Time to visit Japan: Japanese government drastically eases entry restrictions for tourists


Photo includes six airplanes arriving at Tokyo Haneda airport terminal 3 from the observation deck. Photo taken July 9 by Hiroto Nakajima.

Japan resumed cross-border travel on Oct. 11, for the first time in over two years since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. The Japanese government strictly limited the regulations for the entrance to Japan. The administration expects this deregulation will accelerate and revive the Japanese economy.

Japan was one of the most popular sightseeing destinations around the world until the pandemic began in 2019. According to Japanese tourism statistics, the number of tourists increased continuously from about 8.4 million in 2012 to nearly 32 million in 2019. 

After the pandemic broke out, the government announced various restrictions to limit tourists from other countries. As a result, the number of tourists went down significantly, approximately 87% from 2019 to 2020. In 2021, only 245,862 tourists from all over the world were allowed to enter the country.

Even when COVID-19 started settling down, the Japanese government did not ease the limitations toward foreigners. During the peak, Japan had a serious problem — the lack of hospital beds available at the time. 

Many Japanese citizens believed it was necessary to keep the strict entry restrictions toward tourists in order to prevent another pandemic. According to a 2021 nationwide poll, 89% of Japanese citizens agreed with a policy to limit new entrants from other countries. Many citizens had positive impressions of the administration for trying to tackle the entry restrictions as quickly as possible. 

Now, the situation has changed.  The pandemic has become less of an issue and the number of patients hospitalized has significantly declined. As a result, there are now enough hospital beds at most medical facilities. The government is now focusing on Japan’s current economic situation. 

During the pandemic, the economic situation in Japan worsened, mainly in the food-service industry. Many restaurants benefited from tourism. After the pandemic broke out, all restaurants were asked by the Japanese government and local administrations to obey national guidelines, such as limiting their hours in order to prevent infections in public spaces.

Now, economic conditions have grown more severe because inflation in the United States continues to impact the Japanese economy. As prices in the United States increase, so will prices in Japan. 

This led Fumio Kishida, the Japanese prime minister, to announce the relaxation of entry restrictions for foreigners on Sept. 26 in New York City. The Kishida administration reviewed the regulations and relaxed the regulations on Oct. 11. 

The government removed an entry regulation for foreigners, which limited a maximum number of 50,000 tourists per day. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, all foreigner tourists are allowed to visit Japan for any purpose of sightseeing, though only group package tours have been allowed so far. 

The administration also says, on-arrival tests at the quarantine station, self-quarantine in places such as one’s own residence or accommodations and refraining from the use of public transportation are no longer required, unless a tourist is displaying symptoms.

In addition, new applications for Visas for foreign nationals were also eased. Japan also resumed the Visa exemption for short-term stays for new entrants from 68 countries, including the United States.

On the other hand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan says that all returnees and entrants will be still required to show either one of two documents of proof before the entrance to Japan, one being a valid COVID-19 vaccination certificate of three doses of vaccines prescribed on the Emergency List of World Health Organization. The other is a certificate of negative COVID-19 test results conducted within 72 hours prior to the departure from the United States. 

After the entry restrictions eased, tourists from all over the world arrived in Japan. The Asahi newspaper reported that many tourists have enjoyed their trips by going shopping or eating sushi. 

The government called on foreigners to utilize this deregulation as an opportunity to visit Japan at lower cost. The Kishida administration also expects that numerous tourists will help accelerate and revive the Japanese economy.

Hiroto Nakajima can be reached at [email protected] or @hiroto_nakajima_1120 on Instagram.