March 2021 Japan’s current COVID situations and travel restrictions

Mar 14 | Evan | Comments Off on March 2021 Japan’s current COVID situations and travel restrictions |

As of March 14th 2021, no foreigners, both tourists and business people, are allowed to enter Japan. These new strict restrictions were placed because of the new variants of COVID emerging around the world as well as the country’s number of infections increased dramatically in winter. Let’s dive deeper into what’s happening in Japan today and find out when we could take a photo tour of Japan next!

What’s happening in Japan today? 

Last year on October 30th 2020, Japan lowered travel restrictions for certain countries, which have controlled the number of COVID infections. These countries included Australia, Brunei, China (including Hong Kong and Macau), New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. However, with the rise of COVID as well as the new variants of COVID reporting around the world, currently as of March 14th, these programs have been temporarily suspended until further notice. 

The Immigration Services Agencies of Japan indicates that unless there are special circumstances, any foreigners from or those visited 152 countries and regions are barred to travel to Japan today. This includes even the business travelers which come from the special business travel bubbles. 

airplane wing in scenic evening sky

The 2nd State of Emergency 

As of March 14th 2021, the 2nd state of emergency is still in place to these prefectures: Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, and Chiba. The 2nd state of emergency was planned from January 7th to February 7th initially, but it was extended to March 7th and then further extended for 2 more weeks till March 21st for those 4 prefectures listed above. 

The 2nd state of emergency was placed for eleven prefectures including Tokyo, Aichi, Chiba, Fukuoka, Gifu, Hyogo, Kanagawa, Kyoto, Osaka, Saitama, and Shizuoka.  Originally, on January 7th 2021, the 2nd state of emergency was placed for Tokyo and the greater Tokyo areas including 4 prefectures, Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa by the Prime Minister Suga. However, this state of emergency was soon expanded to 7 more prefectures on January 13th 2021 to include Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Aichi, Gifu, Tochigi, and Fukuoka. 

So how is the 2nd state of emergency going? Originally, it was placed till Feb 7th, but with the high number of COVID infections and Japanese medical systems struggling to keep up with the high demand, it was extended till March 7th. With the extension of the state of emergency, most of the prefectures remained, except for Tochigi prefecture, which ended the state of emergency on Feb 7th, the original date. In addition, on March 1st, except for Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, and Chiba prefectures, 6 prefectures ended the state of emergency. 

During this state of emergency, restaurants are expected to close by 8:00p.m., train systems shorten their operation hours, and companies are encouraged to facilitate remote work as much as possible. In addition, sports and entertainment are operating with limited capacities.

Furthermore, with this came the total ban of foreigners to enter Japan. On Feb 9th 2021, the Prime Minister Suga announced all foreign nationals, both tourists and business people (even the ones who were formally welcomed from the travel bubble countried), are barred from entering the country. From what we gathered, it seems it’s not so soon for us to take a part of a photography tour of Japan, isn’t it? 

man in train standing

Will Japan be open for the summer Olympics?

Despite 80% or so Japanese people are against having the summer Olympics in 2021, Japanese government is hoping to still hold the summer Olympics in 2021. With that said, everyone is curious how the country is going to reopen its border safely and if it is even possible. 

According to the survey carried by Kyodo News, 35.3% of people want the Olympics to be canceled while 44.8% of people want it to be postponed. With the Olympics scheduled to be held on July 23rd to 8th and the Paralympics scheduled to be held on Aug 24th to Sep 5th, everyone has a simple question in mind, “is there even enough time?” Moreover, every Japanese is worried “is it even safe for Japanese and the country?” There is only 4 more months till the Olympics and the country is currently completely barring any foreigners to enter, what’s possible in 4 months? 

On the contrary, according to the Japan Times, Japan is considering lifting its bans for foreigners to travel to Japan in April. However, this article was written in October 2020 and since then, a lot has happened and changed and so the reality of this happening is hard to measure. Though this is not the isolated article. There are many media reporting about Japan opening its borders to foreigners some time in Spring to be ready for the Olympics. Though as of March 14th 2021, nothing is certain. There is yet any announcement from the government or the Olympics committee thus we have no idea what is really going to happen at the moment. 

More recent development the media started to report is to have the Olympics without international visitors. Though this excludes sponsors etc. so Japanese people are genuinely worried about what impacts this might still bring to the country. Furthermore, many celebrities originally signed up to take a part of the torch relay have been resigning. Many indicate that the 2021 schedule no longer allows them to participate, but others indicate to exhibit their animosity and uneasiness about being a part of the Olympics during the pandemic. In short, only 4 more months till the Olympics, so much is unknown and there is not a whole lot of support from the Japanese people especially when the government is heavily involved in the Olympics and the Olympics committee is not clearly indicating what course of action to take when it is supposed to happen in the 2021 summer. 

athletes running on track and field oval in grayscale photography

So, can we travel to Japan today (March 14, 2021)? 

Unfortunately, the answer is NO! At the moment, Japan has closed its borders to everyone, even the business travelers who were formally allowed to enter Japan. The only people who can re-enter Japan are the Japanese nationals as well as foreign residents who have been living in Japan with a negative COVID test, which is taken 72 hours before traveling back to the country.  

Though, there is a possibility of Japan slowly and safely opening its borders as early as April 2021 or late spring. With the Pfizer vaccines finally making its way to Japan in Feb 2021, the country is trying to vaccinate as many people as possible just like the rest of the world. As many of you are eager to participate in the Photo Tour of Japan, we hope to update when the border reopens for anybody to travel to Japan or any drastic change is made to Japan’s COVID travel restrictions.