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WHAT’S NEW

SPECIAL REPORT: 
COVID-19 AND CYCLING IN JAPAN

(UPDATE May 2022)
(UPDATE February 2022) (UPDATE October 2021)
(UPDATE December 2020) (UPDATE May 2020)http://www.kancycling.com/Features/COVID-19_Special_Report.htmlhttp://www.kancycling.com/Features/COVID-19_Special_Report.htmlhttp://www.kancycling.com/Features/COVID-19_Special_Report_Update_5-22.htmlhttp://www.kancycling.com/Features/COVID-19_Special_Report_Update_2-22.htmlhttp://www.kancycling.com/Features/COVID-19_Special_Report_Update_10-21.htmlhttp://www.kancycling.com/Features/COVID-19_Special_Report_Update_12-20.htmlhttp://www.kancycling.com/Features/COVID-19_Special_Report_Update.htmlhttp://www.kancycling.com/Features/COVID-19_Special_Report.htmlshapeimage_11_link_0shapeimage_11_link_1shapeimage_11_link_2shapeimage_11_link_3shapeimage_11_link_4shapeimage_11_link_5shapeimage_11_link_6

CHILL CLIMBS”

 
September’s Bicycle Club magazine showcases “chill climbs” (leisurely hill climbs that enable you to “chill out” while beating the heat), with a number of suggested climbs and some very nice photos. The magazine also includes a “ride wallet” that’s reasonably nice (and even has pockets for tire levers!). Note, however, that the price of the magazine since it became a bimonthly is ¥1,890 (by contrast, the monthly Cycle Sports is usually ¥1,000), so the price may factor in the cost of the freebie. In bookstores now, for the next two months.


AUGUST IN INADANI

Cycle Sports in August
features several routes in the Inadani region of southern Nagano Prefecture, with some lovely photos (although, irritatingly, there is only a general map of the region, and only the three longest routes even have QR codes pointing to detailed maps). Available in bookstores now.


YUP, ONLY GROUP TOURS

The Japan Times (registration may be required to view) reports that “tourists on package tours with guides” will be allowed into Japan starting June 10. It quotes the Prime Minister as saying: “Step by step we will aim to accept (tourists) as we did in normal times, taking into consideration the status of infections."


This is pretty much what we expected, and why we cautioned that Japan’s re-opening to tourism was likely to be slow.  In its reporting of the announcement, Kyodo News adds that international flights to Naha (Okinawa) and Chitose (Hokkaido) will also resume in June.


Sigh. Stay tuned.


MAYBE ONLY GROUP TOURS?

An announcement is expected as early as today about tourism reopening, but the NHK-FM 7:00 a.m. news (in Japanese) this morning reported that (a) tourists will be INCLUDED in the daily 20,000 persons allowed into the country, not in addition to that number, and (b) “a proposal to limit tourists to only those on group tours is being considered.” As we wait for the official announcement, here is the exact wording of that part of the NHK report:



MAYBE JUNE AFTER ALL?!

Japan’s full reopening may happen in June after all. Kyodo News reports that the cap on new overseas arrivals will double to 20,000, and Time Out reports that this will begin June 1 but “the move does not include allowing general tourism.” Yet there are encouraging signs. Testing and quarantine will be loosened considerably (although Kyodo says that a pre-departure test will still be needed). Countries and regions will be divided into red, yellow and blue groups based on infection rate. Blue group travelers will be exempt regardless of vaccination status; Yellow group travelers will be exempt if they have had three vaccinations with government-approved COVID vaccines.* However, none of these media outlets say anything about “tourism” specifically, much less whether non-group-tour travelers will be admitted. The passage (reported by Kyodo) that gives rise to the most optimism is probably this one:


Travelers from the lowest-risk "blue" group will be exempt from testing upon arrival in Japan and quarantining at home, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a press conference. They will still need to show a pre-departure negative test result.

Around 80 percent of entrants are likely to be from countries and regions that fall into that group, Matsuno said, adding that the breakdowns will be announced next week.


So there is definitely forward momentum, but still no definite word on whether this means full tourist opening is imminent. Supposedly a formal announcement is coming this week; stay tuned.


* The Japanese document lists Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Janssen, Bharat Biotech and Novavax vaccines for the first two shots and Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax for the third and subsequent shots. Conditions apply; see the Japanese document here.



TOURISM TO RESUME — S L O W L Y

Japan will finally begin admitting tourists again — but the opening will be slow. A pilot program will begin in June, limited to group tours on fixed itineraries. Only after that will general tourists be allowed in, and that will undoubtedly be gradual as well (since Japan currently limits the daily number of students and business travelers, although it keeps raising the caps). Note that, even when things do open up, visitors may need to be vaccinated and boosted. For details, see our latest COVID update here.


CYCLING HIDA NO SATO - NOT

About our top photo, before you ask: no, you can’t actually cycle inside Hida no Sato. But the picture shows how lovely the spring greens are right now, and you can get very similar views in the area.


MAY CYCLE MAGAZINES

The major May cycle magazines both contain freebies: Cycle Sports offers a plastic mudguard attachment (emblazoned with “Eat My Dust” in English), while Bicycle Club (a bimonthly now, by the way —only issued once every two months) offers a nice stem bag. Both also feature route articles: BC with a  two-day 500km route between Osaka and Tokyo (overnighting near Hamamatsu), and CS features a shorter piece entitled “Kamakura-dono Historical Cycle Ride” that’s apparently inspired by this year’s NHK Taiga Drama “The 13 Lords of the Shogun” about the Kamakura shogunate. Both available in cycle shops and bookshops now; get yours before they’re all gone.



UPDATED COVID REPORT

Our updated COVID report is here.


JAPAN STARTING TO OPEN UP?

Despite the sky-high Omicron case numbers in Japan, Kyodo News reports that Japan plans to relax restrictions on entry in March. The bad news is that, initially at least, this will target only business travelers and students. Neither the original Nikkei report (which is here) nor the Prime Minister in his remarks mentioned anything about when tourists might be admitted. So cycle-tourists may have to wait a bit longer to start planning their trips.

Our prediction: don’t expect restrictions on tourist entry to change until the Omicron wave subsides and things warm up in the spring.



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