Disappointed and angry over Japan's stringent entry restrictions that have been prolonged for months amid the spread of the omicron variant, some of the nation's most prominent foreign business lobby groups and student representatives stuck abroad have called for a relaxation of the visa rules, warning that keeping the door shut tightly is damaging the economy and Japan’s international reputation.

“Japan's ban on entry by business and student travelers has really posed an increasing economic and human cost. The ban and the moratorium on the issuance of new visas have prevented Japanese and global companies from bringing in the talent they need. It's separated spouses and other family members, and it's definitely set back efforts to revive Japan's economy,” Christopher LaFleur, a special adviser to the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ), told a Wednesday afternoon news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

LaFleur spoke with other Japan-based foreign business groups, the dean and president of Temple University Japan, and an Italian student stuck at home due to the ban.