With Japan set to further relax border restrictions and resume visa-free travel next week, it might be a while before inbound tourism regains the momentum it enjoyed before the pandemic.

Crucially, it remains uncertain when Chinese visitors — the largest source of tourist revenue before the COVID-19 outbreak — will be able to freely visit Japan due to the "COVID zero" policy in China that strictly curbs overseas travel by the country's residents.

Without being able to rely on Chinese tourists, “I believe that the pace of (inbound) recovery will be moderate,” said Wakaba Kobayashi, an economist at the Daiwa Institute of Research.