Only 1,500 foreign tourists visit Japan in month since reopening

Japan's Immigration Services Agency says only about 1,500 foreign tourists entered Japan in the month since the country re-opened to sightseers on June 10.

Japan was effectively closed to foreign tourism for over two years due to the pandemic. Last month, visitors from 98 countries and territories were allowed back in.

The agency says during the month up to July 10, around 484,000 people entered the country in total. The figure translates to 12,000 per day, or about 60 percent of the upper limit of 20,000 that had been set by the government.

Sixty percent of them were Japanese citizens, and most of the foreign nationals who entered the country were business travelers or students. Only about 1,500 of the foreign entrants came for sightseeing.

The agency and the Japan Tourism Agency attribute the low number to the time-consuming process needed to travel to Japan. Tourists are required to obtain a sightseeing visa and show a negative PCR test result. They can only travel on group tours, which are less preferred by Western tourists.

Rikkyo University researcher Tamai Kazuhiro says such a low figure was unexpected, but may be due to tighter restrictions that include visa requirements ensuring proper quarantine systems are in place.

But he also says entry rules should be eased since tourism is essential to rebuilding the Japanese economy, which is hit hard by the pandemic.

Tamai added that the recent surge in cases in Japan has caused anxiety among the public about more freely accepting foreign tourists.

He says the medical system needs to be enhanced to gain people's understanding about allowing more foreign tourists to enter the country.