Japan Is Slowly Testing a Return to Tourism This Summer

Small groups from the United States, Australia, Thailand, and Singapore will be allowed into the country.

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A select group of travelers from four countries will be able to travel to Japan for tourism purposes this month, according to CNN. In a press release shared by Japan's Department of Tourism, the agency announced that small groups of fully vaccinated travelers, meaning those who also have a booster shot, from the United States, Australia, Thailand, and Singapore will be able to enter Japan later in May.

The allowance of these tourism entries is essentially an experiment so that Japanese officials can determine best practices for a larger reopening.

"We will carry out a demonstration project in the form of a small-group package tour in which the company manages behavior," the agency said in a press release shared with Loyalty Lobby. "In this project, we will verify the compliance method of infection control measures and emergency response, etc., formulate 'guidelines' that summarize the points that travel agencies and accommodation businesses should be aware of, and disseminate them to the concerned parties."

This project was initially planned to commence in November 2021, but the rise of the Omicron variant delayed the plans. As outlined in the statement above, tourists will not be allowed to roam free once they arrive in the country. Only tourists with private health insurance from the four approved countries with pre-booked package tours will be allowed to visit. The tours will have strict rules and be closely monitored.

The plan doesn't seem to indicate that any significant reopening plans are on the immediate horizon. In June, the country plans to expand its cap on visitors from 10,000 people to 20,000 people, but that figure includes nationals and non-nationals. Still, considering that it is the first time the country has reopened since 2020, it does mark a small amount of progress.

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Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.