Land of the Rising Sun: A Battle Against Heat & COVID-19

Written by Aneetta Peedikayil

July 19, 2022

Health | Situation Room | Travel

After a 2-year long hiatus, Japan greeted こんにちは! (Konnichiwa, a general greeting used in Japan) to the thousands of travellers who eagerly awaited its reopening of borders on June 10, 2022. However, Japan has sought to pull its strings harder by capping its daily arrivals at 20,000 thereby seeking to keep its COVID-19 infections under control. As the Land of the Rising Sun faced its first wave of a rebound in tourism, the weather decided to play truant with record heat!

Impact on travel to Japan 

In late June, Japan faced record-breaking heat waves which led to the government issuing power-crunch advisories in areas served by the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. As the heatwaves deepened the energy crisis, travel across Japan was impacted due to the increased risk of heat strokes. Japan’s National Tourism Organization, over an email to SITATA, confirmed the possibility that “certain seasonal events such as outdoor festivals may be cancelled, postponed, or else modified in cases of extreme heat.” In fact, the weather conditions added to the strict domestic protocols for tourists to comply with during their stay in Japan. 

Assessment

Japan had hit record levels in tourism in 2019 which plummeted when the border restrictions were imposed in 2020. Although Japan’s cautious reopening has won domestic support, its entry and domestic restrictions largely differ from those of its peers. This can be traced to the lukewarm international arrivals as well as visa procedures which mandate a sponsor based in Japan for the processing of visas. Despite a weaker Yen, private businesses seem prepared to embrace lower visitor volumes as airlines operate services below pre-pandemic levels. This has not deterred the island nation from increasing its current capacity limits as it continues to keep its guard up by suspending travel subsidies due to the ongoing seventh wave of COVID-19. 
In the traveller’s interest, SITATA exclusively interviewed the Toronto office of the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) to seek clarity around the concerns regarding tourism and the weather conditions in Japan. Excerpts of this interview are as follows:

Q. As a traveller, is it safe to travel to Japan now given the rise in temperatures due to the end of the monsoon season?

A. Japan is a country of robust infrastructure, which enables travellers to safely deal with the heat, provided that they are mindful of their own physical condition and incorporate certain precautions into their itineraries accordingly. 

Q. Are air services to Japan operating at full capacity?

A. Although flights to Japan are not at pre-pandemic levels, more and more flights are gradually resuming. Flight status is liable to change from day-to-day, so we recommend contacting the airlines directly:

Air Canada 

Japan Airlines 

All Nippon Airways

Q. Have all tourist places in Japan fully reopened?

A. Many of the most popular attractions are now open again, often with measures such as masking, temperature checks, social distancing, and capacity limits in place. That said, the reopening status and exact measures vary by facility, and may be subject to change depending on the situation.

Recommendations

  • Stay hydrated, seek shade, and avoid areas without shelter from the heat for long periods of time. For those more susceptible to heat stroke, this may include prioritizing low-stress activities in areas that are supervised or choosing accompanied travel options such as guided tours and cruises. 
  • It is recommended to confirm if the accommodations have air conditioning at the booking stage itself.
  • Monitor the latest information on the web pages of events that a traveller is planning to attend while keeping some weather-appropriate backups in mind.
  • Travellers averse to high temperatures may prefer Tohoku and Hokkaido as their temperatures are cooler during the summer (from May until as late as October).
  • During periods of extreme heat, stay in air-conditioned facilities, make use of cooling pads, sunblock and towels as needed and conserve energy in all other possible manners to prevent the strain on the energy grid.
  • Wearing facemasks outdoors during the summer periods is discouraged to prevent the risk of heat strokes. 

Conclusion 

The travel risk to Japan is currently LOW. As tourism is a pillar of Japan’s growth strategy, its COVID-19 policies must be perceived as a government strategy aimed at shielding its booming travel industry. This can be affirmed by the fact that the country still dominates the top spot on the World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Development Index. As regards the heat waves in the country, climate change is partially to blame. But with adequate safety precautions and government assistance, the safety hazards related to travel in Japan are relatively lower. As the saying goes, “Slow and steady wins the race”, Japan may also be on track for a rebound in tourism but most likely at its own pace.
Visit https://www.covidchecker.com/ to learn more about Japan’s entry restrictions. Consider a Sitata membership which will give you disruption and threat warnings while you’re on the ground along with emergency travel assistance should you find yourself in a troubling situation. For businesses that require a more detailed report on the situation, please refer to our in-depth country analysis report on Japan which is available from our support representatives.

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