Japan eases entry restrictions

Japan's government says it’s opening up its borders a little after months of blocking entry to many non-nationals, including permanent residents and language students.

From October 1, people with mid- or long-term permission to stay, such as medical and educational professionals, businesspeople, and students, are being allowed entry to Japan.

But they are allowed to enter only if their sponsors, usually their employers or language schools, ensure that they quarantine for two weeks upon arrival in Japan. In that time, they will have to stay in hotels or other accommodation, and avoid public transportation. Local government offices will check on their health daily.

Narita International Airport quarantine center prepared for an expected increase in arrivals by renovating 4 restrooms into inspection rooms.

Wada Koji, a professor at the International University of Health and Welfare, says the current rules pose no serious risk if visitors are quarantined for at least two weeks and can visit doctors when they feel ill.

Quarantine services spring up

Several new services have been launched to help with the two-week quarantine. MyNavi Corporation in Tokyo is making sure the rules are strictly observed.

Its staff take visitors to their accommodations from the airport in hire cars. Visitors are each given a private room equipped with electrical appliances, such as a washing machine and refrigerator.

Another company, Toppan Travel Service, offers staff who contact visitors in quarantine every day, and remotely interview them in their own language about their health. The operator also monitors the location information on the visitors' smartphones to make sure they stay inside.

Visitors are able to stay here and work without coming into contact with others.

Language school stuck for students

SAMU Language School in Shinjuku, Tokyo, was expecting an intake of almost 190 students for the new school year, but 180 of them have been unable to come to Japan.

The school is required to ensure that all incoming students self-isolate for two weeks. School authorities looked into using a hotel for that purpose, but the idea proved prohibitively expensive.

Teachers now stream the lessons online, but that’s a small consolation to students who paid to study in the country. One Vietnamese student who borrowed nearly $5,000 to study in Japan is taking those classes but says she is desperate to get to Japan to study.

Sato Yuriko, a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, says the government should offer long-term help as 350,000 foreign students are studying in Japan.

“I want the government to assist foreign students and Japanese-language schools because they are necessary for society in the long term,” she says.