Small package tours from a select group of countries will be allowed to visit Japan later this month according to a government announcement on Tuesday, May 17.
Tours from Australia, Singapore, Thailand and the United States will be allowed to visit as Japan opens up to foreign tourism for the first time since imposing tight pandemic border restrictions.
Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito said the tours will be an experiment for Japan.
There are several caveats; tours must have fixed itineraries and guides, and they can host a maximum of four participants who all must be triple-vaccinated said the Japan Tourism Agency. These people will enter Japan on a special is instead of a tourist visa.
The experiment is expected to have a total of 50 participants and the results will help inform coronavirus guidelines for tour operators, hotels and other businesses.
"This venture will allow us to verify compliance and emergency responses for infection prevention and formulate guidelines for travel agencies and accommodation operators to keep in mind," a statement said.
Specific details are still being confirmed, such as the duration and destination of tours, however, the experiment is expected to start next week and continue through the rest of May.
Following the start of the pandemic, Japan has had one of the strictest borders in the world.
As a result, the tourism industry has struggled greatly. Foreign tourist arrivals dropped more than 90 per cent in 2020 following a record year of arrivals in 2019 when 31.9 million people visited.
This year, the country has started opening up. In March it began allowing 10,000 people per day from certain categories. Currently, only Japanese nationals, foreign students and business travellers can visit. Foreign travellers cannot visit.
Reports claim the government is considering doubling the cap to 20,000 in the coming weeks.
During a visit to London, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Japan plans to lower border restrictions from June to keep in line with other G7 countries.