From today, Japan is issuing visas to individual Chinese tourists, a policy change in line with the country’s bilateral agreement signed during Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso’s visit to China in April.
Before relaxing its visa policy, Japan only accepted Chinese tourists travelling in groups of five to 40 people accompanied by Japanese and Chinese tour guides. The country also issues visas to two to three people travelling as a family (also with a tour guide in tow during the visit), provided the family has an annual income CNY250,000 (US$36,700).
In a press release, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that individual Chinese travellers will be issued a visa provided they have “good references in terms of occupation, financial resources and other factors”.
The statement didn't say whether the new policy do away with the mandatory tour guide, which adds to the travellers' costs. And reacting to local news media, China-based travel agents say that it is doubtful the new policy will increase the number of visitors to Japan unless the requirement for a tour guide is removed.
Individual visa applications will be accepted at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing, and consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou during the first year of the programme, and could be extended to other diplomatic offices in China.
Japan expects the total number of Chinese visitors to increase to 1.25 million by 2010.
For more information, visit www.mofa.go.jp