International students “a priority” in Japan reopening but cap halts progress

Fumio Kishida announced in a press conference that there will be a staggered reopening, after “growing calls” from universities and students to ease entry restrictions when many other countries have already fully opened their borders.

“Many people waiting must start their school this April, and there are worries that the procedure will not be fast enough”

“It is just the first step… we need to start preparing for the next phase, in stages,” he told reporters. “We are gradually walking toward the end of the sixth wave,” he added.

The number of people allowed to enter Japan each day, which also depended on reasoning, was capped at 3,500 – that has now been raised to 5,000.

Stakeholders and students are still unsure if it will be enough.

“[This news] was a step in the right direction, but 5,000 entries per day is not nearly enough to welcome the number of re-entries, and the almost 400,000 new entries who have been waiting for as long as two years,” Davide Rossi, CEO of Go! Go! Nihon told The PIE News.

@StrandedOutJPN, a community of students waiting to re-enter the country amidst the ban, also concur that the entry cap is still a big issue.

“We are waiting for the details… if you consider that pre-pandemic entries were roughly 150,000 or 200,000 a day, [5,000 a day] is a very small number,” a representative told The PIE.

The fear is that many will “lose another semester” to the cap, as it will take too long for them to have their turn to enter the country.

“Many people waiting must start their school this April, and there are worries that the procedure will not be fast enough to welcome them on time,” Rossi continued.

“We are putting our hopes in Keidanren and Komeito, who are already asking the government to raise the cap,” the @StrandedOutJPN representative agreed.

Komeito, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s junior coalition partner, is pushing hard for further change; so too are some politicians from the ruling party itself. Japan’s Business Federation Keidanren is also pushing the cause for workers.

“Businesses cannot be conducted just within [Japan],” said chairman Masakazu Tokura last month.

“If affects our national interests,” said LDP’s education policy committee head Tomohiro Yamamoto.

“Foreign students who can’t come to Japan are choosing other countries, which is damaging Japan’s international reputation,” he continued.

While the announcement is still awaiting key details for some, the news is welcomed after it was found that the entry ban was significantly affecting overseas students’ mental health.

One student, who wishes to remain anonymous, has been waiting to study in Japan for almost three years, and told the PIE that while he is jubilant at the news, it may not be enough to restore faith in Japan’s borders.

“I am not confident about the borders reopening since I know about what happened last year in November”

“My application for nomination from my home university started in 2019. The first application to my university in Japan was autumn 2020 for the spring semester 2021 – the reason I chose to postpone the exchange semester is because of the effort it takes to study in Japan and the interest of studying there which at least makes me not want to change destination,” they said.

“I am not confident about the borders reopening since I know about what happened last year in November. The border closed again soon after they opened it.

“[While] this news makes me happy to finally be able to go… I also want to add the importance of knowing the details as soon as possible. Without knowing the details, about when it is expected we’ll arrive in Japan, taking online courses from my home country could continue for months,” they continued.

@StrandedOutJPN also remembers the difficulties of the border situation in November.

“Our community is having mixed feelings about this reopening, since even when the borders opened in November, the policies did not allow many students into the country,” the representative explained.

While many details are still awaiting revelation, the new quarantine rule has also been unveiled: entrants will face one of three quarantine scenarios, depending on their vaccination status and country of departure, as the government eases entry requirements.

“There is so much more to it than just taking the flight”

Prior to the announcement, rumours swirled about possible exclusions of language students and families of workers – in response, a campaign, #allentriesarethesame, was started on Twitter, with many students and workers uploading pictures of themselves with how long they’d been waiting to enter Japan.

While these rumours continue to appear unfounded, Rossi wants to reserve judgement.

“At the moment, many questions are still unanswered. We should wait for the extra details in the coming days,” Rossi said.

“There is so much more to it than just taking the flight,” the student added.

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