Tourists enjoy the first weekend since Japan lifted border controls against COVID

Numerous tourist spots in Japan saw visitors return on Saturday, the first weekend since the government lifted border controls over the coronavirus and implemented a program to subsidize domestic travel in a bid to boost inbound and domestic tourism.

The changes introduced on Tuesday are part of the government’s efforts to “live with the coronavirus” by reviving the economy while limiting the spread of COVID-19.

People jostled at East Japan Railway Co.’s Tokyo station as they waited to board bullet trains bound for western Japan.

Commuters wait to board bullet trains at JR Tokyo Station on October 15, 2022 (Kyodo)

“I saw some foreign tourists and it feels like our pre-pandemic life is coming back,” said Shinya Kato, a 27-year-old company employee from Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo.

“There might be another wave later, so I want to have as much fun as I can while the spread of the disease is still low,” Kato said.

He said he was traveling with a friend to the Kansai region in the west, which includes the major cities of Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe.

Japan lifted its limit of 50,000 people per day and its ban on individual travelers and non-arranged travel, allowing foreign tourists to travel freely within the country.

Along with more passenger arrivals, the travel industry is hoping the National Travel Discount Program will help the sector out of the downturn caused by the pandemic.

The program has launched in all 47 prefectures, with the exception of Tokyo, which will join on October 20. It offers Japanese residents subsidies of up to ¥11,000 ($74) per night for up to a total of seven nights.

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