After more than two years, Japan opened back up to Australian travelers on June 10 this year. Well, sort of. It opened to foreign visitors who arrive as part of an approved organized tour group, and who have private medical insurance.
“There is no requirement for number of days or number of passengers, and flights may be booked separately, but the trip must be fully escorted from arrival airport to departure airport,” Japan National Tourism Organization’s Sydney-based executive director Yoko Tanaka told traveller at the time.
Though Australians travelers are no longer required to quarantine or to complete a COVID-19 test on arrive, they do need to produce a negative PCR test within 72 hours of their flight to Japan, and, as mentioned, be part of a group tour that will organize VISAs for them and have private medical insurance.
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So, with all those rules of entry, are travelers visiting? Looks like no. Between June 10 and July 10, the country welcomed a mere 1,500 leisure tourists from around the world, according to data from Japan’s Immigration Services Agency via CNN Travel.
Though Nicola Laing, a group manager, is a big fan of Japan, she has no plans to visit soon — for a couple reasons.
“Group tours aren’t for me,” she says. “My partner and I are holding out for it to open for ski season. I am also hoping that it will be quiet this year because if they don’t decide to open it until the very last minute, I assume prices will be really high and lots of people won’t go.”
She says she’d also prefer to go to Japan during ski season so she can resume the 2020 holiday she had to cut short because of COVID.
For others, like Chris Singh, a digital writer, it’s a matter of taking advantage of Japan’s restrictions to push him to try somewhere new.
“I’ve taken all of my annual leave to go to Europe for the simple fact that I’ve only ever been to Europe once before,” he says. “I’ve been Japan seven or eight times.”
Alyce Thomas, a senior partnerships manager, says her choice to overlook Japan this year is the result of wanting a summer holiday after lockdown and rain NSW has seen.
“My focus is Europe next year, then maybe Japan back on the list again following that,” she says.
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As for the group tour factor being the drawback, Katie Skelly, a content lead, sees both sides. She’s been to Japan three times and booked several tours during those trips.
“There’s something to be said for the knowledge only a local can pass on,” she says. “Having said that, I do get why people aren’t rushing to join a tour — I have several friends waiting for Japan to open up fully, at which time they’ll book the first planes out.”
Skelly thinks that after being grounded for several years, travelers want to be reminded of what it means to be free.
“They want to swap schedules for spontaneity,” she says. “They want to wander aimlessly. They want to wake up one day with no agenda and let that day happen to them. I know I want those things, too.”
No word yet on when the final traveler restrictions in Japan will be lifted.
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