Skip to content

Japan’s slow Covid reopening restricts normal foreign tourists, but not celebrities

Placeholder while loading article actions

TOKYO — It doesn’t seem like rapper Kanye West, actor Tom Cruise and K-pop stars Super Junior have much in common. But they are doing it in Japan: they are part of the parade of foreign artists who have recently entered the country amid a strict border closure.

Their high-profile appearances in the city highlighted the discrepancies in Japan’s slow reopening, as they determine which foreigners are considered safe and which are still considered a covid liability.

So far, some business travelers, international students and foreign workers are accepted, but many family members of foreign residents are not. Group visits resume this month, but not individual tourism.

Japan’s small tourism test will let in 50 foreign travelers

In May, American and South Korean artists on business trips met hundreds of fans to promote their work with unlimited access. The same month, about fifty tourists entered a trial gallop while being watched at each trip.

But this week Japan canceled one of those test tours after a Thai traveler tested positive for coronavirus and exposed three others. The test was designed to prepare Japan to accept group visits from 98 countries from June 10. The Thai travel group’s positive test is unlikely to alter those reopening plans, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said.

Japan’s continued restrictions on foreigners are out of step not only with major Group of Seven economies, but also with neighboring countries in the Asia-Pacific region that have fully resumed unrestricted tourism amid declining covid cases. .

The pandemic shutdown has remained popular domestically, but opponents have compared it to Japan’s isolationist policies from the early 1600s to the 1850s. In recent weeks, business and tourism industry leaders have stepped up their public criticisms, calling Japan’s reopening overly cautious and damaging to the country’s economy and global image.

Om Prakash, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, said the previous blanket ban on entry into the country had “imposed real economic and human costs”.

“This has set back efforts to revive the economy, attract international students and promote Japan as an investment and tourism destination,” he said. “To revive the economy and restore Japan’s reputation as a welcoming and open place, the government should move quickly to ease remaining entry restrictions, let in more tourists, and let them enjoy this amazing country freely.”

Coronavirus cases in Japan have steadily declined since the peak of the omicron variant earlier this year. On Tuesday, there were 2,362 new cases in Tokyo, a city of 14 million people. With infections dwindling, the government plans to roll out measures to accept more foreigners, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Tuesday.

Kishida said some airports will resume international flights, but he did not say when the measures will take effect. “The recovery of inbound tourism is of great importance as the benefits of a weaker yen can be felt,” he told reporters.

On Wednesday, Japan said it would accept short-term visas for more parents and spouses of foreign residents in Japan, though details remain unclear.

But many government officials remain cautious that fully reopening the country could lead to another spike in infections, even though there is doubt about the effectiveness of border control measures in preventing the virus from spreading. Local authorities are concerned about foreign tourists ‘with bad manners’ who may not follow Japan’s guidelines on wearing masks and sanitizing hands, Reuters reported this week, citing anonymous industry insiders.

There are signs of pent-up demand for tourism which would bring much-needed revenue amid the falling value of the yen and rising inflation. Last week, Japan for the first time topped the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Development Index, which assesses the quality of a country’s tourism infrastructure.

Yet these world-class amenities sit largely unused, and foreign travel spending has fallen from around $38 billion in 2019 to just under $1 billion in 2021. according to Nikkei Asia.

“It’s very frustrating, to be honest,” said Keiko Tashiro, vice president of Japan’s second-largest brokerage, Daiwa Securities. during a round table at the World Economic Forum last week. “When I travel abroad, I see all the economic activity in Europe and the United States, but Japan is still very closed.”

How a war in Ukraine dashed the hopes of thousands of elderly Japanese

Meanwhile, spirited appearances by foreign artists visiting Japan for red carpet events and fan meetings have drawn online scorn from ordinary travelers and family members unable to enter the country.

In April, a K-pop group, Twice, sold out 150,000 tickets for a concert in Japan, and another, Seventeen, sold out all 60,000 tickets for fan meetings here, while actors Eddie Redmayne and Ansel Elgort attended premiere events in the country. Huge star-studded music festivals in Japan are underway this summer, featuring artists such as Carly Rae Jepsen and Megan Thee Stallion.

At a recent promotional event for his new movie “Top Gun: Maverick” in Tokyo, actor Tom Cruise celebrated finally being able to enter the country.

“It’s so beautiful to be back and to be able to share this movie with you,” Cruise said. “We are very excited. It’s moving… to be here, and to be back here, after so many years.

Privacy Policy Designed using Magazine Hoot. Powered by WordPress.