While it cannot be said that anything is “normal” yet, coming into November an air of normalcy has returned with big crowds once again expected for the upcoming Japan Home and Building Show. The country’s impressive vaccine drive at the end of the summer has brought daily COVID cases down to under 150 a day nationally, with only 15 reported for Tokyo on the day we set up for the show. As a result, the economy has been almost completely reopened since October. Businesspeople in particular are taking advantage of the newfound freedom and are out and about visiting with clients and suppliers.

Unfortunately, after the big increase in cases during the Olympics, the Japanese government has been reluctant to reopen the borders. This is particularly true as the governing party did not want to risk another spike in the lead-up to the election at the end of October. However, Japanese businesses and foreign chambers of commerce have been pressuring the government to relax the border controls as both tourism and international trade have been stifled.

Like clockwork, once the Liberal Democratic Party was re-elected, a new policy was quickly announced. Under the new framework, both Japanese and non-Japanese business travellers will be allowed entry with only a three-day quarantine. While reaction to this announcement has been tempered by the overly burdensome paperwork as well as a new visa requirement in order to qualify for the short quarantine, this is seen as just a first step in gaining the public’s trust for reopened borders. There is speculation that a further relaxation of the rules will take place over the winter. Hopefully, inbound tourists will also be given the green light in the not-too-distant future if COVID cases remain in check.

As this new system was announced less than a week before the Japan Home Show, BC Wood will once again be exhibiting at the show on behalf of members and virtually connecting them with the leads we develop. However, there is sufficient time before the Nikkei Architectural and Construction Materials show at the beginning of March for Canadian businesspeople to plan and apply for the new entry visa system. Hopefully, even the three-day quarantine will be removed in time for that show. At last, there is at least an opportunity for members to get back to Japan to meet with customers and re-establish business connections face-to-face.

For more information on Japan’s new entry system or the upcoming Nikkei Show in March, please contact Jim Ivanoff at ivanoff@bcwood.jp.