Japan Kimono Yukata 14

Japan has Stealthily Reopened Borders to Tourists Since March 2022

⏱ 5 minutes

With this purposely provocative title, we would like to shed a light on a flaw of the current Japanese system for granting visas, and the fact that international tourism in Japan is already possible for a few specific categories of travelers. Some of the people who were granted a visa and travel in Japan since March 1 are tourists under cover, and they would be wrong not to exploit the breach.

As a reminder, since 2022, March 1 and after 2 years of an iniquitous wait, all visa holders can enter Japan, except for the tourists’ category. The easing was notably applied to:

  • Students, the group that was certainly the most penalized by this long closing.
  • Businesspeople, whose exclusion has without a doubt caused great damages to the Japanese economy, and,
  • Families, up to the third-degree, mainly to the in-laws of Japanese citizens, and more importantly to grandparents of "half" babies born before or during the Coronavirus pandemic.

✈️ The comeback of visas holders’ "mass" arrival

In the facts, as promised by the Japanese government, getting these visas is simple and fast (for once). As a result, the number of entries on the Japanese territory in March was the highest for the past 2 years. Admittedly, the 82,000 March arrivals included almost 30,000 students, and the number is measly compared to the 2,8 million arrivals of March 2019. However; it is still better compared to the pandemic’s previous records: just 59,000 during a short timeframe at the end of 2020, and 51,000 in July 2021, the month of the sad and confined Olympic Games 🏅.

While they constitute the majority (speaking in volume) of travelers, tourists are still, officially, the only type of visitors barred from entering the archipelago. An upsetting situation for most non-married couples, considered as tourists by the Japanese government and who still cannot (for most of them) reunite in Japan after 2 years of forced separation. Even Working holidays visa holders have been readmitted in Japan for a one-year stay, provided they are sponsored by a company – a condition that is actually very hard to meet.

Tourists should expect to be waiting a few more months, as we analyzed and tried to foresee:

🛃 The "temporary visitor - 90 days" visa is issued again!

But let’s get back to the visas. For students and businesspeople, very few things have changed compared to the pre-Covid times, and we will elaborate about this a little bit later in this article.

The focus here is put on the families. The profiles of those currently concerned include grandparents who recently retired or will be in a near future, whose son or daughter is married to a Japanese citizen and had a child they could not meet since it was born or over the past 2 years.

The predominance of this travelers’ type has a simple reason: Japanese labor laws does not provide a lot of vacation days per year (and using them all is frowned upon, even more if the duration is longer than a couple of days). Additionally, as a few days of self-isolation at home are required upon return, therefore in most of the cases it is almost morally impossible for a resident in Japan to travel back to their home country to see their family.

However, the Family visas issued to enter in Japan since early March is bearing 2 mentions that are both fascinating and almost surreal:

  • For stay(s) of : 90 days (most of the time)
  • Category : (V) as temporary visitor

Does it ring a bell? Bingo: these are the category and duration of stay applied in the Visa Exemption arrangement for tourists before the Covid-19 🦠 closing.

If those families naturally have a (very) good reason to go to Japan, and perfectly understandable considering their patience since March 2020, they are also going for tourism as a secondary motivation, as well as an important privilege.

Other nose-thumbing: they are even allowed to use the holy Japan Rail Pass, meaning that nothing prevents them from legally sightseeing in Japan as they obtained a rightful permission!

Additionally, a few business visa applicants were issued this "temporary visitor" status, without explanation... Are Japanese consulates encouraging tourism?

🎖 An "elite" that anyone can join

All these new visa holders share a common point: a link with Japan...

  • They either a Japanese resident in their in-law family,
  • Or they were sponsored by a company (sometimes for convenience, let’s face it);
  • Or they were admitted as students on the Japanese territory.

Belonging to this list may feel like being part of an elite. Actually, it is possible to "buy" a visa relatively similar to the Tourist Visa, even if not being from one of these 3 categories: you only need to pay a private school in Japan to enroll as a student for a few weeks or months. A solution that combines the useful and the pleasant: learning the bases of Soseki’s language, if possible in morning classes only, and explore the many fascinating touristic places of the city in the afternoon (and even further in the archipelago on the weekend).

It is therefore easily possible to visit Japan now in privileged conditions, whereas many foreign tourists will only be allowed in the country at an unknown date. All the more as the language schools have lost a large part of their revenue over the last 20 months!

However, let us be clear: Kanpai does not encourage cheating to get a visa or using a visa for a purpose different from its intended use, something that could be detrimental for the visa holder in the end. For us, it is just a matter of showing the flaw, or one could say inconsistency – but it would not be the only one in Covid times! The breaches indeed allow to travel in Japan like a tourist (despite not being labelled as such by the administration), even though this visitor’s category does not even make it in the Japanese government's narrative.

If you don’t have the possibility to take this opportunity and / or if you prefer to patiently wait for the grand reopening, don’t forget to subscribe to our free newsletter to be informed of Japan's borders reopening on real time: