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Japan’s prime minister hints at June reopening for tourists

The Independent logo The Independent 06/05/2022 Lucy Thackray
Shinjuku, Tokyo, by night - Getty Images/iStockphoto © Getty Images/iStockphoto

Shinjuku, Tokyo, by night

- Getty Images/iStockphoto

Japan’s prime minister has hinted that Japan could open to international tourists as soon as June.

Addressing a City of London Corporation event in the capital yesterday, prime minister Fumio Kishida said the country’s “next easing” of border control rules would take place next month.

After condemning Russia’s attacks on Ukraine and touching on Japan’s economic policies, Mr Kishida told the event in the City: “At the end of last year, Japan strengthened its border control measures in response to the global spread of the Omicron variant.

“It was an essential public-health step to delay the variant’s entry into the country. This allowed us to fortify our healthcare system and promote vaccinations.

“I hope it is not too boastful to say that Japan’s response to Covid-19 has been one of the most successful in the world.

“We have now eased border control measures significantly, with the next easing taking place in June, when Japan will introduce a smoother entry process similar to that of other G7 members.”

The G7 nations - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States - are currently all open to international visitors, with some (such as the US and Italy) still requiring tests or proof of vaccination to enter.

Video: PM promises to ease cost of living (Sky News)

The Japanese government has yet to confirm a specific opening date or new entry rules from June onward, but specialists running tours in the country say the prime minister’s hint is substantial enough for some excitement.

Simon King, co-founder of tour operator InsideJapan, said: “This is something we have waited over two years for and something that can’t come soon enough.... It would seem that Japan is set to open for tourism again in June.”

Business travellers, foreign workers and visitors such as entertainers have been allowed into the country since 1 March, subject to a PCR or LAMP Covid test taken with 72 hours, plus a health form and signed pledge committing to Japan’s Covid guidelines.

Japan’s authorities confused tourists the world over by announcing a “lift” of its blanket travel ban on foreign visitors from 106 countries on 1 March, including the UK and US.

However, it quickly emerged that, with visa exemption agreements still suspended and embassies abroad still restricting visas, tourists were still unable to visit.

Alastair Donnelly, cofounder of Inside Travel Group, told The Independent at the time that, while it wasn’t immediate good news, it was still a “significant” step for British tourists.

“Although this wasn’t the big reopening announcement that InsideJapan and the travel industry was waiting for, every announcement that comes from the Japanese government is significant,” he said.

“The government will have identified a series of steps that need to be taken to reopen the country. Today’s move may have been just a change to a legal technicality, but it was also quite a big move towards opening to international travel.”

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