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Japan Tourism Reopening and 2021 Olympics In Doubt As Cases Increase

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As time goes on, the Covid-19 situation has worsened, but Japan has still allowed for select foreign travelers to enter the country. With the government cancelling its tourism subsidy program and the population turning on the Olympics, we look at what the prospects for travel in Japan might be in the new year.

shibuya scramble covid

A City At Breaking Point – When Will Tokyo Travel Be Permitted?

As the ninth most visited city in the world, there’s undoubtedly travelers refreshing news pages every day in the hope that some positive news comes out of the Tokyo. However, for the last few months, they would have been unlikely to have found any.

Japan’s capital has labeled the effect of Covid-19 on its medical system as “severe”, and has raised its alert level to the highest level possible for the first time as the number of cases continues to rise. Tokyo has set records for cases on consecutive days, with 678 reported on Wednesday 16th December and 822 reported a day later. Hospital beds for those with Covid-19 are 65% full, and there are fears of being overwhelmed should cases hit the 1,000 mark.

The Japanese government has moved to limit people traveling to and from the capital; the Go To Travel tourism subsidy program for citizens has suspended the purchase of inbound tickets to Tokyo, whilst those already in Tokyo have been discouraged from using it to leave.

With Japanese citizens unable to easy visit Tokyo and cases continuing to rise, the prospect of being able to travel to Japan’s capital in the near future looks bleak. Without the spread being contained or a vaccine widely available, tourists will have to be patient and look towards the latter half of the year if they want to visit Tokyo.

japan masks street covid

The Olympic Games – A Viable Option For Travelers?

The entry of foreign tourists was expected to be as early as Spring, as the nation looks to test out its preparedness for the games. However, entry for such a purpose has been penciled in for travelers from countries that have contained the outbreak, with those in China and Taiwan expected to be the lucky ones. With Japan facing its toughest Covid-19 challenge yet, it remains to be seen whether or not this plan will go ahead.

osaka covid mask old lady

The games are proving to be a sore point for the Japanese. With many worrying about the pandemic, a recent survey by a national broadcaster found that only 27% favored holding the games next year, with 31% of those surveyed preferring a further postponement and 32% supporting cancellation altogether.

By the time the Olympic games come around – on July 23rd – the landscape regarding the pandemic may be completely different, with vaccinations having taken place and the situation in Japan hopefully under greater control. With international travel expected by experts to have returned to some degree of normalcy, those hoping to experience the games in Japan may want to tentatively start researching.

Positive Signs For Travelers?

Japan has tough restrictions regarding who can enter, with only those with residency, business or families in the country permitted to enter. However, despite such restrictions, the entry of foreigners into Japan has doubled month on month.

two women masks japan kimono

Whilst October saw 27,400 foreigners successfully enter the country, November saw that figures that more than doubled that amount, with 56,700 arriving. Should these foreign entrants manage to avoid the virus and the situation steadies itself, it strengthens the argument for a softening of the borders in 2021 and a return of tourists, which many businesses in Japan so desperately need.

Travel to Japan in 2021 – The Verdict

The possibility of travel into Japan in 2021 is contingent on several different factors. First and foremost, the country must lower the spread of the virus, as it is impossible to imagine the country ever allowing tourists in whilst setting daily case records in the capital. Secondly, all eyes are on the Olympic games. A successful trial of foreign tourists prior to the games leads to allowing greater numbers in for the games proper. All being well, a successful event could lead to an even greater relaxing of the borders. Should Japan achieve these feats, coupled with widespread vaccination around the world, travel to Japan in the latter half of 2021 needn’t be a figment of the imagination anymore, but a reality.

japan face mask shibuya crossing

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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling.  Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories