Japan to let foreign tourists back in more than two years after it closed borders due to Covid

People walk down Takeshita Street in the popular Harajuku area of Tokyo (AFP via Getty Images)
People walk down Takeshita Street in the popular Harajuku area of Tokyo (AFP via Getty Images)

Japan will lift its border restrictions on foreign tourists after more than two years of Covid restrictions.

The country’s prime minister Fumio Kishida said the relaxation means tourists will be able to visit the country without a visa, and will no longer need to go through a travel agency.

A cap on daily arrivals will also be lifted from October 11.

Japan had effectively blocked entry to visitors for two years until it began a gradual reopening in June in some of the toughest entry rules among major economies.

Mr Kishida’s announcement came as both Taiwan and Hong Kong also relaxed their rules for tourists.

Hong Kong will move from hotel quarantine to at-home quarantine later this month, while Taiwan will drop quarantine requirements for international arrivals by mid-October.

Speaking at the New York Stock Exchange, Mr Kishida said: “We are a nation that has flourished through the free flow of people, goods and capital.

“Covid-19, of course, interrupted all of these benefits, but from October 11, Japan will relax border control measures to be on par with the U.S., as well as resume visa-free travel and individual travel.”

Japan’s insistence that visitors obtain visas to enter the country and then adhere to planned, package tours has been a major sticking point with the tourism industry.

Business lobbies and travel companies have urged Japan to relax its border controls more swiftly, saying they were out of step with major trading partners and could cause the nation to fall behind economically.

“We will see a significant impact on the economy," Shinichi Inoue, president of All Nippon Airways, told reporters on Friday, adding that the yen’s sharp decline against the dollar is a “huge attraction" to foreigners.

Japan’s currency dropped below 145 yen to the dollar on Thursday, making foreign travel and purchases in the country the cheapest in decades.