Japan border reopening for tourists

Old Mar 1st, 2022, 03:56 PM
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Japan border reopening for tourists

Does anyone on the forum have knowledge of when the border restrictions in Japan might lift to allow tourists from the USA?
I have tickets for mid March 2022 but not much hope of being able to travel. Darn Covid!
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Old Mar 2nd, 2022, 09:17 AM
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I hope your tickets can be cancelled.....no way Japan will open for tourists in the next two weeks....
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Old Mar 2nd, 2022, 11:53 AM
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I too have been waiting for Japan to reopen for tourists. My travel consultant, who will be going to Japan on a special visa this month, "guesses" that we might be able to go as early as June, but will have a better feel of things when he is there. I will post any updates. In any case, tourism travel there in March is out of the question.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2022, 06:54 PM
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Thanks for the opinions. June is the next time our schedule would be open to try again. Fingers crossed. Will look forward to your update Burda.
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Old Mar 6th, 2022, 03:21 PM
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Best of luck. I'm waiting for Japan to open it's borders up and lift the mandatory quarantine.
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Old Mar 21st, 2022, 07:14 PM
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Why Japan remains closed to foreign tourists

This is the situation in Japan:
Japan is very unlikely to re-open to unrestricted tourism this spring, due to many factors.

One point is that Japan has a PCR testing issue. Unlike other countries, Japan does not have widespread and easily available-to-all PCR testing. If other countries require a PCR test to enter (which is needed for a visitor to return home, such as someone from the US or most of Europe) then its is not an easy task currently to get a test, let alone doing it anywhere except Tokyo and in a foreign language. Furthermore, getting a test and/or results within a 48-72hr pre-flight window is particularly hard when factoring in a weekend or holiday (most clinics are Mon-Fri). But on a positive note, the UK has removed this re-entry testing and Thailand will be eliminating its pre-entry PCR test requirement from April 1st, so perhaps this trend will spread elsewhere and remove this obstacle for Japan, but for now, getting a test for a flight out is not a simple task.

(yes, even though it is 2+ years into this virus, Japan still does not have itself organized that well for Covid testing like other countries. Please don't ask me why)

Then there is the question of what to do with a foreign traveler if they catch Covid in Japan. Language barriers, health insurance, flight disruption, where the infected can be allowed to quarantine and how to get them there... all would need to be contended with, and Japan has serious issues managing the domestic population that is infected, let alone a tourist.

Next is the latest requirement for entry into Japan imposed on Japanese citizens and residents (the few who can enter) which is the need for a 3rd booster shot. While most people in other (developed) countries can easily get these, not so again in Japan. The 3rd booster is available only after 7 months from the first 2 shots and strictly administered by the government health department. Millions of people could not finally get their first 2 shots until October or November last year due to a late and slow vaccine rollout, so it means these people can not get their booster until this coming May or June. It would be highly unlikely that Japan will allow boostered foreign tourists in until all citizens are at least allowed to get their own booster so as to actually be able to enter their own country themselves under the same requirement.

Then there is the domestic "Go To Travel" program which gives hefty discounts for domestic tourism. This program was launched in autumn 2020, then suspended all through 2021 when cases rose, and was suppose to restart in January 2022 but Omicron stopped it again. Huge sums of money have already been allotted for it and it is waiting to be spent, and it is only for citizens and residents. So until this program restarts and is completed (there is funding for several more months), its unlikely Japan will re-open for unrestricted foreign tourism (maybe Japan will allow fully arranged foreign group tours at the same time as the domestic "Go To Travel" scheme, but more on that below...)

And then there is the political question. When Japan shut the doors to the world for Omicron a few months ago, there was a 90% approval rating for this move. Rarely does anything get such high approval, so in that sense, except from the foreign tourism industry, there are few calls to re-open among the public, and absolutely no calls for it among politicians. There is a national Parliament election in July 2022, and it is very likely that no politician from any party will run on a campaign or even mention the concept for re-opening to foreign tourists before then. Its too much of a political hot-potato (the same occurred last November in the months leading up to the election that was held then, where no talk of re-opening the borders for even visa-holding workers and students happened until a week after the election... then Omicron hit and they were locked out again).

If anything, unless there is a major reversal to the trends in Japan's view on the virus, then Japan may only start to re-open this summer, but probably at first only to fully arranged package tours, where the foreign tourists are sequestered for the entire trip from their entry to departure in special hotels, special buses, and continually under the responsibility of tour companies (imagine a trip to North Korea). This will allow for any contingency if a foreign tourists catches the virus and will also manage testing, language, and quarantine considerations.

But as far as fully open unrestricted travel like 2019? Maybe in the autumn.... (...of 2023?)

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Old Mar 22nd, 2022, 07:52 AM
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Thank you Wilk67 for such an analysis of the issues there. The points you brought up were not considered by me. I especially thought the political issue was curious. I would have thought the travel industry and those making income from tourism would start to exert more pressure to open. Are you in Japan or have close contact with some of the residents?
I rescheduled the March trip to early June but still have doubts we will travel. I book the air tickets with frequent flier miles so cancelling is not difficult or punishing. This the fourth time I have made air reservations but have avoided housing and transportation reservations after the first try in 2020.

Any suggestions on how to keep up with the situation? I found a site called travel caffeine and Japan Times but neither has much news about leaders making decisions to open the border.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2022, 09:24 AM
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Some interesting thoughts there Wilk67. Thanks for the. input. I have tickets from London to Sydney via Tokyo in September. a 8 hour layover on the way there and a week’s stay on the way back. I imagine the layover wont be an issue on the way out but I may have to have a rethink about the return trip and switch to just a layover there too! *&$#, I was so looking forward to a ramen/ sushi/yakitori fix and adding a few more knives to my collection
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Old Mar 23rd, 2022, 02:38 AM
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OhioRob, Yes I'm in Japan, just outside Tokyo. I've been based here for several years, including all through the pandemic.

I saw the piece in Travel Caffeine about Japan's potential re-opening, including the update on it from a few days ago. It has some good points about the economic necessity for re-opening to foreign tourism, but there was a lot of wishful thinking in there which didn't take into account the undeniable logistical considerations I mentioned.

In particular, I should stress that Japan has a real concern for how to manage any covid illness among foreign tourists. Don't forget, right at the very beginning of the pandemic, Japan dealt with the whole Diamond Princess cruise ship debacle and learned pretty quick the burden of handling non-resident foreigners who can not speak Japanese.

Aside from the hotels for the international arrivals which are set up for the current arrival quarantine (which is being phased out now), there are no other quarantine facilities in Japan, except for hospitals that are certified to handle a Covid-positive person (many hospitals do not have certified Covid facilities, and of those that do, some are notorious for turning away Covid-positive Japanese patients arriving by ambulance. There have been many stories of this happening). If Japanese citizens/residents test positive, they are expected to isolate at home unless severely ill (overcapacity at hospitals is a real concern), and staying home is obviously something a foreign tourist can not do.

And nearly all of those quarantine hotels for inbound arrivals are in the Tokyo vicinity due to Haneda and Narita airports accounting for the vast majority of flights coming in (or at least, the few flights currently allowed). So then what to do when a foreign tourist tests positive somewhere that is not Tokyo, especially in the countryside? Its understandable that hotels which have daily customers specifically do not want to host a covid-positive guest, let alone a foreigner who they can't properly communicate with and (dare I say) may not follow the rules for isolating correctly.
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A solution I once heard would be to establish regional quarantine facilities set up to handle covid-positive foreign tourists (who may range in age from 1 to 80+, have a slew of dietary requirements unheard of in Japan, and may only speak any one of dozens of languages that are neither Japanese or English)... but aside from the fact that this costs money, require a special space as well as trained, multi-lingual medical personnel, and was something in the past 2+ years the government could not even provide to its own citizens... even if they did do this for visiting foreigners, then how would they even get there? These places may be hours away for someone, but covid-positive people are not allowed to ride public transport, and in the majority of the country there are no covid-taxis or the anything of the like.

So if Japan had a limit to its "omotenashi", then this is it.

I don't want to seem pessimistic (hey, I'm stuck here myself and I still need to wait another 6 weeks until I qualify for the booster which allows me to finally bypass quarantine on return), but these are just some of the logistical hurdles which Japan needs to contend with to allow in foreign tourists. Yeah, covid is becoming a bit more "acceptable" here, but it still has a pretty big stigma among the public and many blame the (few) people coming in from outside Japan (though of course, not their own citizens) as being the source for any outbreak (then again, the US military stationed here has had innumerable instances of skipping out on quarantine, going maskless all over the place, and until just a few months ago, not even needing to test before departure or on arrival which allowed many to enter the country while actually covid-positive.)

To be honest, I think that Japan wants to first enjoy their own holidays with their "Go To Travel" discounts without being in lockdown (the past 2 Golden Weeks and O-bons have had travel restrictions, and nearly all festivals have been cancelled for 2+ years), so at best, I think it will not be till mid-summer or autumn (again, at best) that unrestricted foreign tourists are allowed, and even then, I still do not know how they intend to manage sick foreigners (which is why I think there will first be a period of group tours only that are constantly under the eye of travel companies).

But I assure you, when Japan does announce a re-opening, you will not need to look that hard to find news on this. The Japan Times, Asahi Shimbun, Kyodo, NHK... it will be a major story everywhere.

Last edited by Wilk67; Mar 23rd, 2022 at 02:42 AM. Reason: grammar
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Old Mar 23rd, 2022, 07:34 AM
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Thank you so much for your thoughtful analysis. You have an interesting perspective and I greatly appreciate this.

I had hoped to travel there last fall as the first wave of COVID appeared to be winding down, but it soon became clear that it was wishful thinking. I’m waiting for the day travel will reopen in Japan and hope we’ll be there in 2023!
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Old May 6th, 2022, 02:15 PM
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Th Japanese Gov is finally making moves towards re-opening.
But first it will be for limited numbers of fully monitored group tours only starting late May or June.
But no announcement yet on when unrestricted regular tourists can enter. Maybe by mid or late summer?




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Old May 7th, 2022, 05:19 AM
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We had tickets for early June but cancelled a few weeks ago. The airlines were changing everything around to match the small number of passengers and we gave up. I will be happy when they put some solid statements on paper and will not make any solid plans until they get rolling and back to full services.
Thanks to all who provided input.
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Old May 7th, 2022, 06:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Wilk67 View Post
Th Japanese Gov is finally making moves towards re-opening.
But first it will be for limited numbers of fully monitored group tours only starting late May or June.
But no announcement yet on when unrestricted regular tourists can enter. Maybe by mid or late summer?
Are you able to provide a source for this information?
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Old May 7th, 2022, 08:07 AM
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There have been a couple of articles in the English language versions of Japanese newspapers. I can't seem to copy the links but the sites are

asahi.com and mainichi.jp/english

Give those a try...the articles were recent....

As far as I'm concerned, I'm not thinking of traveling til next spring....hopefully Japan will be completely opened by then.
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Old May 7th, 2022, 01:03 PM
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Originally Posted by crellston View Post
Are you able to provide a source for this information?
I can only add links after 10 posts.
(this is number 10...)
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Old May 7th, 2022, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Wilk67 View Post
I can only add links after 10 posts.
(this is number 10...)
OK, post 11 !!
Here's some links about re-opening. But its still all vague and if anything, it will only be for group tours so they can "monitor" the situation (but as I wrote extensively above, its probably due to several logistical factors).

But at least its a start.

https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14615575

https://japantoday.com/category/nati...urists-in-june
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Old May 7th, 2022, 10:44 PM
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Thanks Wilks, I had no idea of the restriction of 10 posts!

The last paragraph in the first links says;

"Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged in London during a speech May 5 that the restrictions would be relaxed in June to levels of other Group of Seven nations after consulting with experts on infectious diseases.”

Given that there are no restrictions in the UK and very limited restrictions in other G7 nations, this could be considered encouraging , but the cynic in me wonders whether this is just political BS or journalists miss-reporting /miss-interpreting comments. Though, given that summer is arriving in the northern hemisphere and transmission is quickly reducing, perhaps there are grounds for hope?

The consensus in the UK and international quality press seems to be that the fact that the restrictions are still in place is as much down to politics and the general reluctance of the majority of Japanese people to allow foreigners in to the country, some referring to it as the usual Japanese xenophobia. I guess we shall have to just wait and see.
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Old May 8th, 2022, 03:19 AM
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Originally Posted by crellston View Post
Thanks Wilks, I had no idea of the restriction of 10 posts!

The last paragraph in the first links says;

"Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged in London during a speech May 5 that the restrictions would be relaxed in June to levels of other Group of Seven nations after consulting with experts on infectious diseases.”

Given that there are no restrictions in the UK and very limited restrictions in other G7 nations, this could be considered encouraging , but the cynic in me wonders whether this is just political BS or journalists miss-reporting /miss-interpreting comments. Though, given that summer is arriving in the northern hemisphere and transmission is quickly reducing, perhaps there are grounds for hope?

The consensus in the UK and international quality press seems to be that the fact that the restrictions are still in place is as much down to politics and the general reluctance of the majority of Japanese people to allow foreigners in to the country, some referring to it as the usual Japanese xenophobia. I guess we shall have to just wait and see.
Well, your inner cynic can relax a bit because he did in fact say that (it was taken from the official English language transcript provided by the government).

Specifically, he said, "We have now eased border control measures significantly, with the next easing taking place in June, when Japan will introduce a smoother entry process similar to that of other G7 members."

But MY inner cynic would point out that in making a "smoother entry process" that is "similar" (note: "similar") to other G7s, it may only mean making it less of a hassle for those who can already enter, such as residents, students, and sponsored business people. But tourists currently can not enter, so there is no process for Japan to smoothen out.
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Old May 8th, 2022, 06:15 AM
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It is a maybe - decision to be made this month after they see how Golden Week travel affects covid numbers. Could be limited to people with an approved vax type: Pfizer, Moderma, or Astra Zeneca. This would exclude those who got the Sinovax or Sputnik vax. I would love to go at a time when large numbers of people are excluded.

The following article also mentions landing slots. Hoping for a situation where I could go after capacity is increased but before a full reopening. I would love it if there was a rewind to the number of tourists that entered twenty years ago but even ten years agoi would be great. or 5

Japan weighs welcoming foreign tourists as early as June - Nikkei Asia
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Old May 8th, 2022, 02:48 PM
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Most of the articles I have read seem to say they are considering tourists who are a part of a group tour - which I sort of assume most of us here are not doing group tours. I certainly wouldn't do one just to get back to Japan....I could probably lead one...lol....
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