Japan is opening up to foreign tourists after two years of strict COVID-19 travel restrictions, but visitors will have to be chaperoned throughout their stay.
The country had imposed some of the toughest pandemic border controls in the world, banning the entry of almost all non-residents.
One of the last nations to lift restrictions, Japan will begin allowing tourists to enter from Friday, the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) said.
However, only visitors on package tours will be allowed in during the first phase and they will be required to wear masks, take out private medical insurance and be chaperoned throughout their stay.
The JTA said: “Tour guides should frequently remind tour participants of necessary infection prevention measures, including wearing and removing masks, at each stage of the tour.
“Even outdoors, the wearing of masks should continue in situations where people are conversing in close proximity.”
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has pledged to bring border measures into line with other wealthy nations.
The government has recently begun relaxing mask guidance for the general public although the coverings are very common.
James Jang, a travel agent from Australia who took part in a test tour, said the rules would likely put some people off for now.
He said: “Clients will be OK with wearing a mask indoors but wearing them 24 hours is a hassle.
“The cost of having a guide at all times may deter clients until later when they have more flexibility.”
Japan will be one of the last countries in the world to remove bars on tourist entry following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Countries with strict restrictions on international arrivals include:
- China: Entry by foreign nationals remains suspended apart from in specific circumstances. Strict testing requirements are in place for those granted permission to enter.
- Cameroon: Commercial flight options are available for entry into the country, but access via land and sea borders is restricted due to COVID-19.