Individual British travelers can now visit Japan again, after the country’s government lifted its strict policy of only allowing tourists to take private, self-guided tours.
The rule, which has been in place for all international tourists since June, ended at midnight on Tuesday October 11, with independent tourists able to arrive without having to be tied to a tour booking.
It is the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic that British tourists have been able to arrive freely without being subject to visa or visit restrictions; however, only triple-vaccinated (with an approved booster) can arrive without taking a pre-trip test.
Those who do not meet specific recall requirements must take a PCR test within 72 hours of travel; those who are triple vaccinated must show that their booster shot was either the Pfizer vaccine or the Moderna vaccine.
The Japanese government had also maintained a cap on daily arrivals instead of 50,000 people per day, which was also scrapped on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said last week he hoped the new influx of tourists brought by the looser travel rules would bring in around 5 trillion yen (£31 billion).
The country has welcomed just over half a million tourists so far in 2022 – a huge drop from the 31.8 million in total who visited in 2019.
According to data from Trip.com, bookings from the UK to Japan rose 183% in September, month-on-month compared to August, following the announcement of the relaxation of Covid rules .
The national carrier, Japan Airlines, has seen its inbound bookings triple since the reopening was announced, its chairman Yuji Akasaka said last week.
A tourist who came from Los Angeles on the day of the rule change, David Beall, said Associated Press: “Like cliche [sic] so it seems, being back in Japan after all this time is what I’m most looking forward to.
“That includes of course hopefully meeting new people, eating the food I’ve been missing like a good tonkatsu, being out in nature this time of year, taking the trains,” he said. added.
An owner of a Tokyo ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn), Arata Sawa, said Reuters: “I hope and anticipate that many foreigners will come to Japan, like before Covid.”
Japanese authorities are still encouraging mask use indoors after the worst of the pandemic, although it is not legally enforced.
The government recently approved legislation that would mean hotels can turn away guests who fail to follow health rules during a spike in Covid cases.
“Since the start of the pandemic until now, we have had only a few foreign guests,” Sawa said. Reuters. “Almost everyone wore masks, but I really don’t know if people visiting from here will do the same.”
“My plan is to ask them to please wear a mask inside the building,” he added.