What to Know If You Have an Upcoming Trip to Japan

In response to the plane crash, the Central Japan Railway Company scheduled additional shinkansens (bullet trains) for Wednesday, Duff Trimble, travel specialist at Wabi-Sabi Japan, tells Traveler. This week, coinciding with the Japanese New Year Oshogatsu, is one of the busiest periods for domestic travel in Japan, so travelers should expect crowded train stations on January 3 and 4, he adds.

How the earthquake is impacting travel

The Haneda Airport plane collision came just one day after a powerful and tragic earthquake hit Japan’s Noto Peninsula. The series of earthquakes beginning January 1 caused a minor tsunami, fires, and major infrastructure damage in various parts of Ishikawa Prefecture. At least 62 people have been killed, per the AP. Rescue efforts for survivors remain underway.

The Noto Peninsula, a rural coastal region of Japan over 300 miles northwest of Tokyo, is less visited by international tourists but is home to attractions including the historic Tokikuni Residences, the Sojiji Temple, and Wajima City. The earthquake has most severely impacted Nagano, Kanazawa, Shibu, and other coastal regions along the Sea of Japan, while the country’s main tourist hubs of Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto remain unaffected, a spokesperson for InsideJapan Tours tells Traveler.

A tsunami warning was issued in cities located nearby the Noto Peninsula on the Japan Sea side of the country, including the Niigata, Toyama, and Ishikawa prefectures, according to the U.S. Embassy to Japan—the coastal region is home to the famous Kenrokuen Garden, Toyama Glass Art Museum, and the hot springs of Iwamuro.

While it remains unsafe for tourists to travel to the regions directly impacted by this week’s natural disasters, the earthquake has not changed the U.S. State Department’s overall travel advisory to Japan, which remains at a level one, “exercise normal precautions.”

In a notice posted earlier this week, the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advised travelers: “further aftershocks remain a possibility and transport links are disrupted. If you are in the affected areas of the Noto Peninsula, follow the instructions from the local authorities and check the latest information on NHK World news.”

Japan is one of the most seismically active countries in the world, as the U.S. Embassy to Japan notes in a perennial warning on its website. “The Tokyo metropolitan area experiences regular tremors of varying intensities and the probability that a severe and damaging earthquake will occur is high,” the embassy states. “It is prudent that everyone be prepared to fend for themselves in the immediate aftermath of a big earthquake.”

For travelers who scheduled trips to visit regions in Japan affected by the earthquake, most travel insurance companies offer trip cancellation or interruption reimbursements if your destination is impacted by a natural disaster. Travelers can check their plan’s trip cancellation or trip interruption policy for specific details (pro tip: check if your credit card includes travel insurance for flight and hotel purchases).