Foreign scholars urge Japan to ease border control

Tokyo – A group of scholars studying Japan is calling on the nation to relax its border closure and let foreign researchers and students enter the country. More than 100 representatives of international-exchange organizations and experts signed a letter and sent it to the Japanese government. The letter says Japan’s border closure is harming the country’s national interests and international relationships.

It says some students from North America have begun shifting their choice of language study and research to match the places they can actually visit. The letter also says that keeping borders closed goes against “the vision for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” which Japan advocates. The scholars urge Japan to allow entry for people who they say will “become the bridges between Japan and other societies.”

One of the signatories, Professor Daniel Aldrich at Northeastern University in the US says, “The way we can learn to speak Japanese well, the only way we can learn about Japanese culture, the only way to build a network is to actually be in Japan. There’s no substitute for spending time there in the field.” He also warns if things don’t change, Japan may develop a reputation for not being very interested in foreign students.

Another signatory, Phillip Lipscy, is an associate professor at the University of Toronto. He says international exchanges among students and scholars are the foundation of Japan’s diplomacy. He warns that if the border closure continues, Japan will lose opportunities to help foreign people deepen their understanding of the country.

Japan imposed a ban on the new entry of foreign nationals in late November in response to the global spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.