Rather than the cherry blossom or “Sakura season” that dominates headlines on travel to Japan at this time of year, there have been whispers of xenophobia and hatred towards foreign visitors lately. Even when the world reopened, Japan seemed to remain closed.
After South Korea eased travel restrictions this week, sparking excitement around the world, it was only a matter of time before Japan responded.
From April 8, 2022, travel to Japan will begin to change. On Friday, the Japanese government will take action to end long-standing travel bans affecting arrivals from 106 countries. It’s an exciting change, but not without its quirks or limitations.
Add a dose of confusion and welcome to travel in 2022.
Before going to catch the next flight, the news is not as exciting as one would hope. Indeed, travel for tourism purposes still seems to be excluded from the plans. Yes, travel bans may be over, but that doesn’t automatically mean you can go.
Japan begins to officially ease travel restrictions
From April 8, 2022, general arrival bans prohibiting travel to Japan from 106 countries will be lifted.
Some travelers hoping to visit the beloved North Asian country will be able to re-enter from this date, including arrivals from the US, UK and much of Europe, among others. .
The bad news is, that doesn’t mean tourists. At least for now. The number of visitors will also still be capped at 10,000 per day, instead of 7,000.
Entry during this period will require a visa in advance, and visas will remain mainly reserved for businessmen, students and trainees traveling on work orders. A desire to see cherry blossoms while enjoying ramen on a picnic blanket just won’t get you in yet.
The tourists are still out, for now. But for how long ?
Was this news an accidental government slip?
There is mixed news from Japan regarding the statement.
A few days ago, Japan lowered overseas travel “risk” advisories for 106 countries in a separate statement. According to the Japan Times, who is actually allowed to enter Japan will not change at all, despite the government’s new advisory.
This raises the question of whether there are really any plans to allow tourists from these 106 countries, and the timings of the announcements have simply been botched. Nikkei Asia says visa limits may be a key factor. In fact, requiring visas is the key to the problem.
It’s hard to know what to do with the changes, but they’re likely to represent either a very bureaucratic shift in recognition, or the accidental glimpse of new travel plans to come. If it’s the latter, it might not be long at all.
This is always great news for travel in Japan
Rumors have been swirling for months now that Japan will eventually take action on border restrictions, especially as the country’s reopening plans begin to gather pace. Asia was the last player in the global reopening game, but that has changed.
Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia joined Thailand and Singapore within weeks, adding increased pressure on Japan. When South Korea joined them, the stakes got even higher.
By removing travel bans in 106 countries, the country has now responded. Although, with the most risk-averse approach in mind. It could even have been a mistake in leaking future plans.
Even though these new restrictions are a far cry from the test-free, visa-free travel for tourists of the good old days, movement of all kinds is important. These measures pave the way for tourism.
My guess? By September. I certainly wouldn’t mind spending 48 hours in Osaka, Tokyo or Kyoto at this time of year.
The Japanese public supported the border measures, so it shouldn’t have been easy for officials. Recent polls suggested that 65% of the Japanese public liked the measures in place. These changes may not be popular domestically, but they could prove to be a key step in reopening international travel.
With the door open, a wide reopening of tourism could “soon” follow.