international students in Japan
Japan announced on Monday that it will suspend entry of all foreign visitors. Source: Carl Court/AFP

For the past 20 months, international students in Japan have gone through a rollercoaster ride of emotions as they patiently waited for the reopening of the country’s borders.

The country previously announced that they will begin accepting foreign nationals coming to the country for business trips and international students from November 8, but the new Omicron COVID-19 strain has led to a new ban to take place from Tuesday, said local reports.

International students in Japan: What to know about Omicron

Omicron, first discovered in southern Africa, represents a fresh challenge to global efforts to battle the pandemic. Several countries have already re-imposed restrictions many had hoped were a thing of the past.

The variant was first detected in South Africa last week and has since spread to several European countries as well as Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and Israel. Israel was the first country to seal its borders which have led authorities worldwide to react rapidly in distress. 

On Monday (November 29), Japan followed suit and said it would ban the entry of all foreign nationals starting Tuesday. This includes business travellers, interns and international students in Japan. It does not include foreign residents re-entering Japan and Japanese nationals.

Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases declared the Omicron variant the second-highest warning level in its three-tier variant alert. 

international students in Japan

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida answers questions from reporters regarding the response to the Omicron COVID-19 variant at his office in Tokyo on November 29, 2021, as Japan will reinstate tough border measures, barring all new foreign arrivals. Source: Jiji Press/Japan Out/AFP

This move comes a day after the country tightened restrictions for people who have recently been to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said: “We are taking measures with a strong sense of crisis.

Kishida added that the country would move forward with its plan to administer booster shots from next month onwards, starting with the elderly and health workers. Japan holds a population that is currently 76% fully vaccinated and has consistently reported low COVID-19 cases. 

Following this announcement, many international students in Japan will be caught in limbo once again with a lack of a clear timeline and rules regarding their return. Students have been voicing their frustrations and concerns on Twitter using hashtags such as #EducationIsNotTourism and #TravelBanJapan.

International students in Japan and those locked out of the country have cited challenges with online learning.

This includes issues with different time zones, poor quality of online learning, and a lack of human connection.

Additional reporting by AFP.