The Japanese tourism industry is hoping for a boost after the country relaxed rules for travelers entering the country from abroad.
Tourists began to stream back to Japan on Tuesday as the country eased its pandemic restrictions for travelers.
Japan's travel and tourism sectors are hoping for an economic boost, with tourists tempted to take advantage of both the relaxation of rules and a weak yen.
What has suddenly changed?
The country has opened up only cautiously and had not until now allowed tourists to enter as independent travelers.
In June, Japan began to allow tourists to visit in groups accompanied by guides, a requirement that was later eased to include package tours without guides.
On Tuesday, the Japanese government reintroduced visa-free tourism and short-term business travel for passport holders of 68 countries.
Tokyo has also scrapped a daily cap of 50,000 arrivals in the country — a limit that had been set at 20,000 until September.
A weakening of the yen against other currencies, particularly the strong US dollar, has given an added incentive for travelers to visit — and for the Japan to open up. Tourism revenue is expected to boost the world's third-largest economy by some 5 trillion yen ($34.3 billion, €35.4 billion).
Some coronavirus rules remain in place for entry. Travelers must be fully vaccinated with one booster or have a negative PCR test taken less than three days before departure.
Why has it taken long to open up again?
Japan shut down its borders early in the pandemic, with the country firmly committed to keeping pandemic fatalities low.
Deaths stand at some 45,000, far lower than many other developed countries when population is taken into account.
Although masks are not mandated by law, they are almost universally worn on public transport and in indoor public spaces. Parliament is set to pass a law that would allow hotels to refuse service to customers who do not wear a face covering or who break other hygiene rules.
Japan attracted some 31.9 million foreign visitors in 2019, but that slumped to just 250,000 in 2021.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan had been expected to receive some 40 million visitors in 2020, with Tokyo hosting the summer Olympic Games.