Skiers, jittery Japan won’t fully open for tourism this winter

Japan – home of the best powder in the world, photo:

If you’ve booked your trip to Japan and are starting to get nervous that you might not be able to go, you’d be right to be worried. Japan is a popular destination for Australians who have their summer holidays from mid-December to the end of January. Usually, it’s the perfect time to grab some of Japan’s famous powders. However, Japan is the last G-7 country that still imposes strict travel restrictions on foreign nationals.

The Japanese government announced during its cabinet meeting on Tuesday, August 23, that the country’s travel restrictions will be eased.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno announced a revised tourism policy to allow tours without tour guides and an increase in the previous limit to 50,000 foreign tourists per day. The plan is further to remove the requirement for a negative PCR test, provided the foreign national is vaccinated three times against Covid-19.

Japan opened its borders on June 10 this year to foreign tourists, but set the following conditions for visa applications:

  • tourists had to come from a “blue” country (more information below)
  • numbers were limited to 20,000 per day
  • tourists had to be part of a tour with a tour leader
  • travelers had to be vaccinated three times against Covid-19
  • all arrivals required a negative PCR test

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had created the blue, yellow and red lists of countries, requiring different quarantine rules for entries from different countries. Tourists are still only allowed from the “blue” list, known as those considered to be a low risk of transmission of Covid-19. The US, Canada, Australia, the UK, Switzerland and most EU countries are on this blue list. Those on the yellow or red list may only travel for business or relocation purposes and must be quarantined upon arrival. The ministry also denies entry to some countries in Latin America and Africa, such as Haiti or Somalia.

Ski in the trees
Hoping for some tree skiing in Japan next season 22/23? Photo:

More than two months have passed since the reopening, but the number of tourists entering the country remained at around 7,900 per day last month, well below the limit. The total number of tourists for the month of July was just 140,000 compared to three million in 2019.

In 2016, the Japanese government under Shinzo Abe rolled out a new tourism strategy to revive the Japanese economy. The strategy targeted an increase in foreign tourists to 40 million by 2020 and 60 million by 2030. The country was on track to reach this target in 2020 when the pandemic hit. The increase in tourism had brought about 1 trillion yen ($9.7 billion) to the economy.

Therefore, it is not a big surprise that the current government is reviewing its tourism policy. Some areas in Japan such as Hokkaido depend heavily on tourism income. Following advice from tourist agencies that European and American tourists prefer to travel on their own rather than with a tour guide, the government felt pressure to consider changing the current policy to encourage more foreign tourists.

The timing of this new, softer policy is still subject to parliamentary debate, but you can trust SnowBrains to keep you on top of developments. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will decide the exact timing of this new policy this week.” We will make appropriate decisions in view of the infection situation at home and abroad, and the border control measures taken by major countries,” Hirokazu Matsuno said at Tuesday’s press conference. .

Personal travel by foreign nationals will remain prohibited for the foreseeable future. So if you’ve made your travel arrangements, you may not be eligible for a visa until December unless the Kishida government makes some drastic changes in the next three months.

Before booking any travel, please check Japanese government websites for the most up-to-date requirements and speak with your travel agent. Currently, no independent travel is allowed and you must be part of a tour, even if you are not guided, as travel agencies will be required to manage travelers’ schedules and must follow strict guidelines for handling infected persons.

Skiing in Japan, photo:

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