Japan travel restrictions eased but there are some tough new rules for overseas visitors

Japan is finally easing a ban on overseas tourists introduced during the coronavirus pandemic, but there are still some tough new rules for visitors. Visitors are set to be allowed back into the country, however, only if they wear face masks and are accompanied by a chaperone.

The move also only applies to tourists from select countries, including the UK, and will come into effect from tomorrow (Friday, June 10). And their stay in the land of the rising sun will be under some of the strictest conditions still in place. Most western countries have completely lifted Covid travel restrictions brought in to prevent the further spread of the disease.

International travelers have not been allowed to enter Japan for the past two years due to its government’s uncompromising stance on overseas visitors. It is reported that as well as being shadowed by an appointed local guide, tourists will also have to take out private medical insurance just in case they catch the virus.

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Some of the top attractions in Japan include Mount Fuji, Tokyo’s Imperial Palace and Nijubashi Bridge, the historic city of Kyoto, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and the picturesque ‘Japanese Alps’. In 2019, the year before the pandemic hit, a record 32 million foreign tourists visited the country – including 68,400 British sports fans who traveled to watch the Rugby World Cup in October.

With the country’s new-look entry restrictions, however, numbers are unlikely to return to anywhere near pre-pandemic levels. The return of tourism is also being introduced in phases, with only visitors on package tours allowed in during the first phase, according to the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA).

The JTA’s guidelines state: “Tour guides should frequently remind tour participants of necessary infection prevention measures, including wearing and removing masks, at each stage of the tour. Even outdoors, the wearing of masks should continue in situations where people are conversing in close proximity .” There will also be a 20,000 cap on daily arrivals during the first phase.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that his country would be reopening to international tourists this month during a visit to the UK in May. He said: “We will further relax controls, so that in June it will be possible to enter the country as smoothly as other G7 nations.”

His government has credited its strict stance on limiting tourism with helping Japan to weather the international health crisis better than many other countries. Figures published by Johns Hopkins University, in the USA, found that Japan has seen less than 31,000 deaths due to Covid-19.

In contrast, 195,962 people who have died in the UK had Covid-19 on their death certificate. The wearing of face masks has been readily accepted by most people in Japan, with many continuing to do so – as well as social distancing – even outdoors, despite such restrictions easing within the country.

Tourism minister Tetsuo Saito, speaking to the Japan Times, said: “To resume inbound tourism, it is important that the places where tourists will be visiting are willing to accept them and feel safe.” He added: “If travel agencies and others comply with the guidelines, inbound tourism will resume smoothly and lead to a further increase in visitors.”

Tourists will be welcomed back into Japan from a total of 98 countries classed as being low risk during the first phase. As well as the UK, these include the USA, Australia, Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea.

It is understood that anyone visiting Japan who does test positive for Covid will have to be monitored at a medical facility until they are clear and fit to return home. For the latest travel and entry requirements for visitors to Japan from the UK visit the government’s foreign travel pages online.

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