Sep 22, 2022 - World

Japan to ease travel restrictions as pandemic wanes

Masked travelers at the Tokyo International Airport

Mask-wearing passengers at the Tokyo International Airport last month. Photo: James Matsumoto/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Japan will ease pandemic-related travel restrictions next month, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced on Thursday, making it easier for tourists to enter the country.

Why it matters: Japan has long been a popular travel destination in Asia, recording nearly 32 million visitors in 2019. But the pandemic has devastated its tourism industry, with less than 250,000 people visiting Japan last year.

Details: Starting Oct. 11, individual travelers will be allowed to enter Japan again, Bloomberg reports. Visa waivers for travelers from dozens of countries, including the U.S., will also be reinstated.

  • Before the pandemic, Japan allowed visitors from 68 countries and regions to stay there for as long as 90 days without a visa.

What they're saying: “I hope many people will utilize it. I want to support the travel, entertainment and other industries that have been struggling during the coronavirus pandemic,” Kishida said at a news conference during his visit to New York for the UN General Assembly.

The big picture: Japan experienced two large waves of COVID infections this year. As recent as last month, the country was recording more than 200,000 cases almost every day.

  • Despite recording almost 70,000 cases on Wednesday alone, its decision to reopen the country to foreign travelers signals a strong willingness to prop up a battered tourism industry.
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