Even though the continent of Asia has been finally lifting its overly restrictive travel rules, which kept most foreigners locked out for the best part of two years, Japan is one of a few with ‘no immediate plans’ to reopen for tourism.
In other words, American tourists are still banned from visiting Japan for non-essential reasons.
While other nations like Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand have started lifting curbs, welcoming vaccinated Americans under less bureaucratic border regimes, Japan has yet to lift what many deem dated travel bans.
In doing so, the Southeastern Asian hub goes directly against the official World Health Organization’s recommendation.
Country Has Technically ‘Reopened’ To 106 Countries, But Only For Business Travelers
During the last two years of Covid, very few nations imposed such strict entry requirements. Besides tourists, those who were normally allowed to move freely between borders in order to carry out essential work, such as business travelers, also faced an outright ban.
Not even Europe, where movement was once seriously restricted, went as far as Japan has.
Earlier this week, Japan officially removed travel bans for certain categories of travelers, from 106 countries, which do not include tourists. This means that, while vacationers are still not allowed to visit, travelers from the U.S. with evidence their visit to Japan is necessary in order to conduct business, can again cross the border.
The decision will surely boost Japan’s slow economic recovery, especially after the country saw 40,000 companies go bankrupt due to harsh border measures. On top of that, the country will also begin allowing more international students to enter, signaling the end to an era of blanket travel bans on all foreigners.
Sadly, American tourists continue to be left out, as do Canadians, Brits, and other foreigners hoping to visit for tourism purposes.
No Date Has Been Agreed For Tourism Reopening
Following the country’s move to reopen, albeit shyly, for business, many hoped a decision on tourism would be made soon, until Prime Minister Fumio Kishida dealt a further blow to the sector, announcing ‘there are no immediate plans to reopen to tourists‘ for the time being.
As stated during a news conference, Mr. Kishida noted Japan has ‘no specific schedule’ for a tourism reopening, and no date has been agreed on, though the country will ‘make a decision after examining the Covid-19 infection situation and border control steps taken by other nations’.
This seems to suggest Japan may be considering aligning itself with other countries that have been dropping curbs at some point, though that is unlikely to happen in the near future as the country faces a new Covid surge.
Having enacted similar border measures, Australia and New Zealand have recently reopened for tourism, further isolating Japan as one of the last countries in the world to ban tourists.
What Measures Has Japan Imposed At The Border?
Currently, the country allows only 10,000 entrants per day, besides returning Japanese citizens.
In order to qualify for an exemption to the travel ban, Americans must also be foreign residents or students, or more recently, business travelers. Having close family ties to Japan or traveling for health reasons are not listed as official exemptions.
Japan’s visa waiver program, which up until 2020 allowed Americans to visit without applying for a visa, has also been suspended. Now, U.S. citizens hoping to travel to Japan for reasons other than tourism must submit an official application at a Japanese Consulate abroad.
Other Countries In Asia Remain An Option For Americans
While Japan continues to impose strict entry protocols, Americans may look elsewhere in Asia for facilitated travel, such as Vietnam or India. They should still beware that, overall, the whole continent is still adopting more conservative measures in their Covid approach, in striking contrast with Europe or Latin America.
Recently, the war in Ukraine has also made travel to Asia more challenging, as airlines are forced to avoid Russian airspace, adding extra hours and costs to already-expensive flights.
In fact, due to the ongoing conflict in Europe, some flight routes between Western nations and Asia have even been axed.
As the world struggles to contain a still-threatening Covid, and now adjust to a war-stricken Europe, travelers are advised to purchase travel insurance in order to be better equipped when faced with adversities, such as testing positive when abroad or flight cancellations.
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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