Beginning October 11, Japan will scrap nearly all its remaining entry requirements and allow for normal tourism after over 2.5 years of stringent restrictions. During a news conference in New York on Thursday, September 22, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that Japan will be getting rid of its cap on daily arrivals. Further, the country will allow individual tourists to enter visa-free, allowing Americans to enter the country without having to go through the cumbersome process of obtaining a tourist visa.
A Long Time Coming
Travelers have kept an eye on Japan, as most of the world started to reopen earlier this year. During that time, Japan only made minuscule adjustments that allowed for travel under very strict conditions. The country did not allow foreigners to enter for tourism purposes until June 10. Even then, the restrictions imposed on the travelers willing to jump the hurdle of obtaining a visa were significant.
Travelers who wanted to visit Japan could only do so by booking with a tour operator. While in the country, they could not leave their tour group for any reason. Additionally, travelers had to comply with all local regulations or instructions from their tour guide. Not the most exciting way to spend a vacation. Unsurprisingly, tourism did little to bounce back under these restrictions.
The newest rule change is welcome news to international tourists and Japanese citizens alike. The Digital Minister, Taro Kono, expressed what is likely felt by many on Twitter alongside the announcement. “Finally, Japan will reopen the border…”
Finally, Japan will reopen the border. Visa waiver is back, no daily limit and free individual visits.— KONO Taro (@konotaromp) September 22, 2022
What Rules Are Still In Place?
Travel to Japan will get much easier on October 11, but some restrictions are still in place. Specifically, visitors entering Japan will either need to have received three shots of a Covid-19 vaccine or take a pre-arrival PCR test. Fully vaccinated individuals will not have to take a pre-departure test and can travel to Japan much like they could before the pandemic. Mask use is still strongly recommended by the local government in certain situations, such as most public transportation. Travelers should bring a few for the journey, just in case.
Why The Change?
Last week, Travel Off Path reported that Japan was considering easing restrictions this fall. The latest announcement from Prime Minister Fumio Kishida confirms this and marks October 11 as the set-in-stone date that restrictions will ease. The move comes following historic lows for Japan’s currency. Compared to the U.S.’s strong dollar, the yen is the weakest it has been in 24 years.
Japan has been slow to reopen compared to other Asian destinations such as Indonesia or Thailand, and it is paying the price. Japan’s previous visa requirements and harsh travel restrictions have made the country practically inaccessible for most travelers, leading to an intense decline in tourism revenue. Japan welcomed 31.88 million foreign visitors in 2019, establishing a new record for itself. This year has not seen numbers even remotely close to 2019, and the country is eager to regain tourism revenue.
How Bad Is It?
To show how little effect Japan’s attempt at “opening” for tourism in June of this year had, consider the following statistic. In July of this year, Japan welcomed about 144,500 international visitors. During July 2019, Japan received over 3 million! In total, July 2022 showed a 95.2% decrease in visitors compared to 2019. It’s clear that Japan needed to take a few more steps to regain a foothold in the tourism sector, and the country has finally decided to do so.
Welcome News For Travelers
Before the pandemic, Japan was steadily increasing the number of visitors it welcomed every year. Interest in the unique destination grew, and the country looked set to continue breaking records. Japan’s exceptional natural beauty and distinctive architecture make for a picturesque holiday, and many travelers have been waiting for today’s news for a long time.
In the words of Digital Minister Taro Kono, “Finally, Japan will reopen[!]”
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com