• SHARE

As the world struggles to contain the pandemic, Japan is cautiously relaxing its strict border control policy to start allowing in more foreign nationals.

Earlier in November, the government changed some procedures for new arrivals from abroad. It also implemented separate sets of rules for travelers from regions at Level 3 on Japan’s four-level travel advisory system, while exempting those from areas that have managed to control the spread of the virus from mandatory testing.

However, strict conditions for securing entry permission and ambiguity in the government’s guidelines continue to stoke confusion among visa applicants, their employers and organizations relying on skilled staff from overseas. In a recent article, the indefatigable Magdalena Osumi tried to make sense of it all.

Signs requesting social distancing are displayed on seats in the arrival zone of Narita International Airport, where there are fewer passengers than usual amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in Chiba Prefecture on Nov. 2. | REUTERS
Signs requesting social distancing are displayed on seats in the arrival zone of Narita International Airport, where there are fewer passengers than usual amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in Chiba Prefecture on Nov. 2. | REUTERS

Try wrapping your head around this: International travelers to Japan nearly quadrupled from 8.6 million in 2010 to just shy of 32 million in 2019. Then came 2020. Now, with the pandemic reducing international tourism to near zero, what comes next for Japan’s travel industry?

On the latest Deep Dive podcast, Oscar Boyd hosts Alex Kerr, best known for his books “Lost Japan” and “Dogs and Demons.” They discuss what a sustainable future for Japan’s tourism could look like, and, with COVID-19 offering a space to reflect and reimagine the industry, whether the country will get creative or regress to old habits and unsustainable practices as soon as the crisis is over.

In the 20 Questions column, Louise George Kittake quizzes Joy Jarman-Walsh, who pushes sustainable tourism in her podcasts and YouTube series, about why she’s optimistic about the future trajectory of Japan’s tourism industry. If it plays its cards right, “Japan could be a world-leader in post-COVID-19 travel,” she says.

PHOTO GALLERY (CLICK TO ENLARGE)