Photo/Illutration A family is reunited for the first time in about 10 months at Narita Airport on March 1. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Japan this month will allow foreign tourists to enter the country for the first time since early 2020, when the border was closed to such travelers to prevent novel coronavirus infections.

On a trial basis, small group tours will be allowed into Japan from four countries: the United States, Australia, Thailand and Singapore.

“We will move forward with the plan while trying to achieve a balance between socio-economic activities and anti-coronavirus measures,” tourism minister Tetsuo Saito said at a news conference on May 17.

The four countries are not on the Japanese government’s list for tightened border control against novel coronavirus variants. The government also said the infection situations in those countries have stabilized.

The entering tourists must be triple vaccinated and will be accompanied by tour conductors from travel agencies.

The tour destinations in Japan will be limited to areas where local governments have given the green light.

The central government will draw up guidelines for travel agencies and accommodation facilities after examining the effectiveness of anti-infection measures in the trial run and the responses to cases in which tour participants become infected.

If the government determines that tours can be conducted without spreading infections, it will consider gradually accepting more tourists.

Japan has allowed a limited number of business visitors and foreign students to enter the country since March.

The travel industry and airline companies have been calling on the government to accept foreign tourists since the government recently decided to ease the border controls.

The government plans to double the daily entry cap of overall visitors to 20,000 from June.

“With careful assessments of the infection situation after the Golden Week holidays, we would like to consider allowing smooth entry into Japan as in other G-7 nations,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters on May 16.