Is Japan open to travelers? Some locals not ready to reopen borders
As countries across Asia reopen to international travelers, Japan — one of the continent’s most popular destinations — remains firmly closed.
It could change soon. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced Thursday at a news conference in London that Japan will ease border controls in June.
Although locals are happy for the relaxation of any pandemic-related restrictions at the border, many Japanese citizens say they prefer to keep them in place.
Many locals prefer to travel inside the country even before the pandemic. Domestic tourism was worth $21.9 trillion yen ($167 Billion) according to government data. Japan Tourism Agency.
Even though Japanese can travel overseas, some people prefer to stay in Japan, such as Dai Miyamoto who founded the agency. Japan Localized.
Izumi Mikami, senior executive director at Japan Space Systems, visited Kyushu Island and Okinawa Island, two tourist hot spots before the pandemic. According to him, he feels safer when there are fewer tourists.
After spending so much time inside, some people take the chance to go outside.
Shogo Morishige, a university student, took multiple ski trips to the Nagano — the prefecture that hosted the 1998 Winter Olympic Games — and said it was “surprisingly crowded” with locals.
“Everyone like us hadn’t traveled long distances… It’s almost like it isn’t possible to believe that right now. [Covid-19]Morishige said that it isn’t actually here.” Morishige said, “I don’t believe anyone is too afraid of it anymore.”
Some others ventured out to explore new places.
Shion Ichikawa (a Line risk manager) said, “After moving to Yamagata Prefecture, it was a great experience to go to new places like ski resorts, hot springs in mountains, aquariums, and sandy beaches.”
From nearly 32,000,000 in 2019, the number of international travelers to Japan has fallen to a mere 31 million. just 250,000 in 2021According to Japan National Tourism Organization
Some tour operators have adapted their tours to meet the needs of locals because they now serve a large client base.
Miyamoto said that Japanese tourists are now choosing outdoor adventures they can discover by foot over visiting large cities. So Japan Localized — which catered its tours to English-speaking foreigners before the pandemic — collaborated with local tour company Mai Mai KyotoMai Mai Tokyo offers walking tours in Japanese with Mai Mai Tokyo
People across Japan are also spending time at camping sites and onsen — or hot spring — spas, said Lee Xian Jie, chief developer at tour company Craft Tabby.
He said that camping sites have been very popular. People are spending more time outside, so caravan rental and outdoor gear sales both have performed well.”
Lee explained that while luxury onsens have been popularized by younger people, traditional onsens are struggling as older adults are more afraid of Covid. They don’t get out often and are not very appealing to them.
Craft Tabby operated walking and cycling tours through Kyoto. But, Craft Tabby went online in response to the pandemic. Lee stated that online tours are not doing well and the participation rate has dropped to nearly zero as countries open their borders.
According to him, tourists are becoming more adventurous and are searching for activities that are “nice” in areas not so populated.
Lee currently lives in Kyoto’s Ryujinmura, and plans to offer tours once the tourists return.
He said, “We should think about tours and other activities up there where people can discover new things.”
Japan welcomed nearly 32 million international visitors in 2019 — up from just 6.8 million just ten years prior, according to Japan Tourism Agency.
Major tourist draws like Kyoto’s culturally significant city were forced to deal with excessive tourism.
Kyotoans are now declaring that silence has returned, said Miyamoto. She recalled several instances when foreign tourists had spoken loudly but were uncourteous to the locals.
Similarly, Lee said that “a lot of people who were quite upset about over-tourism in Kyoto” are now saying “it feels like how Kyoto was 20 years ago — the good old Kyoto.”
This may all be changing.
Parts of Japan may not find the announcement by Prime Minister Kishida to be very welcome.
According to NHK, more than 65 percent of the respondents responded in an NHK survey. They either agreed or felt they needed to be strengthened. The New York Times.
Local reports indicateInternational travelers might need to take multiple Covid-19 test and book a package tour to get in, but JNTO informed CNBC they are still waiting for word. This may not suffice to placate some residents.
Foreign visitor spending contributes less than 5% to Japan’s overall gross domestic product, so “it is not necessarily surprising for the government to make decisions prioritizing” other industries, said Shintaro Okuno, partner and chairman of Bain & Company Japan, referring to why the country had stayed closed.
On Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022, women wearing kimonos will tie their “omikuji fortune strips” outside Yasaka Shrine, Kyoto, Japan.
Getty Images| Bloomberg | Getty Images
Ichikawa stated that Japan’s older citizens will be the most upset by this decision. A third of Japan’s elderly are above 65. Japan home to the largest percentage of elderly people in the worldAccording to PRB research, the figure is.
Ichikawa stated that the elderly are more predisposed than those younger, and Covid-19 was brought into Japan by foreigners. “It is understandable that in Japan — a country of elderly people — politicians must tighten the borders to protect them physically and psychologically.”
At the height of the pandemic, Japanese had a tendency to be wary of foreigners visiting their towns.
Lee said that he saw signs at tourist attractions and public parks stating “no cars from Wakayama” “People were extremely afraid of anyone from outside the prefecture.”
Residents living in urban areas may have a different opinion.
Mikami who lives in Tokyo said that Japan is “too strict and conservative” when it comes to controlling Covid-19.
MiyakoKomai, who is a Tokyo-based teacher, stated that she was ready to make a move.
She stated that Japan needs to welcome more people from abroad in order for its economy to recover. “I disagree with the need for stronger measures… It is time to live normal lives.”