Japan Expects To Allow International Tourist Arrivals On Trial Basis From April 2021

Japan closed its borders for most foreign arrivals in March (I got in just before the quarantine was put in place) and recently allowed foreign residents to return who were overseas when the ban was instituted.

As the 2020 Olympics were moved by a year to 2021, the Japanese government has difficulty putting forward a plan to allow international arrivals in 2021 in time for the games.

Japanese media is now reporting that the government is coming up with a tentative plan to allow international tourist arrivals from April 2021 on a trial basis.

Tourists would need to have a negative Covid-19 test done before departure, have an insurance that covers Covid-19 treatment expenses if infected in Japan, download a health check app, have another Covid-19 test at the time of arrival, and, here where it becomes confusing; the press refers to visas that many nationals do not need when traveling to Japan.

It is unclear if Japan will change the visa-free entry requirements to the country. If they do, this may affect the Japanese’s ability to travel oversees visa-free (keyword – reciprocity). Also, tourists may be allowed to enter only part of Japan and not able to roam freely.

Visitors need to report their health condition for the 14 days after arriving in the country. Japan hasn’t decided the number of tourists would be allowed to enter from April onwards.

Here’s an excerpt from the Japan Times:

The government has named the whole process of foreign visitors entering, staying in and leaving Japan with the term “journey,” and is discussing specific countermeasures at each stage.

According to the measures, the government plans to ask foreign tourists hoping to visit Japan to download a health check app when they obtain visas at Japanese consulates in their home countries.

The government also plans to oblige foreign tourists to acquire certification that they tested negative for the coronavirus before departure and buy private medical insurance to prepare for possible infection with the virus after entering Japan, the sources said.

If they test negative for the virus in an examination they undertake when entering Japan, the government will allow them to watch Olympic and Paralympic events.

While asking them to report their health condition via the app for 14 days after entry, the government is likely to exempt them from self-quarantine at a hotel and other places.

And from Soranews24:

The Japanese Government, who recently lifted the ban on non-citizen foreign residents from October, says they’ve now begun “full-scale” investigations into how and when they’ll be opening up the country to foreign tourists.

Government officials have revealed that they plan to have coronavirus countermeasures set up for international tourists by January next year. Once these safety measures are in place, the government says Japan plans to lift the ban on foreign tourists on a trial basis from April 2021, while keeping an eye on the pandemic situation in Japan and overseas.

The tentatively named “Fever Health Consultation Support Centre” will be set up specifically for overseas visitors as a way to take the pressure off local governments and avoid overburdening the Japanese health system. The Health Centre will likely be set up in Tokyo, the host city for the Olympics.

Government officials say the new safety measures for foreign visitors will remain in place after the Olympics as Japan attempts to take measured steps towards reviving international tourism.

Conclusion

The Japanese government is in a tough spot. If the country plans to have the Olympics in 2021 (there is obviously a probability that they will be completely canned), they need to develop a scheme that would allow foreign arrivals into the country.

You also have to keep in mind that Japan is a conservative society. It will take a long while for the country to remove these requirements in place back from March.

It isn’t easy to see how Japan would allow large scale international arrivals before 2022. There is only so much capacity for Covid-19 tests that can be administered at the time of entry without building up hours-long lines – perfect places for catching viruses.

I had a blast this year in Japan, where I spent close to six months. Longest ever Sakura-trip that was supposed to last 10 nights. Something happened along the way (Covid-19).