Japan says it will fully reopen to tourists in October

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Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced the long-awaited news on Thursday (September 22) that Japan plans to fully reopen to foreign tourism on October 11, Bloomberg reported.

Japan is one of the latest countries to impose strict COVID-19 bans and restrictions on tourism in general.

Although supervised group tours in Japan have been available for a few months, travel restrictions have discouraged many people from booking trips. If the reopening plan progresses more fully, Japan will welcome back individual tourists and resume visa waivers, among other changes.

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Travelers should be aware that the Japanese government has yet to publicly provide official reopening details. Given the prior announcements of reopening plans for tourism which turned out to be quite limited, TPG recommends that travelers wait for specific details from the Japanese consulate before booking travel.

Read on to find out what details are available from the announcement and what it could mean in terms of planning your long-awaited trip to Japan.

Japan Reopening Details

During his September 22 press conference in New York, Prime Minister Kishida said that individual tourists will soon be welcomed to Japan without visa or group tour requirements.

JAPAN NATIONAL TOURISM ORGANIZATION

TPG contacted the Japanese Embassy in Washington, DC, and the Japanese Consulate in Chicago for confirmation, but neither provided additional information regarding the visa program. The Chicago Consulate told TPG that they have not received any information on the visa rule change and do not expect any official update until September 26, given that this Friday is a public holiday in Japan.

The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which regulates entry requirements, has also not yet updated its information pages with up-to-date visa information, and the visa website for the Embassy of Japan in the United States Travelers planning a trip should check these websites for updates before making travel arrangements.

Assuming Japan’s visa regulations revert to pre-COVID-19 policies, tourists from the United States and most other countries will be allowed to visit Japan for periods of up to 90 days without a visa. .

However, travelers may need to provide proof of vaccination (including a booster) or a negative COVID-19 PCR test to enter the country without quarantine, according to a Kyodo News report cited by Japan time.

The cap on daily visitors to Japan, which had recently been increased from 20,000 to 50,000, would also be lifted from October 11 to allow unlimited foreign entry, according to the prime minister.

Related: Japan reopens for tour groups

How to plan a trip to Japan now

Miyajima, Hirosihima, Honshu, Japan TRAUMLIK FABRIK/GETTY IMAGES

Assuming visa-free and unrestricted tourism returns to Japan in October, expect a huge increase in flight, accommodation and tour bookings. Once we have confirmed the details of Japan returning to normal tourist practices, you will want to make arrangements as soon as possible.

Even though registering for a group tour is no longer required to enter Japan, many visitors usually combine a group tour with a few days at each end of the tour for an individual trip. Additionally, the relaxed travel restrictions in Japan will mean that visits will have increased access to people, places and activities that may have been restricted during the pandemic.

So if you want to have a guide for at least part of your trip, try to confirm those plans as soon as possible.

Expect some travel agencies to offer enticing “return to Japan” deals to help get tours started again. But be aware that many people whose tours have been canceled in the past due to visa restrictions will be given priority in securing tour space with these operators.

“We are absolutely delighted to hear that,” Julie McCormack, Asia program manager for tour operator MT Sobek, said on a call to TPG to discuss Kishida’s announcement. “We had hoped for this for a long time. Japan was such a good destination for us before [COVID-19].”

A strong dollar against the yen will also make travel to Japan more affordable for Americans. The recent exchange rate of 142 yen to the dollar set a 24-year low for the currency.

Prime Minister Kishida also announced the launch of a Japan travel discount program to help promote tourism. Details are not yet available as to the extent to which the discounts might be available to overseas visitors. Consult the Japan National Tourism Organization website for the latest details on potential rebate programs.

Related: Redeem points and miles for travel to Japan

At the end of the line

If Japan finally reopens to tourists without strict group travel or visa requirements, expect to see an increase in demand for travel to the country. Book as soon as possible and stay tuned for attractive package deals from tour operators keen to rebuild their business.

But, given the prior false warnings about Japan reopening, be sure to confirm the latest visa details with the Japanese embassy or consulate websites before making non-refundable reservations.

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