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GaijinPot’s Guide to Go To Travel

Everything to catch you up to speed on Japan's domestic travel campaign.

By 6 min read

Japan’s “Go To Travel” campaign kicked off in July despite the coronavirus showing no chill. The government sunk a whopping ¥1.35 trillion on the promotion to boost domestic tourism.

Unfortunately, they’ve done a pretty poor job explaining the campaign and how people can benefit, and now that Tokyo will be included from October, we thought we’d help foreigners currently living in Japan take full advantage of the promotion.

Here’s a quick rundown on Japan’s “Go To Travel” and a few suggestions on where to spend your holiday.

What is Go To Travel?

See Japan and help boost the economy!

The Go To Travel campaign grants domestic tourists up to 50 percent off accommodation and transportation when they book a trip through a participating travel agency. The maximum discount is up to ¥20,000 per person, per night. If you’re only planning a day trip, the maximum discount is up to ¥10,000 per person.

You can actually book a room at a participating hotel yourself and receive the discount. However, you can only receive a discount for your entire travel cost when you book both your lodging and transportation through a participating agency. If you book a hotel through an agency but find transportation yourself, you’ll only receive a discount for the hotel.

Tourists will also receive discount vouchers through linked campaigns Go To Eat, Go To Event, and Go To Shotengai. The vouchers offer discounts at participating restaurants, events, and shops found on shotengai (traditional shopping streets). These vouchers are distributed either by the travel agency or the hotel you’ve booked.

The campaign runs until March 2021 or until the ¥1.35 trillion budget has been spent.

The campaign also uses complicated math. Accommodation and transportation make up 70 percent of the total discount, while the vouchers make up 30 percent.

For example, if you book a hotel and transportation through an agency for ¥20,000, the maximum discount applied is ¥10,000. Hence, “50 percent off,” right? Well, kind of.

Go To Travel will instead take ¥7,000 (70 percent) off the hotel and transportation cost, and you’ll receive ¥3,000 (30 percent) worth of vouchers to use in the area. It wouldn’t be a Japan Government-sponsored promotion without head-scratching bureaucracy.

The campaign runs until March 2021 or until the ¥1.35 trillion budget has been spent. It’s whichever comes first, so you might want to book a trip sooner rather than later.

Is Tokyo included in Go To Japan?

We love it, but it’s nice to finally be able to leave Tokyo on the cheap.

Tokyo residents can participate in Go To Japan if booking a trip after October 1.

Over the summer, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike urged the country’s capital to stay indoors and avoid travel after a resurgence of coronavirus infections. Koike asked for businesses to follow voluntary restrictions, and most complied. Tokyo residents were also ineligible to participate in Go To Travel.

This peeved quite a few people, including a couple of prefectures anticipating vacationing city folks’ money like Nara and Hyogo. Sharing his disappointment and commenting on reports that infections are mostly from adult establishments such as host clubs, Hyogo Governor Toshizo Ido said, “There’s a difference between people who go to [the Kabukicho area]…and people who want to take a domestic vacation.”

I don’t know about that. I’m a Tokyoite who enjoys a bit of sleaze and would still fancy a trip to Hyogo’s Arima Onsen. Regardless, some prefectures, including Hyogo, launched their own travel campaigns, and Tokyo has since eased its voluntary restrictions.

Is it safe to travel?

Businesses must take precautions in order to participate in Go To Travel.

We can’t decide that for you, but it is what has made the campaign so controversial. Japan is still reporting about 300 new infections a day, most of which in Tokyo and Osaka. That may not look so bad compared to the United States, which looks more like a Mad Max sequel with every passing headline, but it’s still concerning.

The government has promised to ensure participating businesses in the campaign take the utmost precautions such as temperature screenings and enforcing social distancing.

Nevertheless, it’s your call.

Who can apply?

The campaign is for residents of Japan only.

Currently, Japan is imposing a travel ban. It’s been hard enough for foreign residents to try to re-enter the country. Still, despite other nations opening their borders, such as the UK, international tourists aren’t expected to return to Japan anytime soon.

However, you can bet that Japan will practically be slapping you in the face with deals and promotions when that day comes.

How do I apply?

Let a travel agency take care of the whole process.

Simply book a trip through a participating travel agency. Almost all major travel agencies are involved. The good news is that you don’t really have to do anything. All discounts will be applied automatically, and businesses will know how to use the vouchers.

The bad news is that because Go To Japan is targeting domestic tourism, don’t expect too much English guidance. Many of these agencies have English pages, but their Go To Page is only available in Japanese. However, you should be able to use Google Translate. Luckily, you can also book through Booking.com in English.

Which travel agency?

Some of the largest travel agencies participating in Go To Travel are:

You can also use the official Go To Japan website.

JR East Shinkansen campaign

Passengers on the Hayabusa Shinkansen.

If you want to book transportation yourself, there is another option. In July, JR East announced the Osakini Tokudane Special, a campaign that offers travelers 50 percent off Shinkansen tickets from August 20 to March 31.

Unfortunately, this does not include destinations in West Japan, such as Osaka and Kyoto, but this is an excellent opportunity to explore Japan’s Chubu, Tohoku, and Hokkaido regions.

Bookings must be made at least one month in advance. You’ll also need to buy tickets through the website Eki-net. The site is only available in Japanese.

The discounts will apply to the following travel routes:

Train Name Route Normal price Osakini Tokudane Special Discount value
Hayabusa Tokyo ⇔ Morioka ¥14,810 ¥7,400 ¥7,410
Tokyo ⇔ Shin Hakodate Hokuto ¥23,230 ¥11,610 ¥11,620
Sendai ⇔ Shin-Aomori ¥11,220 ¥5,610 ¥5,610
Hayate Shin Aomori ⇔ Shin Hakodate Hokuto ¥7,520 ¥3,750 ¥3,770
Morioka ⇔ Shin Hakodate Hokuto ¥13,240 ¥6,610 ¥6,630
Yamabiko Tokyo ⇔ Fukushima ¥8,910 ¥4,450 ¥4,460
Nasuno Tokyo ⇔ Nasushiobara ¥5,820 ¥2,910 ¥2,910
Komachi Tokyo ⇔ Akita ¥17,920 ¥8,950 ¥8,970
Tsubasa Tokyo ⇔ Yamagata ¥11,350 ¥5,660 ¥5,690
Tokyo ⇔ Jomo Kogen ¥5,820 ¥2,910 ¥2,910
Tokyo ⇔ Niigata ¥10,560 ¥5,280 ¥5,280
Asama Tokyo ⇔ Nagano ¥8,140 ¥4,060 ¥4,080
Kagayaki Tokyo ⇔ Kanazawa ¥14,180 ¥7,090 ¥7,090
Hakutaka Tokyo ⇔ Itoigawa ¥11,000 ¥5,500 ¥5,500
Azusa Shinjuku (or other station within TOKUNAI) ⇔ Matsumoto ¥6,620 ¥3,300 ¥3,320
Kaiji Shinjuku (any station on the Yamanote Line) ⇔ Ryuoh ¥3,890 ¥1,940 ¥1,950
Hitachi Shinagawa (or other station within TOKUNAI) ⇔ Sendai ¥9,280 ¥4,640 ¥4,640
Wakashio Tokyo (any station on Yamanote Line) ⇔ Awa Kamogawa ¥4,200 ¥2,090 ¥2,110
Sazanami Tokyo (any station on the Yamanote Line) ⇔ Tateyama ¥4,200 ¥2,090 ¥2,110
Shiosai Tokyo (any station on the Yamanote Line) ⇔ Choshi ¥4,200 ¥2,090 ¥2,110
Kinugawa Spacia Kinugawa Shinjuku ⇔ Kinugawa Onsen ¥4,080 ¥2,040 ¥2,040
Inaho Niigata ⇔ Sakata ¥5,370 ¥2,680 ¥2,690

Where should I go?

Seiganto-ji Temple and Nachi Falls in Wakayama. Definitely one for the bucket list.

The sky’s the limit! I mean, as long as that sky is in Japan.

It depends on what you want to experience—looking for beautiful beaches? Wakayama has some of Japan’s best. If you take the right precautions, it might also be the perfect time to visit tourists-heavy Kyoto and Nara. Want to escape the heat and humidity? Try camping in Nagano or taking a ski trip to Hokkaido.

Wherever you choose, the best place to plan your trip is GaijinPot Travel.

Stay safe, everyone!

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