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Japan's strict border policy

thomas

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The Guardian on those stranded abroad due to Japan's travel restrictions: almost 150,000 students, workers and others hoping to join relatives.

japan-entry-ban.jpg



Today, demonstrations against travel restrictions were staged in several countries.

Protests initiated by "Stop Japan's Ban", a group launched on Twitter, began Tuesday, as foreign exchange students and business people 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.




This week, the Japanese government announced that they will allow entry to 87 state-funded foreign students.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a news conference on Jan. 17 that the government decided to grant entry to the students, after considering their individual circumstances in light of public interest and urgency. All these students are less than a year from graduating from their universities or completing their coursework. They are also at risk of not being able to graduate if they are not allowed to enter Japan.

 

mdchachi

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I was on a kickoff call with a new Japanese client and they are planning a workshop/in-person meeting in a couple of weeks and asked if we could join in person. I was very surprised they were that clueless about the travel situation. And they are a group company of one of the biggest brands of the world, not just some backwater domestic company.
 

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Because of the many posts in the primary thread for this topic I am going to assume there are few, if any, opinions in that thread about any sort of entry blocking procedures or resultant complaints related to those procedures. And as this is its own thread I gather that the management here is interested in opinions being expressed on the topic, so I offer mine. But some questions first, if I may.

Can comparisons be made between Japan's use of entry blocking procedures and any other nation's?

Can comparisons be made between Japan's past entry blocking procedures and the present one?

As for an opinion, I don't view the entry blocking procedures that is the focus of this topic/thread as being a matter for complaint. There are all sorts of difficult decisions relating to this Covid crisis that have to be made by all national governments, but the bottom line is protection of the majority of the citizens of a nation, and I'd bet a survey of the citizens of any nation would lean toward a majority of those citizens stating that a sensible entry blocking procedure is the proper action by their national government.

Is there something about this particular entry blocking procedure that isn't sensible?
 

mdchachi

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Can comparisons be made between Japan's use of entry blocking procedures and any other nation's?
Yes.
Can comparisons be made between Japan's past entry blocking procedures and the present one?
Yes. ;)
As for an opinion, I don't view the entry blocking procedures that is the focus of this topic/thread as being a matter for complaint. There are all sorts of difficult decisions relating to this Covid crisis that have to be made by all national governments, but the bottom line is protection of the majority of the citizens of a nation, and I'd bet a survey of the citizens of any nation would lean toward a majority of those citizens stating that a sensible entry blocking procedure is the proper action by their national government.

Is there something about this particular entry blocking procedure that isn't sensible?
I'd say the part about treating people differently just because they are not citizens is the part that's not sensible. People's lives are getting upended -- students, workers, etc. They can follow the rules and quarantine just like citizens. Based on the current rate of the outbreak it's clear that the disease is already in the country and these measures are not having the effect they had hoped. So then it just becomes more of a political issue than a health issue.
 

nice gaijin

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This site has up-to-date info about travel restrictions around the world: Travel Bans: which countries set limits for tourists cause of coronavirus

From march 2020: Coronavirus: Which countries have travel bans?

note: it's surprisingly difficult to find materials that track the changes to these policies, most searches bring up the latest iterations and aren't focused on the metrics over time. If anyone has a useful resource please share.

I'd say the part about treating people differently just because they are not citizens is the part that's not sensible. People's lives are getting upended -- students, workers, etc. They can follow the rules and quarantine just like citizens. Based on the current rate of the outbreak it's clear that the disease is already in the country and these measures are not having the effect they had hoped. So then it just becomes more of a political issue than a health issue.
Yup, I do understand the locals being upset with, say, military personnel responsible for the worsening outbreak in Okinawa, and demanding more accountability from the American brass. But the virus does not care what passport you hold--only how you behave. These travel bans are thinly-veiled appeals to domestic racists that only further an ignorant xenophobic narrative. If anything it hurts the efforts to contain the virus, because it's ineffective security theater.


We had a similar ham-fisted response in the US early in the pandemic. Predictably too late to be effective at preventing the incursion or spread of the virus, travel "bans" were introduced with exceptions and loopholes wide enough to drive a truck through. Chaos ensued as the policy was poorly-formulated, hastily announced, and tons of confusion over it led to crowded airports and hordes of stranded travelers crowded together. If anything, this fear-bomb made the situation far worse. The current policies are a little more realistic, requiring negative tests and proof of vaccination. Heightened restrictions need to be extremely flexible and data-informed, and not dragged around by politics. Complete containment is unrealistic; we're at the damage-mitigation phase now.


In South Korea, they tried mandated testing for all foreigners (but not citizens), after outbreaks spread in crowded migrant worker housing. Of course, rather than address the crowded and unregulated conditions that exacerbated the spread of disease and provide means to protect their foreign underclass, they just placed the blame on them. By my estimation, the only reason this garnered attention was that more affluent and western foreigners were affected by this policy and documenting how they were literally forced into massive lines with a bunch of strangers to go get tested, or go through extreme quarantines.


Always, my opinions on policies that don't directly affect me will rely on data and the reports of other people's experiences, and not my judgment of people that only exist in my imagination. It's easy to ask "what if" and imagine a scenario that rationalizes a policy decision, but we shouldn't lose sight of the unforeseen consequences of those decisions and forget to measure which policies actually have the desired effect and keep a broad view of the other dials that get turned.

Eventually, this will turn into a massive data set to look back and see which policies are worth considering in the future, and which ones are ill-advised. Because this is not the last public health emergency we'll have to deal with.

It must be difficult to be charged with addressing this situation through immigration control, a full two years into a global pandemic; beyond reasonable measures, testing and social distancing protocols, it's silly focus on anything other than controlling spread within your borders, and support efforts around the world to stamp down their own outbreaks. It's important to enact effective policies that can have a measurable result, but leaders are especially eager to appear to their citizenry to be doing something, regardless of whether it makes an appreciable difference. This is a dangerous trap that many governments have fallen into, and the popular support for these policies is probably more indicative that people are indifferent to or welcome policies that don't directly affect them, especially if they have prejudice against the groups these policies target specifically.
 

JPeters

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I think any discussion should have government information easy to find, so here are some links:

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Border measures to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare
Border Enforcement Measures Japan

Office for COVID-19 and Other Emerging Infectious Disease Control, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of Japan
And the language selection menu is easy to see on the Cabinet Secretariat's site.
 

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So then it just becomes more of a political issue than a health issue.
Just one small comment to add. It has ALWAYS been political, right from the start when Abe decided in Feb 2020 to pull out all the kids from schools in a knee-jerk reaction because he was stung by criticism that he 'wasn't doing enough', much to the surprise and annoyance of the education ministry. This was even commented on by the normally tame Kyodo news agency.

 
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thomas

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Mounting criticism of Japan's strict border regime also coming from Keidanren:

The head of Japan's business lobby, Masakazu Tokura, said Monday that it was "unrealistic" for the government to ban the entry of foreign nationals, with the new omicron coronavirus variant having become prevalent within the country. Tokura, who is chairman of the Japan Business Federation, also known as Keidanren, made the comment during a regular news conference.


Masakazu Tokura, chief of the Japan Business Federation, said at a regular press conference that nearly two months of border restrictions have only hampered domestic companies from making business trips and having smooth negotiations with foreign partners on tie-ups, merges and acquisitions. "It was a good decision to cast a wide net in the first place. But there is no point keeping the measure in place given Omicron has already become the dominant strain" in Japan, said the head of the business lobby, also known as Keidanren. [...] "We are not doing business only at home," he said, calling the current entry ban a "policy of seclusion."

 

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This is reminding me a lot of the situation in Britain, where a political party that was once seen as the natural ally of businesses has become increasingly out of touch with reality and implemented policies that hurt businesses, as summed up by Boris Johnson's infamous "F*** business!" comment.
 
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thomas

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Not a day goes by without a major foreign newspaper or business organisation (foreign and domestic) reminding Japan of the negative consequences of shutting the country's borders down completely.

Here's the FT:

Christopher LaFleur, a special adviser and former chair of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, said a de facto ban on the entry of non-resident foreigners would probably deter international companies from maintaining a presence in the country. "The policies that Japan has implemented with respect to travel are at a minimum going to greatly retard those efforts. Also, frankly, they cast some doubt on Japan's willingness to serve as a reliable host to foreign-based businesses and for foreign-originated investment," LaFleur told the Financial Times in an interview. [...]

Hiroshi Mikitani, chair of Rakuten, the ecommerce platform, warned this month that the curbs were "obstacles to innovation" and compared the approach to Japan's isolationist policy between the 17th and 19th centuries. "What point is there in not allowing entry of new foreign nationals at this stage? This decision is just way too illogical. Do we want to isolate Japan from the rest of the world?" he wrote on Twitter.

Takahide Kiuchi, executive economist at the Nomura Research Institute, a think-tank, said many companies had coped with border restrictions by using Zoom and other online tools, thereby averting a significant hit to the economy. But he said the controls risked making Japan look as if it had "low awareness of human rights towards foreign nationals".

However, Mr Kishida's support had risen 7 percentage points to 57 per cent, and almost two-thirds of respondents said they supported his handling of the pandemic. That's what counts.


Japan's tight border rules threaten foreign investment, business groups say

International and local companies warn de facto ban on non-resident foreigners is unsustainable
 

mdchachi

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I'm still interested in comparisons to actions taken by other governments and here is a very recent New York Times article and I'd suspect their resources are rather good and they would be able to collect accurate information.

I’m a U.S. Citizen. Where in the World Can I Go?

But the point made about that 57% is spot on.
Sounds interesting but it's behind a paywall for me.
 

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Sounds interesting but it's behind a paywall for me.
Oh Rats! Very sorry. I completely forgot about that. There must be some source we can trust. Maybe later today I can find some time to poke around, unless somebody else finds something first.
 

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That JAL site might not be so great. It seems there is a bunch of clicking this-and-that and filling in this-and-that and so let me try again.

This one for European nations seems pretty easy to simply scroll down the list:
COVID in Europe: An updated list of travel restrictions for every European country


Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs has a good site for other areas, if you are looking for information outside of that shown on the site above for European nations.
 

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A Japanese scholar, Toyo University professor and public diplomacy expert Kumi Yokoe, criticised the current border control measures saying that they send the message Japan only cares for itself.

The goal of public diplomacy is to promote Japan's national interests by boosting the image of Japanese products abroad and encouraging more people to have a favorable image of Japan. This is exemplified by the government's Cool Japan strategy to promote Japanese culture in foreign markets. It's important to consider the kind of message Japan wants to send to people in other countries. In the case of the coronavirus, Japan's strict anti-infection measures could be seen positively by overseas audiences. If Japan is viewed as a society with good hygiene where one can live at ease, more people may want to come here. However, the message out there now about its border controls is negative.

As Japan's border controls are extremely strict toward foreigners, the message they send overseas is that "Japanese people think the restrictions are OK as long as the situation is convenient for themselves." The fact is, Japanese people can go on holiday abroad, while at the same time there are foreigners who have been separated from family and those who have been unable to enter Japan for more than a year. This is clearly unfair.

 

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I might be forgetting something, or never had it properly straight in my mind; but I thought this was primarily a protest of students that couldn't get to classes in Japan?

Has there been a shift more toward it now being a business related type of situation and the students have taken a back row?

The reason I have the question is because I was just looking for uni administration statements on the student aspect of this and it seems the uni admin folks are mighty quiet. That doesn't strike anyone as a tad bit odd? Maybe they are having their own worries about classroom control of the virus? I mean, I know full well that the upper ranks of management people like to keep their traps shut to stay out of trouble, but it still seems some administration types should be having some sort of opinion for the public.

Or maybe my research has been sloppy?
 

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I'm not taking any side, just pointing out some comments from elsewhere: (click to see more of the discussion)

 

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Has there been a shift more toward it now being a business related type of situation and the students have taken a back row?
I would say this is the case. Business is much more powerful than academia and it's impacting business significantly.
 

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The narrative pushed is certainly that of foreign students and academia, in general, facing hardship as a result of Japan's strict and scientifically unjustified border regime. Not a day goes by without this very headline:


And today, finally, a trace of hope from the mouth of Mr Kono:

Japan's former vaccine czar and a key official of its ruling party, Taro Kono, hopes the nation's strict border curbs against COVID-19, which are the toughest among the Group of Seven wealthy nations, can be eased from March, he said on Thursday. With the borders shut for nearly two years, the lives of students, researchers and workers have been disrupted, prompting business leaders to warn about the possible economic impact, particularly amid a tight labor market. Though briefly eased last year, the measures, which have massive support from the public, were tightened again from late November as the omicron variant surged, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida aiming to retain them until the end of February. "Let's hope that quarantine will be lifted on March 1," said Kono, who was drafted in last year to run the vaccine program but now heads public relations for Kishida's ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

 

thomas

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It looks more and more as if Japan will shoot itself into the foot, at least in an economic sense. Several big German companies have started to rethink their business ties with Japan and shift their projects to other countries.

German companies estimate that they have lost business to the tune of €100 million ($114.6 million) over the past two years because of Japan's entry ban. The longer the ban stays in place, the more business that will be lost, Schuermann said. Japanese partner firms cannot afford to delay projects and will look for an alternative solution involving domestic companies, he said. Trade between Germany and Japan is enormous and, at least until the outbreak of the coronavirus in the early months of 2020, was growing. Germany is the top European exporter to Japan, with trade valued at €38.6 billion ($42.3 billion) a year before the global health crisis, while German direct investment into Japan came to €15.6 billion a year. At least 12,480 German companies export to Japan and 450 have gone as far as to set up a subsidiary there. In addition, German business is responsible for some 265,000 jobs in Japan. [...] "But we are not looking at two years that have effectively been lost because of the entry restrictions, and some companies are beginning to ask themselves how reliable Japan really is as a partner," he added. Businesses recognize that the Japanese government is grappling with the surge, but maintain that a blanket ban on all new arrivals is inappropriate and damaging.



 

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Lot of German made quality home products are made in Germany. Your German made mailboxes are expensive but the quality last. Their iron works for gardening are unbelievably expensive but you get what you pay for. Iron works from China, well, 3 years and rusty.
 

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MrConsideration reacting to mounting pressure: PM Kishida said Saturday that the government is considering easing Japan’s tight entry restrictions for non-resident foreign nationals, with local media reporting that an announcement could be made as early as next week.

Ahead of their expiration, the government plans to begin accepting more than 1,000 people per day, gradually raising the cap to several thousand. Schools and companies will be expected to supervise travelers coming in under their sponsorship, and visitors will be asked to self-isolate upon entering the country, it said. The looser restrictions on business travelers will apply to both short-term trips and long-term relocations. The government will prioritize researchers and engineers, as well as workers who provide a "public benefit," the report added. The government is also considering slashing quarantine periods upon arrival to three days or less from seven days, the Nikkei said. To qualify, travelers - both Japanese and foreign nationals - will need to have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster and have been tested for the virus. The government also plans to simplify the required paperwork and the screening process. Any easing of Japan's border restrictions - the strictest among the Group of Seven developed nations - will come as more countries begin opening their borders to travelers.

 

thomas

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So the government is preparing to raise the number of new daily arrivals from 3,500 to 5,000. So we'll be back where we were in November 2021.

The Japanese government is preparing to raise the cap on the number of people entering Japan from 3,500 per day to 5,000 from March. The limit will first be eased for business travelers and students. The government is also considering shortening the quarantine period required upon arrival in Japan. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara said in a Fuji TV program on Feb. 13 that it was fully possible to raise the cap on new arrivals to 5,000 per day and that he wanted to consider a solid framework for it. In a Feb. 14 news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno stated, "Having the strictest border measures among the G7 (major economies) has given us time to prepare for an increase in domestic omicron cases." He added, "We are aware there are various requests, and are considering the issue with a view toward easing measures."

 

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visa-holders-on-hold.jpg

Image credit: Asahi Shimbun


The daily quota of foreign travellers (businesspeople, foreign students, and interns) will be raised to 5,000 as of 1 March.

Criticism has been raised against the government for allowing Japanese students to travel abroad to study but forbidding entry to foreign students. Natsuo Yamaguchi, the head of junior coalition partner Komeito, had said that Japan's image and future would be hurt if it continued to shut out foreign students. [...] Self-quarantine measures will also be eased for arriving passengers. Although a seven-day self-quarantine period at home or designated lodging facility will be maintained, those who test negative on the third day of the period will no longer have to self-isolate.

 
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