UPDATED: This is the latest information as of 10 September 2021. The article will be updated as new information arises. If you have any questions regarding the current situation in Niseko, please contact our team at [email protected].
Japan has been achieving a steady vaccination rate after a slow start to rolling out Covid-19 vaccinations early this year. Although initial delays were caused by the slow approval process of the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines, the country was quick to administer the vaccines as soon as their approved use was granted. The hosting of the Tokyo Olympics also accelerated the urgency of the rollout.
As of 8 September 2021, Our World in Data estimates that 61.7% of Japan’s population have received at least the first dose. If vaccinations continue at the same rate, all of Japan’s 120 million population should receive their first dose by November 2021.
Local governments have been systematically vaccinating by age groups. The elderly (65 years and over) were first, followed by those under 65 years of age with underlying medical conditions, and then the rest of the population. Every city has been responsible for their residents. They have provided information about the vaccinations via mail outs and the internet. Appointments have been arranged for every person and mailed out as tickets.
Vaccinations in Niseko
Vaccinations are currently being administered here in Kutchan town (the town to which Niseko Hirafu and Hanazono ski resorts belong). The general population is now being vaccinated after the successful vaccination of the elderly and medically vulnerable resident groups. It is expected that the entire population of Kutchan will be fully vaccinated by the end of the year.
A mass vaccination drive was also completed for Niseko tourism-related businesses in early July. This initiative was implemented to ensure that businesses in Niseko would be prepared and the area operationally safe for the coming winter season.
Vaccinated residents are currently provided with a paper certificate as proof of their vaccination. However, Japan will issue online COVID-19 vaccination certificates from December 2021 via a smartphone QR code. This suggests that vaccine passports will be used within the country, which is a constructive step towards the recovery of the domestic economy.
The vaccine passport system will also be created in line with international standards. Some overseas countries are already recognising the validity of Japan’s vaccinations, including Hong Kong, Canada and Italy. This move paves the way for Japan to do the same for inbound traffic.
A positive outlook ahead
Japanese business groups and associations have been lobbying the government to remove the entry ban on foreigners. As recently reported in the Asia Nikkei, their proposals include recognising vaccinated overseas travellers and revising the quarantines requirement. The government is open to the idea but has yet to make any firm moves on the issue. A current consideration is for the 14 day quarantine to be reduced to 10 days instead.
Japan has been highly risk-averse and taking a strict approach on its border policy. However, these latest developments provide a positive outlook for the re-opening of borders and resumption of travel into the country. This means we are a step closer to having international guests return to Niseko to enjoy the 2021/2022 winter season.