There has not been much news coming out of Japan regarding relaxing entry requirements for visitors since last month when they started trialing group tours to the county, which attracted 252 visitors in June.
Japan has relaxed entry requirements for those vaccinated and coming from countries (primarily Western) that don’t need to quarantine. However, the government has removed the visa-free entry for all nationals, and visas are only approved for those coming for business, studying, or social purposes.
There was an interesting piece on Japan Today that had June 2022 international entry statistics to the country.
Only 252 tourists had entered on those group visas, a much lower number than initially estimated. There have, however, been roughly 15,000 applications to enter on group tours in July or later.
I guess that the Japanese government believed that tourists like North Korea-style tours where you always have a minder accompanying you and are only allowed to enter certain sights and never allowed to wander by yourself.
There were more than 120,000 foreign arrivals, down 96% from 2019, in addition to 171,500 citizens.
1. Vietnam – 22,900 visitors
2. China – 14,700 visitors
3. South Korea – 11,200 visitors
4. United States – 9,700 visitors
There was another piece by Nikkei Asia that had exciting statistics about the trajectory of inbound tourism to Japan and where all those came from:
Japan’s goal is to have 60 million tourism arrivals yearly from 2030. The number of incoming tourists more than tripled from 2009 to 2019.
But, if you look at the numbers where these visitors came from, you get a more troubling image. Two-thirds of the visitors came from just three countries, and China alone is responsible for a third of all visitors to Japan.
Japan is also concerned that most tourists are only interested in the Golden Triangle of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka and rarely visit other parts of the country.
If you are a first or second-time visitor to Japan, it is evident that you want to see the most significant sights first. It will be a hard sell to get visitors from China, South Korea, and Taiwan to explore Hokkaido and Fukuoka first.
Japan is also going through its latest coronavirus cycle, and the number of daily injections is throughout the roof.
Would allowing visitors to enter make the situation any different when there is plenty of community spread?
Only China (mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan & Hong Kong) and Japan are closed for international visitor arrivals or require lengthy quarantine.
Japanese citizens have been free to travel the entire time, although they needed to quarantine after returning in 2020/2021.
Japan eased the entry restrictions first for business travelers and students and later for those with connections to the country (social visit visas). They all need to apply for a visa to enter, but there are long lines at many Japanese embassies and consulates overseas that need to process them.
I think that it is good that Japan has decided to reassess its tourism goals, and it would be worthwhile for other countries to do the same. You don’t want tourists to overrun a city and make it difficult for residents to go on with their daily lives.
There are many other places in Japan worth a visit outside of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, as I found out when spending six months in the country in 2020. I am doubtful; however, that mass market tourists on package tours wish to visit other places than the high lights in these three cities.
No signals are coming out from Japan about their reopening for individual visitors. Therefore, it is starting to look doubtful that we will see positive developments in 2022.