Japan is to allow some international tourists in from 10 June - but only those on an approved, guided group tour.
The country had previously announced a phased reopening from early summer, with test tours currently permitted from certain countries and the number of daily international arrivals permitted set to double on 1 June.
Speaking in Tokyo yesterday, the Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida said: “We will resume accepting tourists on package tours with guides from the 10th of next month.
“Step by step we will aim to accept tourists as we did in normal times, taking into consideration the status of infections.”
The update to the Japanese government’s website confirms that “Foreign nationals who will be allowed new entry into Japan based on the abovementioned category will be limited to those who will enter from the countries/regions of the group ‘Blue’”.
The UK is in Japan’s “blue” category, as is the US and most of Europe.
Japan has retained some of the strictest travel and border rules since the beginning of the Covid pandemic. When the first British tourists arrive on group tours in June, they will be the first allowed in 26 months - over two years.
Speaking in London in early May, Mr Kishida said: “I hope it is not too boastful to say that Japan’s response to Covid-19 has been one of the most successful in the world.
“We have now eased border control measures significantly, with the next easing taking place in June, when Japan will introduce a smoother entry process similar to that of other G7 members.”
Business travellers, foreign workers and visitors such as entertainers have been allowed into the country since 1 March, subject to a PCR or LAMP Covid test taken with 72 hours, plus a health form and signed pledge committing to Japan’s Covid guidelines.
It is likely tourists arriving with group tours from 10 June will be subject to the same restrictions.
Japan’s authorities confused tourists the world over by announcing a “lift” of its blanket travel ban on foreign visitors from 106 countries on 1 March, including the UK and US.
On Friday the co-founder of Japan travel specialist InsideJapan, Simon King, said he “expected more clarity in the coming weeks” around which tour groups will be able to go, and how many tourists.
He told The Independent: “We welcome yet another step in the right direction for tourism and look forward to showcasing Japan again on our small group tours this summer onwards.”
He added: “We hope that this will be another small but quick step towards opening the country for all our customers, including those that are booked to travel on one of our self-guided cultural tours.”