Japan govt. Omicron response leaves students in limbo again Japan govt. Omicron response leaves students in limbo again
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Japan govt. Omicron response leaves students in limbo again

    NHK World
    Correspondent
    The coronavirus pandemic is once again dealing a blow to tens of thousands of people desperately waiting to study in Japan. The emergence of the highly mutated Omicron variant has prompted the government to virtually shut them out, just as the door was beginning to reopen.

    Authorities announced retightened border restrictions on November 29. They took effect the next day, including a suspension of new visas for people from all foreign countries and territories. Just weeks earlier, Japan had cautiously started granting entry to students and others.

    Students fear for their futures

    About 90,000 foreigners enrolled in language schools across Japan have been struggling to enter—many for more than a year.

    Canaan International Education Academy in Tokyo's Koto Ward has 200 students who are currently outside the country. On the day the new border rules took effect, NHK World spoke to some of them about how their lives are being impacted.

    Compass Tsang from Hong Kong plans to study Japanese and then enter a university in Japan. But the 21-year-old is seriously concerned about his future, and the latest blow has left him feeling depressed. "My family is also full of anxiety about whether I will be able to go Japan or not," he says.

    Xu Xu
    Chinese student Xu Xu is waiting to come Japan

    Xu Xu quit his job in China so that he could come to Japan. But the pandemic has forced him to study independently from home. "I understand the situation, yet I'm so shocked. Waiting for such a long time is so tough," he says.

    The staff at the school have been trying to help the students stay positive. "Your teachers are waiting for you. We really hope that all of you will be able to wait a little bit longer," said Student Division Manager Xia Bei during an online video meeting.

    The school has been posting messages on social media to help the students stay motivated, and also raise awareness about their plight among the Japanese people.

    Facebook's photo
    Canaan International Education Academy Teachers show signs saying "We are waiting for you in Japan."

    Schools also struggling

    The border restrictions imposed since the beginning of the pandemic have left many of Japan's language schools in financial difficulty. Canaan International Education Academy President Kinoshita Takui wants the government to acknowledge that the situation has now become a crisis.

    "Life can change drastically in a year and a half, and some of the students have given up on studying in Japan," he says. "So, I'm grateful to those who have waited so long."

    As things stand, the government says the recently announced border restrictions will run through December. The students and their schools have no choice but to wait and see.

    Kinoshita at a class
    Kinoshita says he will work with other schools to urge the government to let students enter Japan as soon as possible.

    For Kinoshita, the day his students finally arrive can't come soon enough—and not just for the sake of his school. "They are talented people, regardless of nationality. I believe they will stay here after graduating from our school, enter a Japanese university or company, and play an active role in the country."

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