Japan Cautiously Opens Its Doors Again

For now, only guided package tours will be allowed for foreign tourists
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 10, 2022 5:01 AM CDT
Updated Jun 10, 2022 6:12 AM CDT
Japan Cautiously Eases Foreign Tourism Ban
A tour guide holds a banner near a shopping street at the Asakusa district, Friday, June 10, 2022, in Tokyo.   (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

(Newser) – Japan on Friday eased its borders for foreign tourists and began accepting visa applications, but only for those on guided package tours who are willing to follow mask-wearing and other anti-COVID measures as the country cautiously tries to balance business and infection worries. Friday is the first day to start procedures needed for entry and arrivals are not expected until late June at the earliest, even though airport immigration and quarantine offices stood by for any possible arrivals, the AP reports.

The Japan Tourism Agency says tours are being accepted from 98 countries and regions, including the United States, Britain, China, South Korea, Thailand, and Singapore, which are deemed as having low infection risks. Japan halted international tourism during the pandemic and the partial resumption is being carried out under guidelines based on an experiment conducted in late May. It involved about 50 participants, mostly tour agency employees from Australia, Singapore, Thailand, and the US. In one case, a tour for a four-member group was cancelled when one of the participants tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Japan..

After facing criticism that its strict border controls were xenophobic, Japan began easing restrictions earlier this year. On June 1, it doubled its cap on daily entries to 20,000 people a day, including Japanese citizens, foreign students, and some business travelers. The daily limit will include the package tour participants for the time being, and officials say it will take some time before foreign visitors can come to Japan for free, individual tourism. Unlike most Western countries, where mask-wearing has largely been abandoned, most people in Japan continue to wear them even in situations, such as outdoors in uncrowded settings, where they are no longer requested. (Read more Japan stories.)

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