Tag Archives: wanderlust

The ‘Go To Travel’ Campaign in Japan during the Pandemic, Travelling Safely while Supporting the Travel Industry

There is a pandemic raging right? Economies are hurting and much thought is being given, to just how to manage the spread of the virus and prevent the economy from tanking. These are tough times.

The ‘Go To Travel’ Campaign is an initiative that was started here in Japan to prop up the travel industry. It gives really good discounts on trains, hotels and travellers can get discount coupons to apply to purchases at restaurants and other eligible shops. It is oh so tempting because the deals are really good across the country. All this is happening during the pandemic though.

In my last post I mentioned how crowded downtown Karuizawa was when we were there. I was so shocked at this because I just did not think people where using the campaign, given what is happening with the pandemic. Imagine my surprise when we tried to eat out at a few places for dinner and were told we had to wait an hour. I was already wary of eating out anyway, so we agreed to take the food to go.

The campaign seems to be working but I and many others worry if it will lead to more people getting the virus. We really hope this won’t happen. People here, for the most part, are pretty vigilant about wearing their masks, though it is not always easy to social distance in these packed areas. It makes me wonder about what it really means to travel safely and responsibly at this time?

The campaign will run until the end of January I believe, so it will take us through the colder months and over the long holiday period at the end of the year. We are already seeing the numbers creeping up, so again I am left wondering about the impact of this since it seems to be a catch 22 situation. It is really tempting though for those who have places they want to go and see. Travelling is very expensive here in Japan, so getting a 30% discount on the Shinkansen and hotels push many people to go for it. My knee jerk reaction at the start of the campaign was that I needed to make use of it. After pondering it for a moment, I decided not to because I have travelled extensively here and I do not feel I can enjoy social distancing in many tourist destinations.

It’s a great time to travel in Japan now though, especially for those who can go out about on weekdays. The country is closed to tourists and many people may not have the time to travel on weekdays.

The ‘Go To Travel’ campaign is pretty attractive for us travellers and it keeps money flowing into the tourist industry here. Hotels and other establishments have certain protocols in place such as checking one’s temperature, providing sanitiser in different spots and have statements asking everyone to wear a mask. This is what travelling safely and responsibly during the pandemic looks like. It is also good that the industry can support itself to a certain degree with domestic tourists and this government run initiative. Is anything like this happening anywhere else in the world?

Social Distancing While Enjoying Autumn in Karuizawa, Japan

Alas, I jumped on the Shinkansen (bullet train) and went to see some friends in Karuizawa. The need to get some fresh air in the countryside and catch up with them, made me travel a bit during the pandemic after all. Of course, I had my mask on, we all wore them and spent time away from downtown Karuizawa which was teeming with people. Ahhh! The fresh, clean and crisp air in the countryside was oh so welcomed and Autumn was on supreme display.

There is such simple pleasure in walking around an area with almost no one, looking at the changing leaves and enjoying the nice fall weather. It does a body so good.

While walking I came upon this beautiful wedding chapel. They go all out here in Japan when designing these buildings. The caretaker who was cleaning welcomed me warmly and even opened it up for me to walk around and see inside. Kindness is beautiful.

Karuizawa is only about an hour and 20 minutes from Tokyo station on the Shinkansen. I visited in winter once and it gets lots of snow and is pretty cold because of its location. There is much to see downtown Karuizawa which we avoided because there were just too many people. We instead went for a nature walk with my friend who is living there to just enjoy hiking away from people. It was the perfect thing to do given that we were social distancing. We had the trail all to ourselves and it was wonderful.

The leaves had already fallen in many places but we still enjoyed just walking and chatting. This is actually a pretty safe thing to do at this time, it calmed some the anxiety I felt when I first decided to visit. We made our way slowly but surely up to a beautiful waterfall where we spent some time just sitting and soaking up nature.

This short trip opened my mind a bit more to what travelling responsibly during this pandemic can look like for me. It also helps that this is a country where most people are used to wearing masks. I have concerns about the distancing on the Shinkansen, so I am not going to be doing this again soon. There were no efforts to seat us in the reserved cars, in ways that facilitated social distancing and the train was at capacity. Perhaps I am hypercritical but I expected to see something out of the norm with this. Nonetheless, I am happy I took this short trip before it got colder and things possibly change, where moving around is concerned.

All in all, hiking and enjoying time in the great outdoors is perfect for social distancing and travelling safely during this pandemic. If I had a car I would do more of this.

We ended the trip by going apple picking. That was also perfect since we had the place to ourselves. When we paid to go in we got knives, a sanitised tray and hand sanitiser to use as we pick and eat delicious apples. Yum!