The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Tokyo airports bustle as entry restrictio­ns eased for tourists

- The Yomiuri Shimbun

Border control measures were greatly eased on Tuesday, including the eliminatio­n of the ban on individual tourists from abroad. Haneda Airport in Tokyo and Narita Airport in Chiba Prefecture were crowded with foreign tourists on the day, perhaps drawn partly by the yen’s recent plunge against the dollar. A Japanese government-sponsored program to stimulate domestic tourism demand has also begun, raising hopes in the tourism industry, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A 54-year-old German woman arrived at Haneda Airport with a friend on Tuesday morning. “Finally, my dream has come true,” said the woman, who said she admires Japanese culture and scenery. She and her friend planned to stay for two weeks.

“We’re going to enjoy hot springs in Hakone [in Kanagawa Prefecture], and are looking forward to experienci­ng traditiona­l Japanese culture tomorrow in Osaka and Kyoto,” she said.

A 42-year-old engineer from Australia arrived at the airport with his partner, on a trip to visit the partner’s parents in Tokyo. e man said he can nally introduce himself in person, thanks to the li ing of the individual travel ban.

The entry cap of 50,000 people a day to Japan has been abolished. Likewise, coronaviru­s testing upon entry is no longer required if a traveler presents proof of having received three vaccinatio­ns or a negative coronaviru­s test taken prior to departure.

Visas are waived for short-term stays for tourists from 68 countries and regions, including the United States and South Korea.

Since February 2020, when the government denied entry to non-Japanese who had been in China’s Hubei Province where coronaviru­s infections were spreading, the government had imposed various limits on entry. As of Tuesday, however, border control measures had almost returned to their pre-pandemic state.

e number of foreign visitors to Japan, which was about 31.88 million in 2019, plummeted to about 240,000 last year.

However, a er the announceme­nt of the planned easing of the border control measures in September, bookings on internatio­nal

ights bound for Japan surged, with All Nippon Airways seeing a ve-fold increase for the period from December to January next year compared to before the announceme­nt.

Japan Airlines also saw a more than threefold increase for the period from November to December. “e weak yen is providing a tailwind,” a JAL o cial said.

The government-sponsored program to stimulate domestic tourism demand subsidizes 40% of travel expenses for public transporta­tion and accommodat­ions. Together with coupons that can be used for eating out and purchases at a traveler’s destinatio­n, the maximum subsidy amount is ¥11,000 per person per day. e program will be implemente­d in Tokyo from Oct. 20.

Another government-sponsored subsidy program that o ers a 20% discount (up to ¥2,000) on the price of tickets to movies, sporting events and other entertainm­ent likewise began Tuesday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Sunday expressed his hopes for the subsidy programs and the easing of border control measures after watching the Japanese Grand Prix of the Formula One World Championsh­ip at Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture.

“We want many people to enjoy events across the nation and hope it will invigorate Japan,” Kishida said.

(Published in print on Oct. 12)

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