National

Customs clearance lines at Narita's Terminal 2 draw fire

Kyodo

The Customs, Immigration and Quarantine section at Narita International Airport’s Terminal 2 has been overcrowded recently, causing long waits for arriving foreign visitors.

The reason for the big wait is because the CIQ section at the terminal, which many foreigners must clear upon arrival in Japan, has been narrowed to one area from two. The downsizing was caused by a drop in visitors to Japan immediately after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

But thanks to increased government efforts to boost tourism in the last few years, Japan has seen a surge in visitors.

Despite this, poor coordination among four ministries involved has kept the CIQ from being restored to its original size. The Finance Ministry is in charge of customs, the Justice Ministry is in charge of immigration and the health ministry and agricultural ministry for quarantine work.

One CIQ official blamed the status quo on sectionalism.

In 2012, the Cabinet Office approved a revised “Tourism Nation Promotion Basic Plan,” through which it aims to make foreign visitors more satisfied with their stays in Japan. Under the new policy, the government has set a target of shortening the average customs clearance time to less than 20 minutes per visitor. But according to a government study on customs procedures, Narita’s Terminal 2 had an average waiting time of 26 minutes in 2013.

Although the figures improved from the previous year, when it took an average of 27 minutes to clear the customs, the result is a far cry from the government’s goal.

During peak time, at around 4:30 p.m., the tally for tourists lining up for customs clearance often hits the hundreds.

“In South Korea, we don’t need to wait in line for so long,” said a female tourist from South Korea. “I’m just tired.”

Airlines also argue that customs procedures should be conducted in two areas to cope with the recent rise in foreigners.