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Japan looking to resume accepting foreign tourists in June

A street leading to Kiyomizu Temple is crowded with tourists on Oct. 2, 2021, in Kyoto's Higashiyama Ward. (Mainichi /Daiki Takikawa)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan is looking to resume accepting some foreign tourists in June at the earliest as the country has begun to ease the strict border controls it introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic, a government source said Friday.

    The government may accept a limited number of group tours on a trial basis by the end of May, the source said.

    Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said during his visit to London on Thursday that Japan will review its COVID-19 measures "in stages" after consulting with public health experts, and bring them on par with other Group of Seven nations.

    The government currently allows up to 10,000 people a day to enter Japan, but visitors are limited to businesspeople, technical interns and students.

    It plans to raise the cap as well as the number of foreign tourists in stages in the months to come.

    Japan imposed an entry ban on nonresident foreign nationals in late November to curb the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, facing criticism at home and abroad that the measures were too strict.

    Prior to the pandemic, Japan had been keen to boost tourism as a driver of economic growth, with a goal to welcome 40 million foreign visitors in 2020.

    However, amid tighter COVID-19 travel restrictions, the number of foreign visitors to Japan in 2021 dropped to 245,900, the lowest since 1964 when comparable data became available.

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