Japan May Reopen to Tourists from June

Restrictions are set to be rolled back in stages, starting off with a pilot program involving small tour groups.

The iconic torii gate at Miyajima’s Itsukushima Shrine. (Photo: Nicki Eliza Schinow/Unsplash)

While countries across Asia are already welcoming back overseas visitors, Japan has so far opted for a more cautious approach. Since March, business travelers have been allowed to skip mandatory quarantine if they are triple-vaccinated and show a negative result from a test conducted within 72 hours of departure. According to Nikkei, a similar framework will likely be put in place for incoming tourists as soon as next month.

The news comes on the heels of an announcement by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida last week that the country would “introduce a smoother entry process” to bring it in line with other G7 nations, the rest of which have already reopened their borders to international tourists. Nikkei reports that the government will wait two weeks to see the impact of the Golden Week holidays on coronavirus case numbers before making a final decision on lifting the ban on leisure travelers.

Meanwhile, Fuji News Network has suggested the initial reopening phase may come even earlier, as multiple officials revealed plans for a trial involving small groups of vaccinated tourists as soon as this month. It’s understood that all participants must have received a booster dose and join a package tour with a fixed itinerary; this scheme will be expanded if does not increase the spread of Covid-19, paving the way for the resumption of general tourism in the months ahead.

Japan’s strict border rules were eased somewhat in April, when some news outlets spoke of a “stealth reopening” as parents of foreign residents could now enter the country for short-term visits, alongside foreign students and academics. The entry quota of overseas arrivals was recently raised from 7,000 to 10,000 per day, and according to Nikkei, it could double to 20,000, though that represents less than a quarter of the average number of foreigners who entered the country in 2019.

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