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Japan is preparing to reopen to foreign tourists this month, even as Hollywood celebrities and South Korean entertainers have been able to enter the country amid strict border closures because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Washington Post reported.
Over the past weeks, foreign actors and K-pop bands have been visiting Japan to promote their work, hold performances and greet fans. The high-profile appearances, however, have drawn criticism from ordinary travelers and family members who are unable to enter the country.
Currently, certain business travelers, international students and foreign workers are allowed entry but family members of foreign residents are not. Japan is also conducting trial runs to prepare the country to accept group tours from 98 countries starting June 10.
Individual tourism will still be banned, according to Nikkei Asia.
Japan’s ongoing restrictions have divided local and international opinion, as many neighboring countries in the Asia-Pacific region have fully resumed restriction-free tourism amid subsiding Covid-19 cases.
Coronavirus cases have also dropped in Japan and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that authorities are working to accept more foreigners. However, he has not specified when these relaxed measures will take effect. Meanwhile, a number of local officials remain wary about fully reopening the country.
The border closures have remained popular domestically but opponents, especially business leaders, say the restrictions have “imposed real economic and human costs.”
Some have also compared the strict rules to Japan’s isolationist policies from the early 1600s through the 1850s.