Golden Week 2022 Airport

2022 Golden Week and Foreign Tourists Ban: the Japanese Hypocrisy

⏱ 5 minutes

In 2022, for the first time in 3 years, the Japanese could enjoy their beloved Golden Week almost as usual.

If you are an assiduous reader of Kanpai, you know that Japanese employees do not have much paid vacation time and that taking all one’s days leave is frowned upon. That is why there are 3 specific holiday times in the year, when the archipelago seems to stop all activity to focus on national days-off:

  • The Golden Week, from late April to early May,
  • Obon, the celebration of the deceased in mid-August, and,
  • Oshogatsu, the celebration of the New Year.

🏖 Spring 2022 holidays without restrictions

Whereas 2020 and 2021’s Golden Weeks had been muffled down due to the COVID pandemic, in 2022 the vacation week can take place in full swing thanks to the suppression of the (quasi) states of emergency and the authorization to travel freely again, both outside of one’s own prefecture and overseas.

Mind you: just before the beginning of the holidays, Economic revitalization minister Daishiro Yamagiwa even sparked a debate on the usefulness of wearing a mask 😷 outside, not long after Japan’s top coronavirus 🦠 adviser Shigeru Omi almost unexpectedly declared there is no need to fully stop social activities anymore!

Actually, the archipelago’s population was never confined and the stay-at-home order was more of a moral recommendation rather than a legal obligation. However, the Japaneses’ herding reputation is based on solid grounds and very few dared to break from the general movement. Some Japanese did traveled as they pleased, but there were not massive vacationist crowds yet.

Therefore and quite naturally after 2 years of frustration without travel, many Japanese took the opportunity to enjoy well-deserved holidays during 2022 Golden Week. Consequently, heavy traffic jams clumped the archipelago's roads.

👨‍🔬 Boom of Covid tests in anticipation of the GW

For anyone monitoring official indicators of the Coronavirus, the statistics regarding PCR and antigenic testing of the population are quite surprising.

Since late February, the number of daily tests was within 150,000 to 200,000. As a comparison in France over the same period about 350,000 to 400,000 tests were performed daily, despite a population that is twice less than Japan’s (with equal population, France tested about 4 times more).

However, on April 27 (the day before the beginning of the Golden Week), the number of Japanese tested suddenly grew by a seven-fold : 1,34 million tests have indeed been made on this day! With a capacity of 390,000 test result issuing per day, several days were necessary to analyze all the swabs.

One may think that the persons who tested are only urban dwellers with a heavy sense of responsibility, checking they would not take Omicron home to their furusato before reuniting with family in the country for a few days.

However, a few hints indicate that this is not necessarily the case. Especially as the new constant of international tourism introduced by the Coronavirus is the now usual submission of a negative PCR test to be allowed to board an international flight ✈️.

The main Japanese airports have been desperately empty for 2 years due to the strict borders’ closure, however at the end of April, they provide some down-to-earth clues: at least 100,000 travelers had already taken off from Narita only.

The list of overseas destinations where Japanese went for the 2022 Golden Week is not defined yet, and might not be made public in the future, but it is already known that Hawaii is in the top of the list, not very surprising given its traditional "exotic" appeal to the Japanese.

🛂 Double standards

You could not have missed that Japanese, borders are still officially closed to foreign tourists in early May 2022, and certainly for a few more weeks (a reopening in June is a possible scenario):

Fumio Kishida’s Cabinet perseveres with this hard stance:

  • Despite its country being one of the latest in the world to bar entry to international tourists (along with the disreputable North Korea, China, Turkmenistan and Syria...);
  • Contrary to the WHO’s recommendations on the borders’ restrictions, that have proved useless facing the transmissibility and the low mortality rate of the latest variants;
  • Probably in a political move in view of July 25’s House of Councilors election, amid a context of growing criticism including in its own party, while surveys show an opinion favorable to closed borders;
  • Despite the economy being threatened by stagflation, with the Yen at its lowest level for the past 20 years.

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The Japanese Prime Minister’s reasoning to outstretch the neo-Sakoku (the isolationist policy) is based on the fear of the Coronavirus spreading on the territory. However, it is not consistent with, in the meantime, allowing hundred of thousands of Japanese (all during the same week!) to leave and enjoy themselves in foreign countries, some of which don’t have any restrictions, and come back in the archipelago like a charm.

That is what we can call hypocrisy, but voices don’t hesitate to jump in and call this attitude xenophobia. How long will this stance remain unchanged ?

Updated on May 09, 2022 - L'hypocrisie japonaise du tourisme étranger sous la Golden Week 2022