The Latest Overseas Travel Situation from an Actual Japanese Travel | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The Latest Overseas Travel Situation from an Actual Japanese Travel

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The spread of the new coronavirus has made it virtually “impossible” to travel abroad for the past two years. However, as the infection has somewhat subsided, countries in Europe and other Asian countries have begun to open their borders one after another.

In Japan, entry restrictions are being eased as well, as people are now exempted from quarantine after returning to their home countries on the condition that they have received three doses of vaccine, among other things. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently lowered the risk level of infectious diseases from “3” to “2” for most countries and regions.

International post-departure area at Kansai International Airport. Almost no one is around, and only a few stores are open.However, tourist visas for foreigners are still suspended. Even though it was the center of popularity for inbound travel to Japan before Corona, it continues to close its borders. Only business people and foreign students are now able to enter the country, and the reality is that “little has changed” from the previous situation.


In mid-April, the author visited Europe on business. This was my second overseas trip after the Corona disaster, the first being to the West Coast of the US in September last year. At that time, I published a real-life report on what I saw in the US, titled “The Sad State of Japan Being Left Behind by the Corona Disaster. This time, we witnessed Japan being left further and further behind by the rest of the world.

Click here for the article “The Sad State of Japan Being Left Behind in Corona, as Seen in the U.S.”.

Europe not requiring negative proof of entry and Japan’s vaccination application Not responding

My first destination was the Netherlands. Although only a transit, the procedure to enter the Schengen zone of the EU was to be done at Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands.

Failure to meet the entry criteria for the Netherlands would also preclude subsequent connections. Those criteria were, at the time, that only those who had completed vaccination with the prescribed number of times and duration of the vaccine could enter the country, even for tourist purposes On the other hand, unvaccinated persons were not allowed to enter the country at all without a local residence permit.

The author has been vaccinated three times. Naturally, I thought I would have to show proof of vaccination when I left Japan or entered the Netherlands. However, I was given an EU stamp in my passport without presenting it anywhere. And I went straight to the arrival gate. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed.

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in the Netherlands. There were quite a lot of people coming and going.At Helsinki Vantaa Airport, there was a booth in front of the exit, where I was asked to show my vaccination record for the first time. I launched the vaccination certificate app issued by the Japanese government and displayed the QR code, but for the life of me I could not get the machine to read it. Eventually, after verbal communication with the staff, I was able to enter the country safely because I had completed the three vaccinations in February of this year, but I was puzzled for a moment when the QR code did not respond.

In Switzerland, which he visited later, he entered the country without any confirmation. Further, when we left Switzerland for France, we were not checked for vaccination records, and we did not have an opportunity to present the “written oath” that we had prepared because we were told that it was required for entry into France.

No change in the hassle upon entry into Japan, and a double hassle in obtaining the test results

The biggest challenge was and still is when returning to Japan.

Within 72 hours prior to departure, one must take a PCR test and prepare a written document in the format recommended by the Japanese government. The method of testing and even the format of the test are specified in detail, and failure to submit the necessary documents may result in deportation, even of one’s citizens.

The inspection station at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport. Open 24/7, including weekends and holidays.The author was inspected at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport. Although I made a reservation in advance, I had to register as a “patient” by reading the QR code at the entrance of the inspection area with my smartphone and receiving a number. Not knowing this, I struggled at first at the entrance, but there were many similar travelers around and they all struggled with the same problem. After that, I paid the inspection fee of 50 euros and was taken to an individual booth, where I underwent the familiar overseas inspection of sticking a cotton swab into the back of my nose.

When I asked the receptionist to fill out a form, he told me to come back tomorrow when the test results would be available. Just before returning to Japan, I went to the inspection station again and had the paper filled out. There was a Japanese paper at the inspection station, and the French staff who helped me was familiar with the Japanese paper, saying, “Ah, Japanese paper. I took a picture of the completed paper on the spot and registered it via “MySOS,” and it turned “green” indicating that the fast-track pre-screening was complete.

The “MySOS” pre-registration screen for fast-track. The color changes to red (registration not completed), yellow (completed except for inspection certification), and green (inspection completed).The original test results were received by e-mail approximately five hours after the test. The result was written in both French and English. I captured the screen and registered it in MySOS, but a few minutes later it was sent back with “incomplete documentation“. The reason was stated as “Please attach a Japanese or English translation to the certificate (specimen collection date and time). The date and time of specimen collection were listed in French on the certificate, but in English, only the date and no time were listed. If the test method and items to be filled out meet the Japanese standards, it should be acceptable even if the Japanese paper is not used. But the fact that it was immediately returned even though the document is so simple and easy to compare showed a glimpse of Japanese bureaucratic work.

Fast-tracking has made the process quicker, but waiting time for inspection remains the same as ever.

In the U.S., there was a detailed check of negative certificates during check-in procedures at the JAL counter before departure for Japan. This time, however, I only showed the “green” screen of MySOS at the gate just before boarding. I wondered if there was a difference between Japanese and foreign airlines.

The number of “papers” given to me at the airport when I returned to Japan was slightly less than before. The red paper is a “negative” certificate.Arrival in Japan was at Kansai Airport as before. Last time, it took nearly three hours for the series of confirmation and antigen testing, but this time, I was able to leave the arrival gate in one and a half hours. Although the number of confirmation booths remained the same, the fast-track system using MySOS seemed to have speeded up the confirmation process.

However, it took over an hour to get the test results, and we were kept waiting. I thought it would be smoother without this waiting time. Moreover, the antigen test was still inaccurate. With more and more countries not even having pre-departure inspections, we wondered how long they were going to continue to do this.

I appreciate that the introduction of the fast-track system has made the waiting time faster, but it requires the use of a smartphone. Moreover, the app MySOS froze and was temporarily unusable. The number of booths, human checks, and “paper” is still alive and well, even if slightly reduced.

International departures from Kansai International Airport; only this many in one day, but if the number increases in the future, there are concerns about a quarantine crunch.

Europe with Corona is already a “mask-free” world

The most surprising thing about this trip to Europe was the use of masks.

The first time I entered the EU was in the Netherlands. There, very few people wore masks, even in the airport, and most people walked and talked normally without masks. The same was true in other countries, only in France, where everyone was wearing masks because it is still mandatory to wear them on public transportation, but outside, there were none, including inside stores. Even the clerk standing at the cash register of the Starbucks I stopped by was serving customers without a mask.

The Marais district of Paris, France. Almost no one wears a mask.I saw disinfectant at the entrances to stores and other places, and signs urging people to wear masks and social distance. However, the pre-Corona world is already returning.

Since it was the Easter vacation season, there were very many travelers. There were long lines at airport counters and security checkpoints, and queues at stores and cafes. Hotel prices were also skyrocketing. The immigration restrictions in many countries had been eased, and the requirement for masks and vaccine passes had been eliminated. The atmosphere was open and relaxed. The main difference from before was that there were no Chinese in lockdown and no Japanese yet. The only Asian people I saw were Koreans.

Zurich Airport in Switzerland. There was a long line at the airline check-in counter.

With the weak yen, opening the borders to foreign travelers is a necessity…

The reason why Japan remains in a state of “isolation,” so to speak, without opening its borders to foreign travelers for tourism purposes, is probably due to the government’s consideration of the fact that the Japanese people are very cautious about the spread of the new coronavirus from overseas. Moreover, the House of Councilors election will be held this summer. It is inevitable that the government will be criticized if it opens the border now and the number of infected people increases again, which may not necessarily affect the ruling party’s approval rating. We can catch a glimpse of such a situation.

A warning sign I saw at Zurich airport. Wear a mask when walking, tables are limited to 6 people, etc.However, the world is moving so fast that one wonders if we should be looking only at Japan. Although it is easier for Japanese to travel abroad than before, the yen is unprecedentedly weak, fuel surcharges have skyrocketed, and airline ticket prices have remained high. If you test positive upon your return, you may be forced to wait several days. In Japan, the image of “travel for fun” is deeply rooted, and it is difficult to say that the society is tolerant. For the time being, it will not be easy for anyone to travel abroad.

If foreign travelers are allowed to enter Japan, they will be able to spend a lot of money, partly because the yen is cheap.This should be a positive development for the Japanese economy, which is suffering from a slump in consumption due to the rush to price hikes. The cost-effectiveness of reopening the “GoTo” program to domestic travelers alone is negligible.

But are Japan’s measures for visitors to Japan already in place? When I saw European tourist spots crowded with foreigners, I had a feeling that Japan, which has been half-isolated and only taking measures mainly for domestic visitors, has not yet reached the stage where it can even begin such measures. I could not help but think that it was too late, and that it might already be too late.

Information and data in this article are current as of April 26, 2022.

For Shikama Aki’s website, click here.

  • Text and photographs (unless otherwise noted) Aki Shikama / Aki Shikama

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