As the only country in the Group of Seven, Japan has kept its border shut since early 2020. While not being able to meet family and friends from home has been discouraging for myself as a foreign resident, there are more severe consequences than just homesick foreigners.
With around 370,000 visa holders waiting for entry, it is obvious that this should have a profound impact on the economy.
The tourism industry's struggles are evident. On top of the missing tourists, the Olympics have failed in attracting tourists that would otherwise not consider Japan as a travel destination.
Foreign students, waiting to take up their studies in Japan are not only important for Japan's universities that have been struggling for a while due to waning student numbers, but also a missing workforce in the hospitality industry.
Keidanren, Japan's Business Federation, worries about the consequences that the closed border has on the supply of talent, goods and services. Especially concerning soft power, Japan cannot really afford to fall behind any further.
Of course, politicians are very aware of the consequences that a closed border has on the economy. But a survey conducted by the Japan News Network in early December showed that more than 80% of Japanese are in favour of the tight border restrictions.
One reason for this prevalent opinion may perhaps be found in Okinawa. The omicron variant started to spread across Japan from Okinawa. To be precise, it spread from the U.S. base in Okinawa, where military personnel did not adhere to the protocols that might have prevented the spread.
Another reason may simply be that with Japan's ageing society, the majority of people feel like their lives or the lives of their loved ones are on the line. The Japanese do not favour border restrictions for the sake of border restrictions. Most people are painfully aware of the toll that the restrictions put on the already ailing economy.
They still want the border closed. To protect who is dear to them. And that is a valid reason.
So the Japanese government enacts the will of more than 80% of Japan's population when they choose to have tight border restrictions. And isn't the government supposed to represent its country's people? Can they be blamed for protecting its people's request for a closed border?
Well, with the omicron variant already dancing all across the country, a tight border makes no sense. So even if it is the people's will, it feels like the government just can't be bothered to lift the restrictions and justify the decision in front of the population.
Especially after Suga vanished from politics due to unpopular corona health measures. They government knows that it will suffer severe economical consequences. But like most governments, it is intent on protecting its chances of re-election above all else.
So while Denmark has chosen to end all countermeasures amidst a surging omicron-wave, Japan keeps its borders shut. Indefinitely.