Japan to lift COVID border controls in October

STORY: Japan is opening its borders. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced on Thursday the country will ease COVID-19 border control requirements next month.

[Japan's Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida]

"From October 11th, Japan will relax border control measures to be on par with the U.S. as well as resume visa-free travel and individual travel."

From the 11th of October, Japan will restore individual tourism and visa-waiver travel to people from certain countries as long as they are vaccinated.

It will also scrap a daily cap on arrivals, currently set at 50,000.It’s a key step in fostering a recovery in Japan's tourism sector, which is eager to take advantage of the yen's slide to a 24-year low.

Japan has maintained some of the strictest border measures among major economies since the pandemic's onset, having effectively blocked entry to visitors for two years until it began a gradual reopening in June.

A major sticking point until now has been Japan's insistence that visitors obtain visas to enter the country and then adhere to planned, package tours.

Business lobbies and travel companies have urged Japan to relax its border controls more swiftly, saying they were out of step with major trading partners and could cause the nation to fall behind economically.

Japan's currency weakened past the psychologically important level of 145 yen to the dollar on Thursday, making foreign travel and purchases in the country the cheapest in decades.

Kishida's announcement followed a pledge he made in May that Japan would bring its border controls more in line with other Group of Seven nations.

[Japan's Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida]

"Can Japan really accomplish great change? I'm here to say - we can."