Japan Begins to Reopen Its Borders for International Travel

An airline employee wearing a face mask walks in front of closed airline counters at Tokyo's Haneda Airport

Japan plans to begin lifting its pandemic-related international travel restrictions Oct. 1, starting by welcoming foreigners with approved long-stay visas, Nikkei reports. Nikkei said the government plans to prioritize entrance for people traveling from countries where the spread of COVID-19 has been limited, a list that includes Australia, New Zealand, and Vietnam.

Japan has reported 83,000 cases of COVID-19 and 1,564 deaths, a small fraction of the more than 33 million coronavirus cases and more than 1 million deaths reported worldwide. Japan declared a national state of emergency in early April in an effort to curb transmission of COVID-19 but stopped short of instituting a full lockdown.

Japan has said it would reopen its borders in three phases: the first accommodating essential and business travelers, the second for students and educators, and the third for tourists. Japan is requiring everyone entering the country to test negative for COVID-19 and likely will require self-isolation — including avoiding the country’s notoriously packed public transit systems — for 14 days after arrival. The government also is considering limiting entry to a maximum of 1,000 travelers per day, Kyodo News reported.

Japan began lifting coronavirus restrictions on domestic travel in May and has looked inward to spur tourism in recent months. Japanese luxury rail operators have restarted services, and national parks have added Wi-Fi and workstations to encourage remote workers to office at the country’s most stunning national parks. Japan also has launched a domestic travel subsidy program that provides deep discounts on domestic travel, Kyodo News reported.

Japan hopes its gradual reopening will make it easier for Japanese travelers to get abroad as well. More than 100 countries have implemented restrictions on Japanese travelers. Some of those policies were responses to Japan’s own travel restrictions.

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets, and walking on beaches. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

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