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Status From Japan

Status from Japan


Current Status (November 24)

Rather than keep repeating the same entry restrictions week after week, if you are not aware of the current restrictions, you can refer to the November 10 status to get the details. There have been no changes since then. Basically, at this time, everyone except for tourists regardless of what country they are from are currently allowed entry to Japan.

The head of the IOC and PM Suga met recently to discuss the 2021 Olympics. They have decided that the games will be held, and that spectators will be allowed. They did say that vaccinations may be required for both competitors and spectators.

The government is considering ways to lift its entry ban on foreign tourists with the coming of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which were postponed to the summer of 2021, according to government sources.

Japan is expected to ask tourists to provide information on their health condition via a smartphone app, as well as provide proof of a negative virus test prior to arriving and upon arrival in Japan government sources said. The government may start these measures as early as next spring, the sources said.

All Japanese schools have been in-person since June. Recently, there have been a large spike in the number of cases with school age children. But Japan is not considering re-closing schools at this time, or going to virtual learning. 

COVID-19

The number of new cases has been increasing for the last month or so, and the government has announced that Japan is currently in a third wave (see the illustration below). Hokkaido recently increased its awareness level from a level 3 to a level 4 (out of 5). There has been a greater increase in the number of cases on the island of Hokkaido recently. It is thought this is due to the GoTo travel campaign. Because of the outdoor activities available on Hokkaido, and the cooler temperatures during the hot and humid Japan summers, the number of tourists visiting Hokkaido was higher causing the increased number of cases there. 

In spite of the current third wave spike, due to the GoTo Travel campaign many popular sightseeing spots in Japan were busy with Japanese domestic tourists over the 3 day weekend. However, due to a larger number of cases in Sapporo and Osaka, those two cities will be exempted from the GoTo Travel campaign. And Tokyo is raising it’s alert level. 

As of November 24

November 17

Rather than keep repeating the same entry restrictions week after week, if you are not aware of the current restrictions, you can refer to the November 10 status to get the details. There have been no changes since then. Basically, at this time, everyone except for tourists regardless of what country they are from are currently allowed entry to Japan.

The head of the IOC and PM Suga met recently to discuss the 2021 Olympics. They have decided that the games will be held, and that spectators will be allowed. They did say that vaccinations may be required for both competitors and spectators.

The PM of Australia and Japan is scheduled to meet today in Japan. Among topics such as trade and defense, possible normalization of  reciprocal travel between the two countries will be discussed.

An international gymnastics competition was held in Tokyo last week with gymnasts from Japan, USA, China and Russia competing. The Japanese government was using this as a test run for the Olympics. The government indicated that they would be reviewing things that worked well and those things that did not work well, and discuss how to modify the plans for the Olympics accordingly. The plan is to hold more of these type of events before the Olympics.

COVID-19

The number of new cases has been increasing for the last month or so, and the government has announced that Japan is currently in a third wave (see the illustration below). Hokkaido recently increased its awareness level from a level 3 to a level 4 (out of 5). There has been a greater increase in the number of cases on the island of Hokkaido recently. It is thought this is due to the GoTo travel campaign. Because of the outdoor activities available on Hokkaido, and the cooler temperatures during the hot and humid Japan summers, the number of tourists visiting Hokkaido was higher causing the increased number of cases there.

November 10

The Japanese government has been working on how to allow people from all over the world enter Japan safely during the Olympics. They have developed the first draft of procedures for the athletes and others to enter. It should be noted these have not been officially adopted yet, and their goal is to finalize everything by the end of the year. So these procedures could and probably will change.

Before arriving in Japan, people will have to download a smartphone app, and fill out all of the health information and contact information while in Japan before arriving in Japan. Documentation of a negative virus test done within 72 hours of leaving for Japan will also be required. After arriving in Japan, people will have to pass another virus test, answer health questions and pass health screenings such as taking their temperature. And then, you would have to enter temperature, any symptoms that you may have into the smartphone app daily for 14 days after arriving in Japan. Failure to do so would result in the cancellation of your visa. And you would be subject to repatriation at your expense.

But the big news is that the Japanese government wants to test these new procedures on tourists before the Olympics. So they said they are thinking of allowing foreign tourists into Japan using these procedures starting in April. For those of you with tours in March, I would not worry. This is still subject to change. And, depending on the final outcome, we will work with everyone to possibly switch to a tour in April if you are able. If you have any questions, please let us know.

Beginning the first week of November, Japan is resuming domestic cruise ship service. Most of the cruises will leave from Yokohama, and travel to various ports around Japan.

The government has created virus testing centers at all of the international airports. At this time, they are able to process 10,000 tests per day. They announced last week they will be doubling that amount by the end of the year to process 20,000 tests per day.

The Australian Prime Minister announced he wants to create a travel bubble with New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and Singapore by the end of the year.

Japan has now implemented new entry procedures for people with long-term residence status. These people will no longer have to quarantine after returning to Japan regardless of where they are returning from.

Japan lowered travel alerts for infectious diseases for Australia, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, China, New Zealand, Brunei and Vietnam to Level 2 from Level 3 on its scale of four, requesting citizens avoid nonessential trips.

Japan has lifted its entry ban on foreign travelers from China, South Korea, Australia, Brunei, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam for non-tourist arrivals.

The Japanese government is considering resuming mutual business travel between China and Japan sometime in the month of November.

Japan’s largest airport opened a corona virus testing facility Monday. The Narita International Airport PCR Center is aimed at outbound travelers who need proof that they are virus-free when they arrive at their international destinations. The testing lab, run by the Nippon Medical School Foundation, is the first at an airport in Japan and can deliver results in six hours, though it expects to get that down to two by the end of November.

Domestic travel is slowly returning. It was estimated that hotel stays and domestic fight traffic was about 60% in October this year compared with October last year.

Japan held a gymnastics tournament over the weekend between Japan, USA, China and Russia. This was a test of the procedures for the summer Olympics.

COVID-19

There has been an increase in the number of new cases in the last several weeks. It does appear Japan may be trending to a third wave.

The GoTo travel campaign has been blamed for some of the increase of new cases. While the number of domestic tourists visiting Kyoto has gone up, the number of new cases in Kyoto has not increased much. However, the number of domestic tourists visiting Tokyo and Hokkaido have gone up while the number of new cases has increased. It is thought that these increases are due to the increased tourism, especially on Hokkaido.

November 3

The Japanese government has been working on how to allow people from all over the world enter Japan safely during the Olympics. They have developed the first draft of procedures for the athletes and others to enter. It should be noted these have not been officially adopted yet, and their goal is to finalize everything by the end of the year. So these procedures could and probably will change.

Before arriving in Japan, people will have to download a smartphone app, and fill out all of the health information and contact information while in Japan before arriving in Japan. Documentation of a negative virus test done within 72 hours of leaving for Japan will also be required. After arriving in Japan, people will have to pass another virus test, answer health questions and pass health screenings such as taking their temperature. And then, you would have to enter temperature, any symptoms that you may have into the smartphone app daily for 14 days after arriving in Japan. Failure to do so would result in the cancellation of your visa. And you would be subject to repatriation at your expense.

But the big news is that the Japanese government wants to test these new procedures on tourists before the Olympics. So they said they are thinking of allowing foreign tourists into Japan using these procedures starting in April. For those of you with tours in March, I would not worry. This is still subject to change. And, depending on the final outcome, we will work with everyone to possibly switch to a tour in April if you are able. If you have any questions, please let us know.

Beginning the first week of November, Japan is resuming domestic cruise ship service. Most of the cruises will leave from Yokohama, and travel to various ports around Japan.

The government has created virus testing centers at all of the international airports. At this time, they are able to process 10,000 tests per day. They announced last week they will be doubling that amount by the end of the year to process 20,000 tests per day.

The Australian Prime Minister announced he wants to create a travel bubble with New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and Singapore by the end of the year.

Japan has now implemented new entry procedures for people with long-term residence status. These people will no longer have to quarantine after returning to Japan regardless of where they are returning from.

Japan lowered travel alerts for infectious diseases for Australia, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, China, New Zealand, Brunei and Vietnam to Level 2 from Level 3 on its scale of four, requesting citizens avoid nonessential trips.

Japan has lifted its entry ban on foreign travelers from China, South Korea, Australia, Brunei, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam for non-tourist arrivals.

Japan’s largest airport opened a corona virus testing facility Monday. The Narita International Airport PCR Center is aimed at outbound travelers who need proof that they are virus-free when they arrive at their international destinations. The testing lab, run by the Nippon Medical School Foundation, is the first at an airport in Japan and can deliver results in six hours, though it expects to get that down to two by the end of November.

Public viewing of tuna auctions at Tokyo’s Toyosu fish market resumed Monday after an eight-month hiatus due to the spread of the coronavirus. Eighteen visitors selected by lottery in advance gathered at the market in the early morning and watched from a viewing deck as dealers wearing masks took part in the bidding. The fish market, which opened in 2018 to replace the aging Tsukiji market, had suspended public viewings of the auctions Feb. 29 following the outbreak of the virus. While the market had invited up to 120 spectators per day for the popular event before, capacity has now been cut to 27. Visitors are required to wear face masks, have their temperatures taken and submit their contact information.

Domestic travel is slowly returning. It was estimated that hotel stays and domestic fight traffic was about 60% in October this year compared with October last year.

COVID-19

There has been a slight upward trend in the number of new cases in the last month. The number of new cases has been averaging about 650 new cases per day nationwide. This is about 0.5 new cases per 100,000 people. This is compared with 25 new cases per 100,000 people per day in America.

October 27

There has been another significant development on the entry restrictions. The Japanese government has been working on how to allow people from all over the world enter Japan safely during the Olympics. They have developed the first draft of procedures for the athletes and others to enter. It should be noted these have not been officially adopted yet, and their goal is to finalize everything by the end of the year. So these procedures could and probably will change.

Before arriving in Japan, people will have to download a smartphone app, and fill out all of the health information and contact information while in Japan before arriving in Japan. Documentation of a negative virus test done within 72 hours of leaving for Japan will also be required. After arriving in Japan, people will have to pass another virus test, answer health questions and pass health screenings such as taking their temperature. And then, you would have to enter temperature, any symptoms that you may have into the smartphone app daily for 14 days after arriving in Japan. Failure to do so would result in the cancellation of your visa. And you would be subject to repatriation at your expense.

But the big news is that the Japanese government wants to test these new procedures on tourists before the Olympics. So they said they are thinking of allowing foreign tourists into Japan using these procedures starting in April. For those of you with tours in March, I would not worry. This is still subject to change. And, depending on the final outcome, we will work with everyone to possibly switch to a tour in April if you are able. If you have any questions, please let us know.

Beginning the first week of November, Japan is resuming domestic cruise ship service. Most of the cruises will leave from Yokohama, and travel to various ports around Japan.

The government has created virus testing centers at all of the international airports. At this time, they are able to process 10,000 tests per day. They announced last week they will be doubling that amount by the end of the year to process 20,000 tests per day.

The Australian Prime Minister announced he wants to create a travel bubble with New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and Singapore by the end of the year.

COVID-19

There is little new to report on the virus spread in Japan. This last week, the number of new cases has leveled off at around 500 new cases per day nationwide. This is about 0.4 new cases per 100,000 people. This is compared with 20 new cases per 100,000 people per day in America.

October 20

There has been another significant development on the entry restrictions. The Japanese government has been working on how to allow people from all over the world enter Japan safely during the Olympics. They have developed the first draft of procedures for the athletes and others to enter. It should be noted these have not been officially adopted yet, and their goal is to finalize everything by the end of the year. So these procedures could and probably will change.

Before arriving in Japan, people will have to download a smartphone app, and fill out all of the health information and contact information while in Japan before arriving in Japan. Documentation of a negative virus test done within 72 hours of leaving for Japan will also be required. After arriving in Japan, people will have to pass another virus test, answer health questions and pass health screenings such as taking their temperature. And then, you would have to enter temperature, any symptoms that you may have into the smartphone app daily for 14 days after arriving in Japan. Failure to do so would result in the cancellation of your visa. And you would be subject to repatriation at your expense.

But the big news is that the Japanese government wants to test these new procedures on tourists before the Olympics. So they said they are thinking of allowing foreign tourists into Japan using these procedures starting in April. For those of you with tours in March, I would not worry. This is still subject to change. And, depending on the final outcome, we will work with everyone to possibly switch to a tour in April if you are able. If you have any questions, please let us know.

The government has created virus testing centers at all of the international airports. At this time, they are able to process 10,000 tests per day. They announced last week they will be doubling that amount by the end of the year to process 20,000 tests per day.

The Australian Prime Minister announced he wants to create a travel bubble with New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and Singapore by the end of the year.

COVID-19

There is little new to report on the virus spread in Japan. This last week, the number of new cases has leveled off at around 500 new cases per day nationwide. This is about 0.4 new cases per 100,000 people. This is compared with 17 new cases per 100,000 people per day in America.

October 13

There has been another significant development on the entry restrictions. The Japanese government has been working on how to allow people from all over the world enter Japan safely during the Olympics. They have developed the first draft of procedures for the athletes and others to enter. It should be noted these have not been officially adopted yet, and their goal is to finalize everything by the end of the year. So these procedures could and probably will change.

Before arriving in Japan, people will have to download a smartphone app, and fill out all of the health information and contact information while in Japan before arriving in Japan. Documentation of a negative virus test done within 72 hours of leaving for Japan will also be required. After arriving in Japan, people will have to pass another virus test, answer health questions and pass health screenings such as taking their temperature. And then, you would have to enter temperature, any symptoms that you may have into the smartphone app daily for 14 days after arriving in Japan. Failure to do so would result in the cancellation of your visa. And you would be subject to repatriation at your expense.

But the big news is that the Japanese government wants to test these new procedures on tourists before the Olympics. So they said they are thinking of allowing foreign tourists into Japan using these procedures starting in April. For those of you with tours in March, I would not worry. This is still subject to change. And, depending on the final outcome, we will work with everyone to possibly switch to a tour in April if you are able. If you have any questions, please let us know.

The GoTo Travel campaign included tours to and from Tokyo for the first time last week. Tokyo was initially excluded because of the high number of virus cases in Tokyo back in July when the program first started. It is estimated domestic travel was up more than 40% after was included.

The GoTo Eat campaign started last week. It is similar to the travel campaign where the government will pay up to 50% of the check when you eat at a restaurant. This is intended to help the restaurants that have been affected by the pandemic. However, many restaurants complained that the fees for participating were too high, and it was not worthwhile participating.

The government has created virus testing centers at all of the international airports. At this time, they are able to process 10,000 tests per day. They announced last week they will be doubling that amount by the end of the year to process 20,000 tests per day.

COVID-19

There is little new to report on the virus spread in Japan. This last week, the number of new cases has leveled off at around 500 new cases per day nationwide. This is about 0.4 new cases per 100,000 people. This is compared with 13 new cases per 100,000 people per day in America.

October 6

There has been another significant development on the entry restrictions. The Japanese government has been working on how to allow people from all over the world enter Japan safely during the Olympics. They have developed the first draft of procedures for the athletes and others to enter. It should be noted these have not been officially adopted yet, and their goal is to finalize everything by the end of the year. So these procedures could and probably will change.

Before arriving in Japan, people will have to download a smartphone app, and fill out all of the health information and contact information while in Japan before arriving in Japan. Documentation of a negative virus test done within 72 hours of leaving for Japan will also be required. After arriving in Japan, people will have to pass another virus test, answer health questions and pass health screenings such as taking their temperature. And then, you would have to enter temperature, any symptoms that you may have into the smartphone app daily for 14 days after arriving in Japan. Failure to do so would result in the cancellation of your visa. And you would be subject to repatriation at your expense.

But the big news is that the Japanese government wants to test these new procedures on tourists before the Olympics. So they said they are thinking of allowing foreign tourists into Japan using these procedures starting in April. For those of you with tours in March, I would not worry. This is still subject to change. And, depending on the final outcome, we will work with everyone to possibly switch to a tour in April if you are able. If you have any questions, please let us know.

The GoTo Travel campaign included tours to and from Tokyo for the first time last week. Tokyo was initially excluded because of the high number of virus cases in Tokyo back in July when the program first started. It is estimated domestic travel was up more than 40% after was included.

The GoTo Eat campaign started last week. It is similar to the travel campaign where the government will pay up to 50% of the check when you eat at a restaurant. This is intended to help the restaurants that have been affected by the pandemic. However, many restaurants complained that the fees for participating were too high, and it was not worthwhile participating.

The government has created virus testing centers at all of the international airports. At this time, they are able to process 10,000 tests per day. They announced last week they will be doubling that amount by the end of the year to process 20,000 tests per day.

COVID-19

There is little new to report on the virus spread in Japan. This last week, the number of new cases has leveled off at around 500 new cases per day nationwide. This is about 0.4 new cases per 100,000 people. This is compared with 13 new cases per 100,000 people per day in America.

September 29

There was a significant change during the last week. The Japanese government recently announced they were going to allow anyone with a long term residence visa and student visa to enter Japan regardless of where they were from to enter Japan. But they are now allowing anyone with visas of longer than 3 months to enter regardless of where they are from. There are many different kinds of visas such as research, cultural, teaching, etc. Basically, this means the entry bans apply to tourists and short-term business people from countries with higher virus rates only. They are in the process of opening Japan to short-term business people from countries with lower virus rates. Suga, the new Prime Minister of Japan, recently told the government COVID task force “Further resumption of international travel is indispensable to revitalize the (nation’s) economy.”

The government plans to start easing outbound travel advisories currently in place for 159 countries and regions in October, starting with those where the pace of new coronavirus infections is slow, including Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam, sources close to the matter said Monday. The Foreign Ministry’s travel advisory for the 159 countries and regions currently stands at Level 3, warning against all travel. If it lowers the advisory for some countries to Level 2, it means that nonessential travel should be avoided. No country is subject to Japan’s highest Level 4 advisory which urges all Japanese nationals to evacuate and avoid all travel.

The International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo Olympics Organizing Committee met last week in Tokyo. They announced that the Olympics will be held even if there is not a vaccine. They pointed to the success of recent sports events such as the Tour de France and other big-sports events around the world that were successfully held without a vaccine. They also announced there will be “simplification” changes for next year’s postponed games, though few details were announced. No COVID-19 countermeasures including rules for athletes entering Japan, the question of fans at venues, possible quarantines in the event of positive tests, requirements for vaccines if available, etc. have been announced yet.

There are still 159 countries on the entry ban list. Japan has reciprocally eased entry restrictions for business people for the following countries: Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. Japan is still in negotiations with other countries in the Oceania region. They have also announced they will allow European and American businessmen to enter Japan soon.

PLEASE NOTE: We have listed the link near the bottom of this page to the web page from the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs listing the entry bans. It seems there are some misunderstandings of the information on that page. After having read it closely ourselves, it is easy to see how the information on that page was misunderstood. Section 2 lists the procedures for arriving foreigners. However, this section applies to foreigners with long-term visas ONLY. As stated in the paragraph above, Japan is now allowing all foreigners with these special visas into Japan. This section does not apply to foreign tourists and short-term business people . You will need to look at Section 1 to see if you are living in a country that is not allowed to enter Japan. If it is, as a tourist you will not be allowed to enter Japan. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact us.

The relaxation of restrictions on capacity at events went into effect on Saturday, drawing mixed feelings of anticipation and concern. Now able to allow in significantly more people, movie theaters, baseball stadiums and other venues welcomed the bigger crowds while adopting stricter measures to prevent the spread of infections. However, many venues still remain cautious when it comes to allowing in the newly set maximum number.

Under the new guidelines, the 50% cap for places with a capacity of 5,000 or less, such as movie theaters, was lifted, allowing them to now have full houses.  Many major cinema complexes, such as Toho Cinemas and Aeon Cinema, have continued their policies of selling tickets with the surrounding seats left empty. At most concerts and theatrical performances, for which a number of tickets have been sold in advance, there was no immediate return to the former seating arrangements. However, some theaters immediately began selling all of the seats.

For larger venues, the revised regulation raises the limit from a cap of 5,000 spectators to 50% of the stadium capacity. The number of fans at  baseball games this weekend at Yokohama Stadium between the Yokohama DeNA Baystars and Yomiuri Giants has been capped at 16,000, an increase of 11,000.

COVID-19

New guidelines for determining who should receive a test and who should be hospitalized have been announced, and will begin in October. At this time, people must contact the local health department to determine whether a test is needed. But with the new procedures, people can contact their doctors instead. The change is aimed at avoiding the logjam that prevailed in the first wave of COVID-19 this spring and kept anxious people waiting often for days before they were tested. The new procedure will begin in October, in time for the influenza season when more people are expected to visit medical institutions for fear they have COVID-19.

September 22

There have been no changes to the entry restrictions since last week. There are now 159 countries on the entry ban list. Japan has reciprocally eased entry restrictions for business people for the following countries: Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. Japan is still in negotiations with other countries in the Oceania region. They have also announced they will allow European and American businessmen to enter Japan soon. As of September 1, all foreigners, including Americans, who have long term resident visa status will be able to re-enter Japan. Japan also announced they will allow foreign students, including Americans once more, with the proper student visa status to enter or re-enter Japan sometime this month. Up until now, 90% of virus infections found at the airport testing stations have been asymptomatic.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: We have listed the link near the bottom of this page to the web page from the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs listing the entry bans. It seems there are some misunderstandings of the information on that page. After having read it closely ourselves, it is easy to see how the information on that page was misunderstood. Section 2 lists the procedures for arriving foreigners. However, this section applies to foreigners with long-term residence visas and student visas ONLY. As stated in the paragraph above, Japan is now allowing all foreigners with these special visas into Japan. This section does not apply to foreign tourists. You will need to look at Section 1 to see if you are living in a country that is not allowed to enter Japan. If it is, as a tourist you will not be allowed to enter Japan. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact us.

The relaxation of restrictions on capacity at events went into effect on Saturday, drawing mixed feelings of anticipation and concern. Now able to allow in significantly more people, movie theaters, baseball stadiums and other venues welcomed the bigger crowds while adopting stricter measures to prevent the spread of infections. However, many venues still remain cautious when it comes to allowing in the newly set maximum number.

Under the new guidelines, the 50% cap for places with a capacity of 5,000 or less, such as movie theaters, was lifted, allowing them to now have full houses.  Many major cinema complexes, such as Toho Cinemas and Aeon Cinema, have continued their policies of selling tickets with the surrounding seats left empty. At most concerts and theatrical performances, for which a number of tickets have been sold in advance, there was no immediate return to the former seating arrangements. However, some theaters immediately began selling all of the seats.

For larger venues, the revised regulation raises the limit from a cap of 5,000 spectators to 50% of the stadium capacity. The number of fans at  baseball games this weekend at Yokohama Stadium between the Yokohama DeNA Baystars and Yomiuri Giants has been capped at 16,000, an increase of 11,000.

The “Silver Week” holiday began in Japan on Saturday. This is a period of two back-to-back holidays in conjunction with a weekend making a 4 day weekend. The highways, trains and planes were very busy over this time period. This was due in addition to the GoTo travel campaign which pays up to 50% of domestic trip. There were more travelers during Silver Week than any other time during the pandemic.

COVID-19

The number of new cases of the second wave in Japan is continuing to decrease (see the graph below). Tokyo, and the surrounding Kanto area, is starting to see a drop in the number of cases as well. The Japanese government has been able to define sources of most outbreaks and have been able to control the spread. The Japanese government has estimated that lately about 60% of the cases have been 40 years old and younger.

The fatality rate for the second wave is much lower than the first wave. This pattern has also been seen in the current second wave in Europe. The overall fatality rate is 1/6 the rate during the first wave. And the fatality rate of people over 70 is 1/3 the rate during the first wave. Among reasons given for the falling fatality rates were the establishment of treatment methods as well as the increased testing and improvements in contact tracing.

New guidelines for determining who should receive a test and who should be hospitalized have been announced, and will begin in October. At this time, people must contact the local health department to determine whether a test is needed. But with the new procedures, people can contact their doctors instead. The change is aimed at avoiding the logjam that prevailed in the first wave of COVID-19 this spring and kept anxious people waiting often for days before they were tested. The new procedure will begin in October, in time for the influenza season when more people are expected to visit medical institutions for fear they have COVID-19.

September 15

There have been no changes to the entry restrictions since last week. There are now 159 countries on the entry ban list. Japan has reciprocally eased entry restrictions for business people for the following countries: Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. Japan is still in negotiations with other countries in the Oceania region. They have also announced they will allow European and American businessmen to enter Japan soon. As of September 1, all foreigners, including Americans, who have long term resident visa status will be able to re-enter Japan. Japan also announced they will allow foreign students, including Americans once more, with the proper student visa status to enter or re-enter Japan sometime this month. Up until now, 90% of virus infections found at the airport testing stations have been asymptomatic.

Suga was elected as the leader of the LDP ruling party yesterday. Tomorrow, Suga will be chosen as the next Prime Minister to replace Abe. This election is a formality only. Most of the former prime ministers have been from well-to-do, elite political families, many of whom include many former prime ministers. (For example, Abe’s father was a former prime minister.) Suga is the son of a strawberry farmer from a rural area of Akita prefecture.

Suga was the leader of the cabinet under Abe, and it is thought he will continue many of Abe’s programs including a close relationship with America. Suga has stated that he will look to Abe for help with some foreign policy issues. Abe has been able to maintain a close relationship with Trump, and Suga will probably ask for help with that as well as walking the thin line between America and China.

Even in Japan where practically everyone wears a mask, there have been two reported incidents of people refusing to wear masks in the last month on airplanes where masks are mandatory. Both were domestic flights from Hokkaido. In each case, the plane landed where local authorities arrested the offender before the flight continued to its final destination. And in each case, the airlines are planning legal actions against the offenders.

Traffic violations by food deliverers working for companies such as Uber Eats has been on the increase as the demand for these services has increased during the pandemic. Many police departments are asking these food delivery companies to implement programs to reduce this problem.

Beginning on September 19, many of the crowd size restrictions at theaters, stadiums, etc. will be eased. All of these venues will now be allowed up to 50% capacity. Up until now, theaters, sports venues, etc. were limited to a maximum of 5,000 people. However, events such as rock concerts and marital arts tournaments will still be limited to a maximum of 5,000 people.

Tokyo has reduced its alert level, and has dropped the 10PM mandatory closing time for restaurants and bars that had already been dropped across Japan in August. Starting in October, Tokyo will be allowed to participate in the GoTo campaign that was started nation-wide in July. At that time, Tokyo was not included because of the high number of virus cases in Tokyo. The GoTo campaign pays up to 50% of domestic travel in an effort to help the travel industry in Japan. The Tokyo government will also withdraw the voluntary restrictions for travel outside of Tokyo.

In a government survey of large companies, the business sentiment has drastically increased after the drop of virus cases recently. During the height of the first and second waves, the sentiment index was about minus 47. The new and current sentiment index is plus 2.

COVID-19

The number of new cases of the second wave in Japan is continuing to decrease (see the graph below). Tokyo, and the surrounding Kanto area, is starting to see a drop in the number of cases as well. The Japanese government has been able to define sources of most outbreaks and have been able to control the spread. The Japanese government has estimated that lately about 60% of the cases have been 40 years old and younger.

The fatality rate for the second wave is much lower than the first wave. This pattern has also been seen in the current second wave in Europe. The overall fatality rate is 1/6 the rate during the first wave. And the fatality rate of people over 70 is 1/3 the rate during the first wave. Among reasons given for the falling fatality rates were the establishment of treatment methods as well as the increased testing and improvements in contact tracing.

New guidelines for determining who should receive a test and who should be hospitalized have been announced, and will begin in October. At this time, people must contact the local health department to determine whether a test is needed. But with the new procedures, people can contact their doctors instead. The change is aimed at avoiding the logjam that prevailed in the first wave of COVID-19 this spring and kept anxious people waiting often for days before they were tested. The new procedure will begin in October, in time for the influenza season when more people are expected to visit medical institutions for fear they have COVID-19.

September 8

There have been no changes to the entry restrictions since last week. There are now 159 countries on the entry ban list. Japan has reciprocally eased entry restrictions for business people for the following countries: Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. Japan is still in negotiations with other countries in the Oceania region. They have also announced they will allow European and American businessmen to enter Japan soon. As of September 1, all foreigners, including Americans, who have long term resident visa status will be able to re-enter Japan. Japan also announced they will allow foreign students, including Americans once more, with the proper student visa status to enter or re-enter Japan sometime this month.

There is an apparent leader for the new Prime Minister. He is from Akita, and understands how important tourism is to Japan, particularly rural Japan. So he will probably try to promote tourism to Japan as much as PM Abe did.

The IOC announced that the summer olympics will be held with or without COVID. However, in a recent poll, 52% of businesses in Japan said the Olympics should either be postponed again or cancelled altogether. The new Prime Minister will certainly have a say in this. It is thought the current apparent leader for the position will try to keep the current schedule.

There was a strong typhoon that affected the southern island of Kyushu on Sunday. There were concerns of trying to find enough evacuation spaces to accommodate large numbers of evacuees and still be able to social distance. Many of the evacuation centers had pre-manufactured cubicles made from cardboard to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19.

COVID-19

The number of new cases of the second wave in Japan is continuing to decrease (see the graph below). Tokyo, and the surrounding Kanto area, is starting to see a drop in the number of cases as well. Tokyo reported 77 new coronavirus cases Monday, the lowest number since July 8. The Japanese government has been able to define sources of most outbreaks and have been able to control the spread. The Japanese government has estimated that lately about 60% of the cases have been 40 years old and younger.

The fatality rate for the second wave is much lower than the first wave. This pattern has also been seen in the current second wave in Europe. The overall fatality rate is 1/6 the rate during the first wave. And the fatality rate of people over 70 is 1/3 the rate during the first wave. Among reasons given for the falling fatality rates were the establishment of treatment methods as well as the increased testing and improvements in contact tracing.

New guidelines for determining who should receive a test and who should be hospitalized have been announced, and will begin in October. At this time, people must contact the local health department to determine whether a test is needed. But with the new procedures, people can contact their doctors instead. The change is aimed at avoiding the logjam that prevailed in the first wave of COVID-19 this spring and kept anxious people waiting often for days before they were tested. The new procedure will begin in October, in time for the influenza season when more people are expected to visit medical institutions for fear they have COVID-19.

September 1

There are now 159 countries on the entry ban list. There were 13 new countries added last week. Japan has reciprocally eased entry restrictions for business people for the following countries: Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. Japan is still in negotiations with other countries in the Oceania region. They have also announced they will allow European and American businessmen to enter Japan soon. As of September 1, all foreigners, including Americans, who have long term resident visa status will be able to re-enter Japan. Japan also announced they will allow foreign students, including Americans once more, with the proper student visa status to enter or re-enter Japan sometime this month.

As most of you are probably aware, Prime Minister Abe has announced his resignation due to health issues. The Japanese Diet (Parliament) will vote on his replacement by September 15, and the new prime minister will replace Abe on September 17. There are three likely candidates. One is a hardliner much like Abe, and the other two are more middle of the road and may adopt more lenient entry restrictions.

COVID-19

The number of new cases of the second wave in Japan is continuing to decrease (see the graph below). Tokyo, and the surrounding Kanto area, is starting to see a drop in the number of cases as well. The Japanese government has been able to define sources of most outbreaks and have been able to control the spread. The Japanese government has estimated that lately about 60% of the cases have been 40 years old and younger.

August 25

Japan and Vietnam reciprocally eased travel restrictions for business people, and have announced they will begin to do the same for tourists soon. Just last week, the Japanese government announced they will be reciprocally easing restrictions with Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar for people with long term residence visas starting now. They will consider easing restrictions for business people and tourists sometime in September.

The Japanese domestic airlines reduced domestic flights by about 60% back in April and May, but then reinstated most of those flights in June. Because of the “GoTo” campaign started by the Japanese government in late July, the airlines thought that demand would increase again. This program refunded up to 50% of the cost of domestic trips in order to restart tourism in Japan. However, it did not work and domestic travel in August was down 60 to 70% year on year. So the airlines reduced the number of flights by 20 to 30% in August, and have announced they will probably do another 20 to 30% in September.

The CDC announced they are dropping the 14 day quarantine for US citizens returning from international destinations. However, when I returned to America from Japan back in June, no one asked me any kind of medical questions or did any kind of physical examination, no one gave me a virus test and no one told me to quarantine.

COVID-19

The number of new cases of the second wave in Japan is continuing to decrease (see the graph below). Tokyo, and the surrounding Kanto area, is starting to see a drop in the number of cases as well. The Japanese government has been able to define sources of most outbreaks and have been able to control the spread. The Japanese government has estimated that lately about 60% of the cases have been 40 years old and younger.

August 18

There have been no new announcements on the easing of entry bans in Japan. At this time, there are 146 countries that are not allowed to enter Japan. These are currently scheduled to expire on August 30, but at least some of the bans will be extended.

The Japanese government has finished creating the testing stations at all of the international airports. They are now able to test up to 10,000 arriving passengers per day. All arriving passengers, even Japanese citizens are required to be tested. At this time, the results will be known the next day. Everyone will be required to stay next to the airport that evening until they receive their results. Eventually they hope to get the results in an hour or two. People will be required to stay at the airport to receive their results.

COVID-19

It appears the number of cases from the second wave in Japan is starting to decrease. (See the graph below.) The Japanese government has been able to identify the sources of most of the clusters. There was a large number of new cases with a college rugby team in western Japan.

As in other countries, the majority of the new cases have been in younger people. The sources of most of the new cases are coming from schools, offices, karaoke clubs and bars.

August 11

Japan is currently in the middle of the Bon Holiday. The Japanese believe the spirits of dead ancestors return to the family graves at this time of the year. For that reason, many Japanese will travel to their family grave to pay their respects. The travel numbers are down 60 to 70% compared to previous years.

There have been no new announcements on the easing of entry bans in Japan. At this time, there 146 countries that are not allowed to enter Japan. These are currently scheduled to expire on August 30, but at least some of the bans will be extended.

The Japanese government has finished creating the testing stations at all of the international airports. They are now able to test up to 10,000 arriving passengers per day. All arriving passengers, even Japanese citizens are required to be tested. At this time, the results will be known the next day. Everyone will be required to stay next to the airport that evening until they receive their results. Eventually they hope to get the results in an hour or two. People will be required to stay at the airport to receive their results.

COVID-19

There are signs that Japan has flattened the curve of their second wave. And the rolling averages have started to go down. The number of cases in Tokyo is half of what it was at the peak of the wave. Even now, the number of new cases per capita in Tokyo is higher than New York City.

The city of Matsue in Shimane prefecture has had very few cases up until now. But this last week, about 100 students at a private high school dormitory tested positive.

August 4

Negotiations are still continuing with a number of countries to allow entry into Japan. The Japanese government is currently considering allowing American and European businessmen into Japan. But they will not be allowed to stay long, and cannot travel in large groups. The details have not been announced.

The Sumo tournament and Japanese baseball games with audiences are continuing without any interruptions or anyone testing positive for COVID-19. The Japanese Soccer league is not allowing audiences as well. The Kabuki-za theater in Tokyo reopened for the first time in five months.

The Bon Holiday season will be starting soon. Because many Japanese normally travel to their families grave during this time, this is a big travel time in Japan. The Japanese government is concerned about this, but has not issued any warnings or requests regarding travel during this time.

COVID-19

Japan is currently going through a second wave as is happening in many other countries at this time including Australia, Hong Kong and Spain. The numbers of new cases in the second wave is actually larger than the first wave.

But the Japanese government says that they have been able to trace most of the new cases. And because of that, they are not overly concerned at this point.

July 28

Last week was a 4 day weekend in Japan with national holidays on Thursday and Friday. Many people around Japan were taking advantage of the “Go To” campaign. This program, initiated by the Japanese government will pay up to 50% of domestic travel to help the travel industry in Japan. Because of the recent spike of cases in Tokyo, the Governor of Tokyo requested that people in Tokyo not travel outside of Tokyo. However, many of them did end up traveling, but traveled short distances to the nearby prefectures.

Negotiations are still continuing with a number of countries to allow entry into Japan. The Japanese government is currently considering allowing American and European businessmen into Japan. But they will not allowed to stay long, and cannot travel in large groups. The details have not been announced.

The Sumo tournament and Japanese baseball games with audiences are continuing without any interruptions or anyone testing positive for COVID-19. The Japanese Soccer league is not allowing audiences as well.

COVID-19

Japan is currently going through a second wave as is happening in many other countries at this time including Australia, Hong Kong and Spain. The numbers of new cases in the second wave is actually larger than the first wave.

But the Japanese government says that they have been able to trace most of the new cases. And because of that, they are overly concerned at this point.

July 21

The July Sumo tournament in Nagoya started this week. It is the first tournament in 6 months where fans were allowed to watch the tournament. The March tournament in Osaka was held with no one in attendance. And the May tournament in Tokyo was cancelled. The number of fans was limited of course.

The “Go To” campaign has started this week. This is a program where the Japanese government will pay for up to 50% of the cost of a domestic trip within Japan. It is hoped this program will help to bring back tourism around Japan. However, because of the large number of COVID-19 cases in Tokyo recently, travel to and from Tokyo was removed from the program at the last minute. The Japanese government will pay for the cancellation fees.

Negotiations are continuing with a number of countries to allow entry into Japan. High-level businessmen from America and Europe are currently being allowed to enter Japan. But they can only travel to and from Japan in a private jet, and they have submit an itinerary before they arrive. The Japanese government is currently considering allowing American and European businessmen into Japan. But they will not allowed to stay long, and cannot travel in large groups. The details have not been announced.

COVID-19

The increase in the number of new cases has continued. The Kanto area (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba prefectures) account for more than one-half of the new cases. The other larger cities such as Osaka, Kyoto and Sapporo are also experiencing more new cases, but not as many relative to the number of new cases in Tokyo.

The Japanese government says that they have been able to trace most of the new cases. And because of that, they are overly concerned at this point. Most of the new cases have been traced to the Shinjuku nightlife area. The Tokyo governor has asked everyone living in Tokyo to stay home over the upcoming long weekend.

The Japanese government has released their tracking app. But up until now, the number of downloads has been disappointing. The government is requesting everyone with a smart phone to download the app in order to make it easier to trace new cases.

July 14

Discussions with Australia and New Zealand to reciprocally reduce entry bans is continuing. According to the Japanese government, they are starting discussions with Taiwan, Korea and China and other countries that have kept the virus under control. The Japanese government has also announced they are considering allowing American and European business executives to enter Japan.

Last week, fans were once again allowed to attend pro sports games including baseball and soccer. At this time, the number of fans are being limited to 5,000 people. If everything goes OK with this step, they will next allow enough people to fill the stands to 50% capacity. The Sumo Association announced last week they will allow fans to attend the July tournament in Nagoya. No further details were given.

Domestic travel within Japan is building. The “GO TO” campaign where the government will subsidize domestic travel by up to 50%, was originally scheduled to begin August 1. But that date has been moved up to July 22. However, it has been reported that many of the remote rural areas are now concerned about people from the larger metropolitan areas such as Tokyo and Osaka visiting their areas. They are concerned they will spread the virus. A recent survey in Japan showed that more people in Japan are concerned about the virus than they are the economy.

COVID-19

During the last two weeks, there has been a larger than normal spike in the number of new cases (see the graph below). Most of the new cases have been in the Kanto area (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba Prefectures). But there have also been a large number of cases in the Kansai area (Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto Prefectures) and Sapporo. As you might expect, the majority of the new cases were younger people. And many of the new cases also came from the bar/nightlife districts.

The Tokyo Metropolitan government is discussing possibly re-initiating some business restrictions. However, no details were announced. The Japanese government also announced they are building many virus testing stations at all fo the international airports. The plan is to test all incoming visitors, including Japanese citizens. At first, they are saying the tests will take 1 to 2 days. But eventually, they say the test will be only a few hours.

July 7

Schools are back in session all over Japan. Domestic travel is rebuilding. Baseball and Soccer has started (without fans of course). And on Friday, the 10th, Japan will allow crowds up to 5,000 people to gather at pro sports games, concerts, etc.

But the big news in Japan is the rain. Areas of the southern island of Kyushu have received large amounts of rain, and there has been widespread flooding. At last count, there were more than 50 people dead or missing. But that number will probably increase over the next few days since the rain is not forecasted to stop for several days.

This natural disaster has raised an issue that few other countries have had to deal with. As you would expect, the evacuation centers setup by the Japanese government are typically large open areas such as school gymnasiums, etc. How do you operate a center like this with large groups of people during a pandemic?

Marking out spaces to keep households two meters apart means each center can accommodate fewer evacuees. Officials are trying to identify additional shelter sites, from government facilities to hotels and inns, with mixed success.

The government is also asking individuals to understand the risks and shoulder more of the responsibility for their own safety, according to Masako Yoneda of the Japan Academic Network for Disaster Reduction, which issued an emergency message on the topic last month.

“The best way is to make sure that people who are unwell don’t cross paths with others,” said Yuichi Ishida. Each center will be taking temperatures and inquiring about possible symptoms before allowing families to enter each center.

COVID-19

During the last week, there has been a larger than normal spike in the number of new cases (see the graph below). Most of the new cases have been in the Kanto area (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba Prefectures). But there have also been a large number of cases in the Kansai area (Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto Prefectures) and Sapporo. As you might expect, the majority of the new cases were younger people. And many of the new cases also came from the bar/nightlife districts.

There has been another recent development that could only happen in Japan. It has been reported that two Maiko (geisha in training) in Kyoto’s Gion entertainment district have been infected with COVID-19. It is also reported that the virus is more active in the Gion than in Shinjuku’s nightlife districts. To make matters even worse, it has also been reported that the Gion entertainment district kept this secret.

June 30

Domestic travel within Japan has been increasing since June 19th when inter-prefecture travel was allowed again. Many restrictions have been removed with the exception of larger groups such as concerts, exhibitions and sports events. A new Shinkansen model will be rolled out on July 1. It is quieter and has a better ride.

Japan and Vietnam have begun reciprocal easing of entry restrictions. Japanese businessmen have flown to Vietnam, and Vietnamese businessmen have flown to Japan. Negotiations with other countries, specifically Thailand, Australia and New Zealand have been ongoing, but no announcements have been made. All four countries are being very cautious in their easing of entry restrictions. The EU wants to allow Japanese tourists into Europe, but it is said the Japanese government is not willing to reciprocate with European tourists.

COVID-19

There has been a spike in the number of new cases in the last week. Just like in America, most of the new cases are younger people. The Japanese government has made testing mandatory for everyone working in bars. People working in bars are required to have periodical virus tests.

June 23

On June 19, all travel restrictions within Japan were removed. So many Japanese traveled domestically that weekend. Many of the destinations everywhere in Japan reported an increase in the number of reservations and visitors.

On Thursday and Friday, flights between Japan and Vietnam will begin to operate again. The two governments have negotiated travel between the two countries without any restrictions. At first, it will be only businessmen. About 450 Japanese businessmen will be going to Vietnam later this week. Any Vietnamese businessmen will have to file an itinerary with the Japanese government.

Air New Zealand announced they will be restarting flights between New Zealand and Japan. But no announcements have been made by either government about a travel agreement between the two countries.

Pro baseball is starting this week, but without anyone watching in person. People will be allowed entrance to the games in mid-July.

COVID-19

There has been a small spike in the number of cases, particularly in Tokyo. It has been reported that most of the new cases in Tokyo are from a temporary employment agency, and from bar workers in the Kabukicho district of Tokyo. The government has implemented mandatory testing for all bar workers in that area.

June 16

All restrictions on businesses everywhere in Japan have been lifted, even in Tokyo. There are still bans on groups of people over 100. However, the plan is to start easing those restrictions on June 19. At that time, such events as concerts and exhibitions will be allowed up to 1,000 people, or 50% capacity. On July 10, the plan is to start allowing fans to attend pro sports games. At that time all large groups will be limited to 5,000 people or 50%.

More and more people are traveling domestically. On June 13, the Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen (Osaka to Kagoshima) announced they were returning to pre-virus schedules. JR Shikoku announced they will start operating their sightseeing trains soon.

While the crowds here in Kyoto are still below pre-virus levels, there are more and more people everywhere. The Japanese government announced they will start to accept businessmen from Vietnam as long as they provide proof of a negative virus test. This will start before the end of the month. New Zealand will restart flights from New Zealand to Japan before the end of the month.

COVID-19 Infections

Lately, there has been another spike in new cases, particularly in Tokyo. Some people are contributing the spike to more testing, and the Tokyo government does not seem to be terribly concerned about the spike. At least, they have said they are not thinking of raising the alert level, and especially not any lockdowns. Here in Kyoto, there have only been two new reported cases more than a month.

Abe-no-Mask (Mask of Abe)

Prime Minister Abe made a big announcement back in March that the Japanese government would provide two cloth masks to everyone in Japan. Back then, masks were hard to find. But now, they are available everywhere.

However, the masks were very small, and were not received very well by the Japanese public. And then, even after two months it was estimated that only about 20% of Japan had received the masks. They became know as “Abe-no-mask”, or mask of Abe everywhere in Japan. This was a takeoff on other programs initiated by Prime Minister Abe such as Abenomics.

Lately, I have seen a number of businesses offering discounts to people who would trade in their Abe-no-mask, and the then business would donate the masks to needy people. Well, I just received mine in the mail the other day.

June 9

Things here in Japan are starting to return to normal. Almost all shops and restaurants have reopened. And all the shops and restaurants are beginning to get busier now. The common, public areas are busier with more people. Public transportation is also busier now as well. And most of the schools have reopened.

This weekend, I have traveled to Arima Onsen for a little R & R. Yesterday was a Saturday, and the onsen was very busy since it is located so close to Osaka and Kobe. But today, on Sunday, it is much quieter as one would expect.

There have been no changes made to the onsen baths, both here at the ryokan I am staying at and at the public bathhouse I went to this afternoon. However, the ryokan I am staying at normally has a breakfast buffet. A major Japanese university with NHK did a video study of how a disease like COVID-19 can spread quickly at a buffet. They They have replaced that with a set meal for breakfast. You can choose between western style or Japanese style breakfast of course. The tables are set a little further apart. But otherwise, I have not noticed any major differences anywhere here at the onsen other than the typical virus prevention protection found everywhere else in Japan.

COVID-19 Infections

Here in Kyoto, after 23 straight days with no new cases, there was one reported new case yesterday. The spike in new cases in the city of Kitakyushu has improved. They are reporting 5 to 6 new cases per day now, compared to 15 to 25 a week ago. There has been a spike of new cases in Tokyo, and the Japanese government is now concerned about the situation there. For the last week, they have been reporting around 25 new cases per day. Considering Tokyo prefecture has a population of about 14 million people, that number is not terrible. However, it exceeds the strict per capita standards set for all prefectures by the Japanese government. To announce and illustrate the concern with the number of new cases, the Tokyo government has been lighting Rainbow Bridge over Tokyo Harbor in red at nights to remind people to be diligent with the proper virus prevention techniques.

June 2

State of Emergency

The State of Emergency has been removed across the entire country. The Japanese and prefectural governments have defined and documented the next steps beyond the state of emergency. These steps include when different types of businesses will be able to open. They will be allowed to reopen in stages, according to the risk of that business type, with the riskiest businesses allowed to open last. The steps also define when events and pro sports games will be allowed to resume.

Travel in Japan

Up until May 31, the Shinkansen were operating at 60% of the normal schedule due to a lack of passengers. Beginning on June 1, JR announced it started operating at 80% of the normal schedule. Beginning in June, ANA and Skymark will begin to re-add domestic flights that had previously been cancelled. It is reported they plan to add back about 30% of their schedule. JAL will continue the same reduced schedule in June as in May. But JAL is restarting three flights between Tokyo Narita and San Francisco. All three airlines are currently operating at about 30% of the normal schedule. Many hotels and ryokans are starting to reopen, although most of the hotels and ryokans in rural areas are waiting until July 1 to reopen. Many sights reopened on June 1, including destinations like the Hiroshima Peace Museum, Nikko, Tokyo Sky Tree and Nara’s Todaiji to name just a few.

As of June 1, there is no longer any restrictions on inter-prefecture travel. Although, the Japanese government is asking people not to travel to the Kanto region (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba prefectures) and Hokkaido until June 19.

COVID-19 Infections

Here in Kyoto, there have been no new cases for 18 straight days. There was a spike of new cases in Tokyo and Kitakyushu (a city on the northeastern coast of the island of Kyushu). At Kitakyushu, there were about 90 new cases reported over the last week. The Japanese government was concerned about this spike, and sent a team there to review the new cases to follow the path of infections. They were able to identify how 50% of the cases were spread. However, the number of reported cases at Tokyo is declining. There were only 5 reported cases in Tokyo on May 31.

May 26

State of Emergency

On May 14, the state of emergency was lifted for 39 prefectures, most of which were rural areas. On May 21 the state of emergency was lifted for the Kansai region (Osaka, Hyogo (Kobe) and Kyoto prefectures). On May 25, the state of emergency was lifted for the 5 remaining prefectures (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba and Hokkaido). In spite of the state of emergency being lifted, the Japanese government is asking everyone to still practice social distancing, avoid crowded, tight spaces, avoid close communications and to always wear face masks and use hand sanitizer when appropriate. The government is also asking everyone to avoid inter-prefecture travel until after May 31.

Travel in Japan

The Shinkansen are currently operating at 60% of the normal schedule due to a lack of passengers. However, they recently announced they will increase the number of trains starting on June 1. They have even indicated that they are even thinking of returning to the normal train schedule at that time. Beginning in June, ANA and Skymark will begin to re-add flights that had previously been cancelled. It is reported they plan to add back about 20% of their schedule. JAL will continue the same reduced schedule in June as in May. All three airlines are currently operating at about 30% of the normal schedule. Many hotels and ryokans are starting to reopen, although most of the hotels and ryokans in rural areas are waiting until July 1 to reopen. Many sights have also announced plans to reopen soon.

COVID-19 Infections

The state of emergency was in place for about 6 weeks, and was successful in slowing down the number of infections, as well as stopping new infections altogether in many locations in Japan. As of this writing, here in Kyoto, there have been no new cases for 10 straight days. The number of new cases for the last week in Tokyo has been less than 10 per day for the last week, and the number of new cases in Osaka has been less than 5 per day in Osaka. On May 15, Osaka reported zero new cases, the lowest number in two months. And on May 22, Tokyo reported 3 new cases, the lowest number in two months. Many of the rural prefectures around Japan have had no cases for weeks. There is even one prefecture with no cases at all ever. Attached below is a graph of the number of new cases nationwide by day, and the 7 day moving average. The total number of cases nationwide has been less than 40 for the last couple of weeks.

May 21

Hello from Kyoto, Japan. There have been some big changes here in Japan. On May 14, 38 of the 47 prefectures were removed from the nationwide state of emergency. And then, on May 21, the prefectures in the Kansai region (Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto) were also removed from the state of emergency., On May 25, the remaining 5 prefectures (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba and Hokkaido) were removed from the state of emergency.

The state of emergency was successful in slowing down the spread of the virus, and even eliminating it in some areas. Many of the rural areas of Japan have not had any new cases for two or three weeks or even more. Here in Kyoto, there have been no new cases for 10 days in a row. There are several “hot spots”, but even those have slowed down significantly. Tokyo, Kanagawa (Yokohama) and Hokkaido (Sapporo) are still reporting new cases. But the number of new cases in Tokyo have been less than 10 per day for the last week for example.

Here in Kyoto, starting around May 15, many shops and restaurants started to reopen. On May 18, the AEON Mall across the street from Kyoto station reopened. I was there just minutes after it opened, and it wasn’t busy at that time. But I went there to get a haircut at a barbershop in the mall. The barbershop was very busy, and I had to wait almost an hour and a half. It had been closed during the state of emergency.

The streets are busier now than during the peak of the state of emergency, but still quieter than before all of this started. Every day more and more shops and restaurants are opening. On May 17th, department stores started to reopen. And on May 18, Starbucks started reopening shops. They had closed all of their shops here in Japan for about a month and a half. I thought it was interesting that many of the “omiyage” (souvenir) shops are reopening since there are no tourists. This may be TMI (too much information), but one of the most interesting social distancing arrangements I found was in a restroom at the AEON Mall. Every other urinal in the men’s room was taped off with a sign saying it was closed for social distancing.

On Sunday afternoon (May 24), I walked around some of the shopping/restaurant areas around Kyoto Station. The areas were much busier, and the restaurants were busy as well. There were people waiting at many of the restaurants. I walked through Yodobashi Camera, and it was the busiest I have seen it for a long time.

There are no formal restrictions here now, but the government does have a number of guidelines they are asking everyone to follow. The governments is asking everyone to continue the same social distancing practices. Even during the state of emergency, restaurants were allowed to accept dine-in customers. Although, most restaurants were closed then. And the ones that were open offered take-out only. Now that they are open again, most of the restaurants are only allowing half-capacity and leaving every other table empty. But some of the more popular restaurants have people waiting for a table.

Personally, the first thing I did after learning that the state of emergency would be lifted here in Kyoto was to make a reservation at a nearby onsen near Lake Biwa at the base of Mt. Hiei. It is only 20 minutes on a local train to get there. The origins of the onsen goes back hundreds of years when women provided “entertainment” to the Buddhist monks from Enryokuji Temple located near the top of Mt Hiei. So the onsen does have somewhat of a negative image to the Japanese. I wanted to go somewhere else further away, but Prime Minister Abe is asking everyone not to travel outside of their own prefecture until May 31. I already have reservations at another onsen after June 1 outside of Kyoto Prefecture.

May 1

Hello from Kyoto, Japan. It has been a while since the last update. There have been a number of changes since the last update.

About 2 weeks ago, there was a relatively large spike in the number of cases. (Most of the new cases were occurring in Tokyo.) Shortly after that, the Japanese government declared a state of emergency until May 6, and requested everyone to stay home as much as possible. The government’s goal was to reduce the number of people walking around by 80%. The mobile phone companies have been keeping track of the patterns by anonymously monitoring mobile phones, and in the larger cities (Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, etc.), the number of people has reduced by 70 to 80%. In the smaller cities, such as Sendai, Takamatsu, Hiroshima, and Kagoshima, the number of people is down 60 to 70%. After the state of emergency was declared, the number of new cases dropped by about 30%. But since then, the number of new cases has been decreasing, but at a slower pace than at the beginning of the state of emergency.

The guidelines here during the state of emergency are similar to the guidelines in America, but they are a bit more relaxed. Barbershops and hair stylists are considered essential services and are allowed to stay open. Restaurants can remain open, but their dine-in hours are limited (5:30 AM to 8:00 PM). And if they serve alcohol, they have to stop serving alcohol at 7:00 PM. But the government is suggesting that everyone either order takeout or have it delivered. Solitary outings for exercise is OK as long as minimum distances are observed. The government is asking people to exercise during times when there aren’t as many people out. Luckily, because of the non-existent crime rate, it is safe for people to go out anytime.

We are currently in the middle of Golden Week here in Japan. Golden Week is a period of time with many consecutive holidays, and it is very big travel time in Japan. From a travel point of view, it is bigger than Thanksgiving and Christmas combined in America. The Japanese government has asked everyone not to travel this year. They are concerned that people from large cities will travel to rural areas and spread the virus. Many of the rural prefectures have a much lower infection rate than the large cities. There is even one prefecture in Japan that has not had a single case yet. Normally, during Golden Week, many shops, banks, and government offices will close, so people would be expecting everything to be closed during this time. To this point, travel is down 90 to 95% compared to Golden Week last year.

It does seem like the state of emergency has helped. On April 26, there were 72 new cases in Tokyo. That was the first time in 13 days the number of new cases had been less than 100. Here in Kyoto, before the state of emergency, there were 10 to 15 new cases per day. Since April 22, there have approximately 4 new cases per day. There have never been food shortage issues that have happened in other countries. There was a shortage of masks and hand sanitizer for a while, but that problem is being resolved. ANA and JAL are flying 3 round trips of passenger planes per day to China in addition to the normal cargo flights. In addition to loading the cargo areas of the passenger planes with these products, they are also boxing these products in boxes that fit into the overheads, and manually loading the boxes into the bins. They are also talking about using the seats somehow. During this entire time, almost all shops, restaurants, etc. have hand sanitizer available at the front doors. I have attached photos of the entrances to Yodobashi Camera and my grocery store. You can see the hand sanitizer.

Samurai Tours is using this downtime to streamline our tour schedule in order to provide a better travel experience for when the restrictions are lifted and we can all travel again. We’re getting creative to make your Japan travel experience even better than it was before! We cannot wait for our tour members to return to Japan. We’re all in this together. Stay safe and well.
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March 15

Hello from Japan!

The weather here is starting to change from winter to spring. Japan’s Meteorological Agency has declared the start of cherry blossom season in Tokyo. Agency officials confirmed on Saturday afternoon that at least five blossoms had opened on the benchmark tree of the Somei-yoshino variety at Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo. The declaration came 12 days earlier than average. It was the earliest since statistics began to be kept in 1953. A commercial weather-information firm says cherry trees will likely start blooming earlier than usual in many parts of western and eastern Japan through next week.

The spread of the corona virus is still increaseing at a slow and steady pace as it has since late January, and as of yet, there are no signs it has started to slow down. Yesterday, the largest single day increase occurred. There were 61 new cases reported yesterday. I read an interesting article the other day that said due to the extra precautions being done by the Japanese people against the corona virus such as more people wearing face masks, washing hands more often, etc., the rate of the normal flu is drastically lower this year.

The Japanese government has extended the ban of large groups until the end of March. Many of the sights, destinations and museums that had previously announced closures have extended the closures to the end of the month. JR announced it is temporarily cancelling some Nozomi Shinkansen trains. The number of people riding the Shinkansen has decreased just like with all transportaiton around the world. And the Japanese government passed a law last week giving Prime Minister Abe the permission to call a state of emergency if needed. Also, as of Sunday this week, it is illegal to re-sell face masks. Many people were buying out face masks, and re-selling them online at inflated prices.

I visited Fushimi Inari shrine last week, one of the busiest tourist spots in Kyoto to see what is happening at the sights around Kyoto. (Fushimi Inari is the shrine with the tunnel of thousands of vermillion-colored torii gates.) It was certainly much less crowded than during a normal year at this time, but there were actually quite a few people with an active atmosphere. I was also surprised at the large number of western tourists.

There was a run on toilet paper here a week or two ago, but that only lasted a couple of days. It is still hard to find hand sanitizer and face masks though. I walked past a pharmacy the other day that was scheduled to open 15 minutes later. There were already about 20 people lined up at the front door. According to a sign, the store had just received a shipment of face masks, and they would be availble for purchase when the store opened.

February 29

Hello from Japan!

I have been back in Japan for several days now, and wanted to send an update of what the situation is here on the ground, rather than hearing it from the media reporting from half-way around the world, that tends to sensationalize the news rather than reporting the facts. I am going to keep all of this short, otherwise it will be very long. I am currently in Kyoto, and am writing from my experiences here.

The situation is very fluid at this time. By the time I write and publish this, it could easily be out of date. When walking around the streets, there are a few differences between now and previous years at this time of the year. There are no Chinese tourists. Typically at this time of the year, Kyoto is packed with Chinese tourists. In 2019, Chinese tourists comprised about 1/3 of the total number of tourists visiting Japan. The number of western tourists is about the same as it has been in the past. More Japanese are currently wearing face masks. I would say about 80 to 90% of the Japanese (and myself) are wearing face masks. Having said that, 1/3 to 1/2 of the Japanese would be wearing face masks now anyway. Many Japanese are allergic to cedar pollen, and now is the start of the season when the pollen is the worst. I saw on the NHK news that the level of pollen at this time is 40% above the normal levels for this time of the year. None of the western tourists are wearing face masks.

It is difficult to find face masks here in Japan, and I also had a very difficult time finding face masks in America. This is only the second time in 14 years of living in Japan that I have worn a face mask. The first time was about 5 or 6 years when I had a very bad cold, so I went to the doctor’s office. As soon as I walked in the door, they handed me a face mask and told me to wear it. It is also difficult to find hand sanitizer at this time in Japan as well. So, we have shipped face masks, hand sanitizer and hand wipes from America to Japan for our tour members to use should they decide they want to.

The number of reported new cases of the virus in Japan continues at a slow and steady pace. There were a higher number of new cases reported over the last several days, but most of those were on the island of Hokkaido. There were between 10 to 15 new cases the last several days on Hokkaido, and 5 to 10 new cases in the rest of the country. The total number of reported cases in Japan (not including the cruise ship) is about 200 now, and Hokkaido accounts for about 1/3 of that number. I know what everyone is thinking. Wow, 200 is a lot. But to put it in perspective, that is 0.00002% of the population of Japan.

The Japanese government has requested a number of strict proactive measures to help prevent the spread of the virus. Prime Minister Abe has stated the next two weeks are critical. Japan has invested a lot of time, energy and money to prepare for the Summer Olympics. The last thing they want to happen is to have to cancel the Olympics so they are doing everything they can think of. They are asking that all schools close for the next two weeks until spring break starts. The schools normally start again around April 8. The government has requested that all large events such as sporting events either be postponed or cancelled. This includes all sporting events such as soccer, basketball and pre-season baseball games. There is even talk about possibly cancelling the Sumo tournament in Osaka that starts March 8, or possibly holding the tournament without spectators. Many Japanese companies are now suggesting their employees telecommute. Japan was one of the first countries outside of China to report an infection, which was more than one month ago. When compared with the 200 cases when compared to what has happened in other countries with more than 1000 cases in one week, I think they have done a good job of reducing the impact as much as possible.

We have just heard today that due to decreased demand, United Airlines has announced it will be scaling back its flight schedule to Japan.

Another item I just heard yesterday is that is is said paper products, specifically facial tissues and toilet paper, are already in short supply. There is no logical reason for this I could find. I did go to my local grocery store. The inventory was less than normal, but there were still product available.

There are some museums, amusement parks and other destinations that are going to be closing due to the virus (and probably due to lower demand). Here is the list that we have received from JNTO (Japan National Tour Organization).
Closed museums, parks City Closed Period
Asahi Beer Factories All locations Feb 22 – End date TBA
Ghibli Museum Tokyo Feb 25 – Mar 17
Metropolitan Gov. Observatories Tokyo Feb 27 – Mar 15
teamLab★Borderless Tokyo Feb 29 – End date TBA
Sanrio Puroland Tokyo Feb 22 – Mar 12
The National Art Center Tokyo Feb 29 – Mar 15
Tokyo National Museum Tokyo Feb 27 – Mar 16
Edo Tokyo Museum Tokyo Feb 29 – Mar 16
Tokyo Disneyland & Sea Chiba Feb 29 – Mar 15
Universal Studio Japan Osaka Feb 29 – Mar 15
Osaka Castle Osaka Feb 29 – Mar 15
21st Century Museum Kanazawa Feb 29 – Mar 15
Peace Memorial Museum Hiroshima Feb 28 – Mar 15
Chichu Art Museum Naoshima Mar 3 – Mar 15
Shiroi Koibito Park Sapporo Feb 29 – Mar 15

Well, after all this bad news, I am sure you are asking yourself why should I go to Japan now? Despite all of the sensationalized news media reports, travel in Japan is safe. The cherry blossom season is beautiful, but normally is very crowded. This year will not be crowded though. After 30 years of travel around Japan, I have come to appreciate the Japanese people and Japanese hospitality (called omotenashi in Japanese). Nothing matches the service of the Japanese. It is part of the culture. And given the circumstances right now, the Japanese people will be even more appreciative that you came to Japan.

Update to the Update
I wrote the above on Saturday the 29th. It is now Sunday morning, March 1st in Japan. NHK just reported the number of new reported cases on Saturday. There were only 4 new cases on Hokkaido yesterday, which is about 1/4 of the number the last few days on Hokkaido. And there were only 4 new cases in the rest of Japan. That is about 1/2 of the average daily new cases over the last week country wide.

February 23

Dear 2020 Tour Members,

We wanted to take another opportunity to update you all with information regarding the Coronavirus (now known as COVID-19). First and foremost, we wanted to express that the vast majority of people in japan are continuing to live their lives as normal, alongside ongoing countermeasures. A benefit that you have traveling with Samurai Tours is that we ARE the tour operators- our staff live and work all over Japan- we have boots on the ground that we are able to rely on for updated information outside of the media.

The countermeasures taking place are to ensure that there is as little further spread of the virus as possible. At this time, travel restrictions are in place as well as other countermeasures. Many people in Japan are wearing masks on public transportation (planes, trains, etc). This is actually a very common thing to see for this time of year as most Japanese citizens wear masks during cold, flu, and hayfever seasons. It is being reported that more people than usual are wearing masks as a countermeasure. As well, Japanese Citizens are taking additional measures such as frequent hand-washing and utilizing hand sanitizer. While there has been a growth in the number of cases, due to the restrictions and efforts implemented, it has been a slow and consistent growth rather than a large spike. There was a larger than normal increase of new cases nation wide on Saturday. But 3/4 of the new cases were on the island of Hokkaido on Saturday and Sunday. The rest of the country has been stabilizing for the most part over the last few days.

There are 4 levels of travel advisories issued by the US Department of State
1. Exercise normal precautions
2. Exercise increased precaution
3. Reconsider Travel
4. Do not travel

Japan is currently at level 2. This means that people should exercise increased caution when visiting Japan. And older adults and those people with chronic health conditions should reconsider non-essential travel. If the travel advisory reaches a level 3, we will be cancelling tours. At a level 3, all people should reconsider non-essential travel. However, we remain optimistic that this will not happen. To give you an idea, China is currently at level 4.

We have many departures happening soon, and we will be sending a separate email to those tour members informing them of the proper precautions that they can take.

As we have mentioned, our tour members’ safety is our top priority. We are continuing to keep a very close eye on this situation. Thank you for your time and trust. We will continue to keep you updated should there be any changes to the travel advisories.

Thank you,
Samurai Tours

February 12

Dear 2020 Tour Members,
We wanted to give you an update on the situation with the coronavirus. We are constantly monitoring the situation and still believe it is not a threat to our tour members or will cause a cancellation of our tours. Of the confirmed cases in Japan, only 2 are Japanese citizens who had not traveled to Wuhan. The Japanese Government is taking just as many precautions as western countries, such as America, to stop the spread of the virus with travel restrictions which have been very effective. We are aware the story of the cruise ship docked in Japan with infected passengers is a very popular subject in the media but unlike America, there is no other place for the Japanese government to dock the ship and allow the passengers off without risking a mass spread of the infection. We believe they are doing the best they can with the circumstances they have been given.
Our tour members’ safety is always our top priority, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely and keep you informed.

Thank you,
Samurai Tours

January 30

Dear 2020 Tour Members,
We wanted to take some time to address the ongoing situation with the coronavirus. We have received a few phone calls and questions regarding whether this will cause any disruption to our tours. While we are constantly monitoring the situation, we believe it is not a threat to our tour members or will cause a cancellation of our tours. There is only a small number of people in Japan who have confirmed cases of the virus, and the Wuhan city authorities have imposed travel restrictions to prevent further spread of the virus. As of today, the Chinese government is not allowing any tour groups to travel to Japan, and Japan has stepped up quarantine checks at airports and other entry points. Furthermore, while the coronavirus is a very popular subject in the media, news and social media, there is, at this time, less of a concern than the common flu. Our tour members’ safety is always our priority, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Thanks!
Samurai Tours

News from Japan