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  • Writer's pictureAllison

WHEN WILL JAPAN REOPEN?

Almost a year has passed since Japan has closed its borders due to the Covid-19 pandemic. There are literally tens, if not hundreds of thousands of visa holders waiting to get back in. We are three of these people waiting in the gap.


The million dollar question regarding the reopening of Japan’s borders is one that crosses my own mind daily, if not hourly. The balance between creating and implementing immigration initiatives which protect her citizens, and reopening to the world has been a balancing act for government officials both inside and outside Japan. One thing for everyone to keep in mind is this: Japan is used to closed borders.

Japan closed itself off from virtually the rest of the world for over two hundred years during the Edo period, incubating a cultural preservation unrivaled anywhere else in history. One or two years with closed borders is insignificant when viewed through this lens.

Admittedly, history does not stand on the side of optimism for new visa holders, or tourists who are longing to live out their dreams of Japan. It seems as though new visa holders will only be let in slowly, and after much jumping through many small and often expensive hoops. Taking cues given from government officials, it seems as though Japan may not be open to tourists until 2022 at the earliest. Travel blogs are scrambling to keep up, and would-be workers, students and visitors are clicking on any blip of hope for entry to Japan. Given all of this, now might be a good time to tell you how we are getting to Japan, and when we are hoping to be there.


We aren’t your typical visa applicants.


Our heart for Japan starts with church, which is where we will also be employed as part-time English teachers once we finally arrive there. We are not typical work or student visa holders, but will be religious activities visa holders once the state of emergency is lifted, and local embassies and consulates begin re-issuing visas to COE (Certificate of Eligibility) holders.


Currently, many companies are not signing government mandated pledges for Covid 19 safety measures and responsibility for spouses and dependents, so it’s especially difficult for families to apply successfully for a certificate of eligibilty in order to become visa holders on a business residence track. Similarly, many international students are also finding their programs of study postponed until the fall, or cancelled altogether in light of unknown timeframes for new “normalcy” of travel and operations.


Many outside of Japan have little hope to return soon. Many inside Japan are also feeling isolated and without hope. However, my family is choosing to believe that the timing is going to be perfect. Because he belongs to the church, our sponsor sacrificially submitted any and every document needed to ensure that we would be granted COEs, when many from the private sector refuse to do so. Bringing in 外人 in this time is something that will receive pushback within certain circles of Japanese society, but our sponsor has literally put our desire to help above his reputation. It’s an enormous undertaking to move to Japan, but it’s also worth noting that it is an even greater undertaking for Japanese who seek to help their own countrymen.


In many ways, the most important border for Japan to reopen will be the one which allows compassion, humility and grace to enter. Not the one controlled by beaurocrats and immigration.

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