Japan’s COVID-19 foreign entry ban spurs demonstrations in several countries – Nationwide
Demonstrations against Japan’s tight border restrictions on non-resident foreigners implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have been staged in several countries, with people urging the Japanese government to reconsider the measures they have dubbed as lacking a scientific basis.
Protests initiated by “Stop Japan’s Ban,” a group launched on Twitter, began as foreign exchange students and businesspeople barred from entering the country gathered at various locations such as in front of Japanese embassies in a string of countries including Mongolia, Poland, India and Malaysia.
The move came amid an anti-coronavirus entry ban that has been in place since Nov. 30, with Japan confirming its first case of the Omicron variant later that day. This month, the entry ban was further extended until the end of February. More protests are in the works this month in countries such as Germany, Austria, Spain and Argentina, as well as in Tokyo in front of the Japanese prime minister’s office in February, according to organizers.
Demonstrators claim most exchange students have had COVID-19 booster shots and would adhere to necessary anti-virus measures when in Japan, and urged the administration of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to tell them clearly when all foreigners would be allowed to enter again.
Foreign visitors to Japan in 2021 fell to record low 245,900 – Nationwide
The number of foreign visitors to Japan in 2021 dropped to 245,900, the lowest since 1964 when comparable data became available, as the country enforced tighter border controls amid the coronavirus pandemic, government data showed. The figure plunged 94.0 percent from 2020, the sharpest fall on record, the Japan Tourism Agency said. Compared with the pre-pandemic level in 2019, it dropped 99.2 percent.
Monthly arrivals were highest in July at 51,055 due to visitors related to the Tokyo Olympics, held from July 23 to Aug 8. As the Paralympic Games were held from Aug 24 to Sept 5, a total of 25,916 travellers entered the country in August. The events were held without spectators to prevent coronavirus infections. Since then, the figure has been on a downward trend, falling to 12,100 in December, down 79.4 percent from a year earlier.
By country, the largest number of travellers came from China at 42,300, down 96.0 percent. Those from Vietnam came in second at 26,500, down 82.6 percent, followed by 20,000 from the United States, down 90.9 percent, and 19,000 from South Korea, down 96.1 percent.
The government had aimed to welcome 40 million foreign visitors in 2020 when the country was originally scheduled to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games, but the Summer Games were postponed for a year due to the pandemic. The government has maintained its target of attracting 60 million visitors from abroad in 2030. But Koichi Wada, who heads the agency, told a press conference that he could not predict at the moment whether it is an attainable goal. The number of Japanese traveling overseas in 2021 also decreased 83.9 percent to 512,200.
In response to a recent surge in infections driven by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the government decided to expand a quasi-state of emergency to cover Tokyo and 12 other areas. Quasi-emergency measures include allowing governors to ask restaurants and bars to close early and stop or limit the serving of alcohol. The move is likely to squeeze domestic tourism further, battered by the pandemic.
Cherry blossoms set to bloom even earlier in Japan this year – Nationwide
Now that we’re past the Dec 22 winter solstice here in Japan, the days are gradually becoming longer, carrying us gently towards the warmer months of spring. That means it won’t be long until cherry blossom season is upon us, and every year we await the forecast that lets us know when the nation’s somei yoshino trees, Japan’s most popular sakura variety, are expected to bloom.
Japanese weather site Weathernews was first with the forecast again this year, and according to their predictions, it’s going to be yet another early start to the season, not just in Tokyo but at all major locations around Japan. According to the forecast, we can expect the sakura season to begin in Japan on 15 March, with Tokyo and Hiroshima being the first places to enjoy the blooms. Flowering will continue around the country shortly afterwards, with the season predicted to be 5-10 days earlier than the average year recorded from 1991-2020.
We’ve listed all the dates for the regions below:
Kagoshima: 23 March
Fukuoka: 16 March
Kochi: 21 March
Hiroshima: 15 March
Osaka: 22 March
Nagoya: 18 March
Kanazawa: 25 March
Tokyo: 18 March
Nagano: 1 April
Niigata: 1 April
Sendai: 31 March
Akita: 8 April
Aomori: 15 April
Sapporo: 23 April
Kushiro: 8 May
Most of these start dates are similar or slightly earlier to last year’s first forecast, which predicted the start of the season to occur in Tokyo on 18 March, although it ended up arriving much earlier than expected, on 14 March.
When the temperature from February to March is higher than normal, as it’s predicted to be this year, flowering tends to occur earlier than usual, so there’s a chance that this year’s blooms might also begin unfurling their petals earlier than expected.