Japan: tourists arrive as COVID restrictions ease

TOKYO (HPD) — Eager to admire colorful fall foliage, eat sushi and shop, throngs of tourists began pouring into Japan on Tuesday, which has lifted restrictions it has battled the coronavirus pandemic for more than two years.

“We received the news that we could come, finally. We are very, very happy,” said Nadine Lackmann, a German among the crowd of tourists at Tokyo’s Haneda airport.

These travelers are expected to inject some 5 trillion yen ($35 billion) that the world’s third-largest economy badly needs. And it is expected that the avalanche of visitors will continue to increase.

The limit of 50,000 daily arrivals has been eliminated. Airlines have added flights in response to the reopening of borders. Visa requirements for short-term business and tourist visits from more than 60 countries have been lifted.

David Beall, a Los Angeles photographer who has visited Japan 12 times, plans to go to Fukui, Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo. What he seeks are things from everyday life, like eating tonkatsu, a pork cutlet dish.

“Although it seems like a conventional phrase, what I want most is to return to Japan after such a long time. I look forward to meeting people, eating the dishes I miss like good tonkatsu, being in nature this time of year, riding the trains,” she said.

He recommends for travelers the Japan Rail Pass and a Suica or other prepaid card to facilitate transfers.

Some 32 million tourists visited Japan in 2019, before COVID-19. His return is welcome for good reason. Many will have more purchasing power because the yen has fallen against the dollar, euro and other currencies.

The only requirement is that the traveler has at least one booster vaccination or a negative PCR test in the 72 hours prior to departure. Virtually all travelers from the United States, Asia, Europe and South America who meet these requirements will not have to quarantine.

Visitors may be required to wear face masks, which most Japanese people wear everywhere outside their homes. Most stores and restaurants require the mask and hand sanitizer. Some still close early.

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