A member of staff at the Nishimuraya Honkan ryokan

Experience Japanese wellness at a ryokan stay 

A stay in a traditional ryokan guest house is so much more than a room for the night. The simple décor, good food, hot baths, tranquil gardens and kimono-wearing hosts – not to mention their attention to traditional omotenashi hospitality – are experiences in themselves. Lose yourself in Japan’s ‘otherness’ on our Japanese Ikigai and the Paths to Happiness self-guided adventure. 

4. Sustainable travel by train 

Sustainable travel is the way forward – and Japanese trains are perhaps the best and most sustainable in the world. 2022 will mark 150 years of train travel in Japan, and things sure have come a long way since the 29km line between Tokyo and Yokohama. Want proof? Shinkansen trains now travel at maximum speeds of 320 km/h! 


Experience sustainable travel on the train to Nagasaki    

A new Shinkansen is set to begin service in autumn 2022, making the laid-back city of Nagasaki (on the southern island of Kyushu) that little bit more accessible. The city is one of the most historically important places in Japan, with plenty to see – and sitting on the head of a bay, it is one of the prettiest cities around. You can explore it all on our Kyushu Adventure self-guided itinerary. 

5. Reassuringly amazing  

There’s always a good reason why the best places seem to find their way on to the ‘hottest travel destinations’ lists. And what do you know? Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo were recently voted the top three cities in the world in Condé Nast Traveller magazine’s Readers Choice Awards!  

A Geisha in Kyoto's Gion district
A Geisha in Kyoto’s Gion district

Experience tried-and-tested Kyoto   

This is the city of thousands of temples and shrines, charming traditional districts, and the iconic Geisha. On our Classic Japan Small Group Tour, you’ll explore both the big sites and the quiet parts of the city, plus temples that lie hidden away from the typical tourist trail. 

6. A little off-radar  

While we all want to check out the must-sees while we can, the real joy of travelling somewhere new is discovering those special, lesser-known places. Fortunately, Japan is a big place – with a similar landmass to Germany – so there are countless off-the-radar towns, villages and beauty spots that most travellers haven’t heard of. A chance to get away from the crowds and have something to be smug about? Sign us up!  

The Goju-to pagoda at Mount Haguro
The Goju-to pagoda at Mount Haguro

Experience off-radar Japan in Tohoku  

As all the other tourists head south on the Shinkansen from Tokyo, we suggest heading north to the Tohoku region. This is authentic rural Japan: a place that stays true to its roots and is largely untouched by international tourism (drawing just 2% of travellers pre-pandemic). Come and see its natural beauty, hot springs and impressive temples, and meet communities keen to share their culture, on our Rural Tohoku Trail self-guided adventure 

7. Multi-generational family adventures  

Travelling as a family might be expensive, but a good trip to the right place can be a wonderful memory-maker, bringing everyone closer together – and isn’t that what every family needs right now? The good news is that Japan is such an endlessly captivating mixture of culture, history, nature and modernity that it can keep absolutely everyone engaged – from toddlers to grandparents. 

Family travel at Heian Shrine's Shin-en Garden
Family travel at Heian Shrine’s Shin-en Garden

Experience family travel in Japan

Japan has something to keep even the most hard-to-please people entertained, with exciting attractions opening all the time. Autumn 2022 will see the globally loved Studio Ghibli opening a theme park close to Nagoya – and the world’s first Super Nintendo World opened in Osaka mid-pandemic, catering to kids and adults alike. If you’re after a blend of whimsical pop culture and traditional activities, why not try our Mountains and Culture Family Activity Holiday? This is one trip that really does have it all. 

So, there you have it – our hottest travel trends and tips for 2022. There are so many reasons why your next holiday could be a fantastic one in Japan!  

Back at the start of 2021, when we were really pining for Japan, we put together The Ultimate Journey: a love letter to Japan, featuring our favourite places and experiences that we can’t wait to discover again.  

Main image: Yamabushi Sensei, Mount Haguro,by Everett Kennedy Brown

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