Japan easing travel restrictions, welcoming independent tourists back

Japan is swinging open its doors to tourists.

The country first cracked the door open to authorized tour groups in June. However, tourist numbers were capped, and travelers had to meet special visa requirements to enter.

Starting Oct. 11, independent tourists will be welcome back in Japan, and caps and pandemic-related visa requirements will be lifted.

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced the country's wider reopening Thursday during a press conference around the United Nations General Assembly gathering in New York. 

He received thunderous applause when he shared the same news in a speech at the New York Stock Exchange.

“Japan will relax border control measures to be on par with the U.S. as well as resume visa-free travel and individual travel,” Kishida said.

Japan's tourism industry has been devastated by tight border controls over the past two years. 

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Japan readies for tourists from abroad

Japan is bracing for a return of tourists from abroad, as border controls to curb the spread of coronavirus infections are gradually loosened. After two long years, Yusuke Otomo, who owns a kimono rental shop, can barely contain his excitement. Hopes are running high at such businesses catering to foreign tourists, who numbered more than 30 million people a year before the pandemic. For now, foreign tourists are allowed in limited numbers and only on group tours. Visas are being given only to certain countries, including Thailand and the U.S., that are deemed to pose a minimal health risk, so people can enter without a quarantine. (June 28)


Can I travel to Japan right now?

Travelers may currently visit Japan with authorized tour groups, but they'll be able to explore the country on their own starting in mid-October.

Do I need to quarantine or a COVID test to visit Japan?

Travelers who've received at least three doses of COVID vaccines can skip pre-departure testing, as of early September.

No COVID testing or quarantine is required upon arriving in Japan from the United States. Travelers from other countries may need to test or quarantine, depending on the country of origin. Details are available through Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Is Japan costly to visit?

Traveling in Japan can get expensive, but its currently weak yen can work in travelers' favor.

Where can I find help once I'm in Japan?

The Japan National Tourism Organization offers a 24-hotline with tourist information and emergency assistance available in English. The phone number is 050-3816-2787 from inside Japan or +81-50-3816-2787 from abroad.

There is also a U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and several U.S. Consulates across the country.

Contributing: Associated Press

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