Japan is set to lift its entry ban from 106 countries on Friday, including the United States and the United Kingdom. But if you’ve long-dreamed of visiting the neon-bright neighborhoods of Tokyo or the once-in-a-lifetime attractions of Kyoto as a tourist, you’re going to have to wait a while longer.
In a statement posted on the Foreign Ministry website, the government said it will lift the ban on 106 countries including the US and the UK from Friday, but foreigners from these countries who want to travel for tourism purposes will still be denied entry.
This means that students, business travelers and foreigners entering Japan for a long-term stay can visit Japan but tourists cannot.
“In reality, there will be no change to who can enter Japan,” a Justice Ministry official told the Japan Times regarding the statement. “There won’t be anyone new who will be able to enter Japan as a result of this change.”
The lifting of the ban comes as Japan lowers the COVID-19 risk category for countries such as the UK and the US, but the government is still restricting the issuing of visas and visa-free travel is suspended so tourists are still locked out.
When can tourists travel to Japan?
Speaking at a news conference last week, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said “Japan plans to increase international movements of people in stages by taking into account the infection situation at home and abroad and border control measures that other major nations have taken.”
But he didn’t give a timeline of when tourists might be able to return.
Following today’s announcement regarding the lifting of the entry ban, a spokesperson for the tourism board told Lonely Planet that they still “have no indication or update on when tourism may resume.”
While a statement on US Embassy in Japan’s website reads: “travel for tourism and most other short-term purposes is still not permitted, and there is no indication that this will change in the short term. Visa-free travel is suspended.”
Japan closed its borders in March 2020 under one of the toughest COVID-19 border policies in the world and has only recently opened back up to some international students, business travelers and foreign nationals living abroad.
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This article was first published on October 13, 2020 and updated on April 6, 2022