After two years of closing the borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Japanese government is allowing tourism to begin on a small scale later this May.
The Japan Tourism Agency stated it would allow small group tours as test cases to gather information. Tourists will visit various sightseeing spots based on preselected itineraries and be with a tour guide at all times, so the government can determine if travel restrictions can be further relaxed. Only tourists who are triple vaccinated and from Australia, Singapore, Thailand, and the United States may participate in the tours.
Self-quarantine periods are still required for travellers where the B.1.1.529 Omicron variant is dominant after they enter Japan as of March 1. The period will be seven days long and will be shortened to three days if you test negative at your accommodations. Travelers will also need to refrain from using public transportation for seven days.
Unfortunately, individual tourists will not be allowed at this time. However, if there are no major issues, the government will expand the range of tourists coming into the country. This trial phase was meant to launch last December, but the rise in the omicron coronavirus variant cases delayed it.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Japan will review its COVID-19 measures after consulting with public health experts and bring them in line with the Group of Seven nations during his trip to London. Kishida is also concerned about when and how far Japan will open its borders to foreign tourists.
The decision on this is due to the increasing pressure from the international community and domestic businesses. In particular, businesses in tourist hotspots such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima see this as a means of revitalising the local economy and sales to return to their pre-pandemic levels.
Yoko Kikuchi, a 77-year-old umbrella store owner in Asakusa, said it was “still like nothing before.” I hope that with foreign tourists returning, the street will get its energy back.”
Keisuke Ishikawa, who owns a bamboo crafts store in Kyoto, welcomed the news of Japan’s reopening to foreign tourists.
“I used to expect sales from inbound tourists on weekdays because a lot of Japanese come on weekends and holidays. I’ve waited and waited for this,” said the 52-year-old.
It was only as recent as March 1, Japan started to allow nontourists such as business people, international students, technical intern trainees, and others to enter. Additionally, the daily cap of people allowed to enter the country slowly raised from 3,500 in November last year to 10,000 as of April 10 this year. It is expected the daily cap to be raised to 20,000 soon.
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