(TMU) – If you’re currently stuck at home and facing government lockdown orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic, we won’t blame you if you’re currently fantasizing about the vacations you want to take once the world returns to relative normalcy.
While books, YouTube travel vlogs, and even open world video games offer great distractions, in many ways they also offer serious fuel to our wanderlust – inspiring us to do nothing more than get out of our current environs and delve deep into other cultures, climes, and cuisines.
And of all the most amazing tourist destinations out there, one country stands tall with its dazzling combination of ancient culture and stunning modernity – and that country is Japan.
Mount Fuji pic.twitter.com/9w3kpykoTD
— 日本 (@VisualsJapan) May 21, 2020
And now, Japanese officials are reportedly considering a plan that would see the government potentially step up to pay half of the travel expenses of foreign travelers to the Land of the Rising Sun.
However, the plan is merely just a proposal – at least for the time being.
Since the coronavirus pandemic became a global concern earlier this year, the brakes have been hit on global travel – as well as the lucrative tourism industries of various countries.
This has been no less true in Japan, where a mere 2,900 tourists visited the country this April – a vast and precipitous drop from the 2,926,685 people who visited the country last April, according to leading Japanese newspaper The Mainichi. On a nationwide level, the country has seen a staggering 99.9 percent year-on-year drop in tourism.
No tourists in #Japan? No problem. 😎 😏
Cherry blossoms 🌸, Japanese style
🇯🇵 🗾 🏯
More than 1,000 deer 🦌 enjoying the flowers and calm at Nara Park, Osaka.
The animals even know how to bow after getting fed crackers by the visitors.
— 𝐏𝐡𝐢𝐥𝐨𝐬𝐨𝐩𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝙋𝙨𝙮𝙘𝙝𝙤𝙡𝙤𝙜𝙞𝙨𝙩 (@PsychologyDoc) May 17, 2020
To prevent the continuation of the brutal collapse of tourism, the Japanese government is now considering giving the green light to a 1.35 trillion yen (over $12.5 billion USD) fund to lure back foreign visitors. Japanese Tourism Agency chief Hiroshi Tabata said that the scheme could begin as soon as July if COVID-19 infections continue to subside.
It remains unclear what exactly would be covered under the plan in terms of airfare or which categories of hotels and lodging.
Japan is currently facing its lowest number of visitors from abroad since 1964. Normally, spring is one of the country’s most popular tourist seasons, especially because it’s cherry blossom season, when the blossoming trees around Tokyo, Kyoto and Mt. Fuji attract thousands of sightseers. This year, however, visitors have largely been restricted to these deer – which, needless to say, doesn’t do much for the tourism industry in terms of generating revenue.
Additionally, Japan has barred entry to nationals and passenger flights from roughly 100 nations. This includes China – one of Japan’s major tourism markets, which had been hitting record highs during the winter amid warming people-to-people relations between the Chinese and Japanese people, who have been plagued by poor bilateral ties in the past.
Flowers fields, Japan 🇯🇵 pic.twitter.com/ySRMQ0lrAX
— World Tourism 🌎 (@WorldTourisms) May 16, 2020
To make matters worse, Japan has also been forced to postpone the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympic Games that were due to take place in Tokyo.
The country’s other landmarks and attractions have also been temporarily closed, including Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea, Universal Studios Japan, and a number of museums, festivals, and other mass events.
However, in a sign that good news may be on the horizon, only three new coronavirus infections were reported in the capital on Friday – the lowest figure since the government declared a state of emergency in April.
So while Japan is not quite out of the woods yet – as is the case in much of the rest of the world – the reported plan to slash travel expenses in half for tourists does seem tantalizing.
After all, where else can we be treated to the priceless scenery of Japan’s villages, the brilliant natural beauty of the country’s mountains and islands, or the irreplaceable flavors of genuine Japanese cuisine?
Well, this might just be the chance you’ve been waiting for.
Kaiseki-Ryori(懐石料理) can be called "Japanese Haute Cuisine". It is a refined multi-course cooking style which emphasizes seasonality, simplicity and elegance. It can be enjoyed at special kaiseki ryori restaurants or at ryotei, expensive and exclusive Japanese restaurants. pic.twitter.com/FfsqXB7iFh
— Amazing Japan (@AmazingJapanese) May 23, 2020