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Japan’s prolonged border closure hurting students, universities, the economy

Japan travel update
A lack of Japan travel update regarding international students’ return is not a reassuring signal for many. Source: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP

Are you looking for the latest Japan travel update? A total of 87 international students will be allowed into the country in February 2022, out of the nearly 150,000 students who are still unable to enter the country. 

Chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno was quoted by a report that selected students — funded through the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology— were due to graduate within the year. 

“We decided to allow them to enter the country, taking into account their individual circumstances from the perspective of public interest and urgency,” he was quoted saying by Inside Higher Ed.

Japan travel update

Japan is currently experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases. Source: Philip Fong/AFP

Japan travel update: Too few students allowed into the country

Students locked out of the country have been waiting for a positive Japan travel update, but to no avail. Japan is currently experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases, and its daily count of new cases exceeded 60,000 for the first time on Tuesday. 

Inside Higher Ed reported that in a briefing with reporters, an official reportedly said that the government understands the importance of international students to Japan’s economy and research, and would continue to review its approach regarding other students.

Despite this, over 16,000 people have signed a petition demanding the Japanese government allow international students to return to Japan. Among those who signed the petition is Davide Rossi, who has been advocating for international students’ return to Japan. 

“This is only 0.06% of the total number of students waiting to enter the country, some of them for two years,” Rossi told Inside Higher Ed. With the country’s ongoing travel ban, students locked outside the country have had to deal with a myriad of challenges, from the challenges of remote learning to impossible time zone differences. 

“The majority of people in Japan can go out and in, while only a minority is stuck in limbo. If it’s OK for re-entry to go out and then re-enter Japan, why is it not OK for new entry (sic) such as international students, skilled workforce and spouses and dependents?” he was quoted saying.

japan travel ban

International students are waiting for a positive Japan travel update. Source: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP

Students’ mental health, finances, affected

In Kyoto News, Rossi said his online survey conducted for 10 days through Sunday found that 58.4% of 3,115 respondents felt their mental health “significantly declined” and 26.2% “slightly declined”.

The challenges brought upon by the border closure has drastically altered life for some students. “In total, almost 85% said they are mentally affected,” he said during an online press conference, adding that the Japanese government should “stop considering international students a major threat” to the country’s fight against the pandemic.

CNA reported that almost half of Japan’s four-year private universities failed to fill all places for first-year students in 2021, up 15 percentage points from the previous year, according to an official at the Promotion and Mutual Aid Corporation for Private Schools of Japan, which represents private educators. The biggest reason was a drop-off in the number of Japanese students, but the decline in international students was also felt, said the official.

Alia Gallet-Pandelle, a French student who was supposed to be doing her research on campus at Tohoku University, previously told Study International: “I was supposed to fly to Japan in October last year,” she said. “Due to the pandemic, Tohoku University asked me to postpone my programme to start in April this year and I naively accepted thinking things would return to normal by then.” 

Italian student Filippo Pedretti said he experienced financial loss and the disappointment of having a year of his studies cancelled as a result of the border closure.

It’s not just the lives of international students that have been upended. Those in the business sector have said the continued border closure could discourage international companies from maintaining a presence in Japan, said reports.

The Japanese government’s rules are “affecting foreign students and businesses that employ foreign workers,” air transport ANA Holdings, President Shinya Katanozaka said last week. “I hope the government will balance both effective infection controls and social-economic activities from a scientific viewpoint,” he said in a statement following an extreme reduction in international flights.