Japan lifts restrictions, keen to boost economy and relations further

Japan will begin accepting independent travellers and removing the daily cap of incoming arrivals starting today, 11 October 2022.

The announcement was made by Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on 22 September during the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York.

The relaxed restrictions are in support of the travel, entertainment and related industries that were affected during the pandemic.

Following this, the Japanese government has moved to launch a nationwide travel discount programme within the domestic market that includes discounts for local travel, entry to sporting events, concerts as well as theme parks, eligible for individuals with three vaccinations and negative test results.

Image: Shutterstock

Travellers from 68 nations and regions including Brunei will now be able to enjoy visa-free short stays again in Japan and prescribed applications in the Entrants, Returnees Follow-up System (ERFS) are no longer needed.

On-arrival tests are no longer required except those with symptoms of suspected Covid-19 infection, however, all travellers will be asked to show a valid Covid-19 vaccination certificate of three doses or a certificate of negative test results conducted within 72 hours prior to departure from the original country or region.

The arrival cap will also be abolished from the previous 50,000 daily entries.

In an interview with The Bruneian, Japanese Ambassador to Brunei Maeda Toru, said this move will boost the local economy further and allow both communities to experience each other’s cultures.

“I really hope many Bruneians will have a chance to visit Japan and vice versa, for the Japanese people to visit Brunei, to mutually learn about each other’s cultures.”

Japanese Ambassador to Brunei Maeda Toru. Image: Rafidah Hamit

The ambassador, who is from Fukuoka, the sixth largest city in Japan, recommends Bruneians visit the prefecture to experience the hot springs and try the seafood as it is also the second-largest port city.

“Apart from the big cities in Japan, the local community are quite friendly and warm and I do hope Bruneians will be able to visit these areas while experiencing (the local life) as well.”

Decades of Cordial Relations

Both countries have established cordial relations since Brunei’s independence in 1984, marking almost four decades of working together in various areas including economy, culture and people-to-people exchanges.

As the ambassador first arrived in the Sultanate in November 2021, he aspires to reinforce the friendship between the two countries and their people.

“For that, a lot of elements are involved,” said ambassador Maeda, adding that he believes it is highly achievable.

“Energy relations between Japan and Brunei have been very long-standing and we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary this December. This established relationship is hoped to be maintained and even strengthened.”

Ambassador Maeda also hopes to work on assisting the Brunei government in diversifying its economic structure and establishing mutually beneficial cooperation in the energy structure and maritime forces, putting emphasis on combatting climate change.

Image: Shutterstock

“In order to do this, extensive knowledge sharing between the two countries is crucial particularly as we have different economic backgrounds and structures.”

Highlighting the importance of education and working further to develop this area, ambassador Maeda aims to become more proactive in creating additional opportunities and exchanges on all levels, particularly among students.

“People-to-people exchanges are a strategic and crucial area for both countries and knowing each other’s people (and communities) is significant, especially among the younger generation.”

“We have welcomed many Bruneian students and we are grateful for the warm welcome of Japanese students here in Brunei.”

File Photo: Students from UBD Japanese Club seen performing a cultural dance.

“I believe we can provide further information to those interested in studying in Japan (especially) as we have various university agreements between both countries – I want to strengthen these educational relations and cooperation,” he added.

The ambassador also hopes for the development of educational relations in the field of ecosystem diversity, appropriate to the Sultanate with its unspoiled nature dubbed as the green jewel, along with research in areas of oil and gas.

“Both countries have their own strengths, different ecosystems and tropical environment and as Japan is more developed in technological areas, I think we can provide chances for Bruneian students to research and study this area as well.”

The embassy is also working on sharing more about the Japanese culture amongst locals with hopes to continue the Japan Week event at the end of the year, after a long hiatus due to the pandemic.

Japan-Brunei Trade Relations

Trade export statistics from Japan to Brunei in 2021 compared to 2019, saw a 170 per cent increase, whereas imports from Brunei to Japan saw a 94 per cent increase.

These statistics are encouraging according to the ambassador, adding that he wishes many other areas of trade between both countries will advance further.

“As the international global situation is a little volatile (at the moment), we cannot predict anything in the next few years, however, I really hope (our trade areas) will increase while maintaining the good and stable trade in energy.”

File Photo: First MCH shipment unloading from Muara Port to Japan. Photo Courtesy of AHEAD Brunei.

“Additionally, I anticipate seeing new elements of trade, goods and services between the two countries,” said ambassador Maeda.

Touching on the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the ambassador sees an encouraging impact between Japan and Brunei, along with a strengthened foundation for prosperity.

“Both countries’ prosperity very much rely on international trade as both (regularly) import and export from these (large) markets.”

“Talking simply between Japan and Brunei, trade and investment relations is important and I very much encourage Brunei as a member of CPTPP to ratify (the agreement) at the earliest convenient time for the benefit of the nation,” said the ambassador.

File photo: The Bruneian

Currently, there are 18 Japanese companies operating in Brunei in various areas including oil and gas, construction, health and food.

“I welcome any interest from companies looking to introduce new things in Brunei and this includes Smart Farming,” he said.

“We have a lot of good food and meat in Japan, some of them can be produced here using smart technology that is controlled and (therefore) results in clean and good quality staples.”

Ambassador Maeda believes this is a promising area that can be advanced in Brunei and hopes Japanese companies can cooperate with local smart farming ventures in the future.

Experiencing the local culture

To experience the local Bruneian culture, even more, the ambassador along with the embassy staff have visited and tried various cuisines around the country.

This journey is part of the ambassador’s efforts to learn more about Brunei while bonding with staff and locals over food.

“Food is an important part of the culture for both our countries and it is best to experience it, especially as I like to eat.”

“My favourite local food is Soto and there are fairly good Japanese restaurants in Brunei which I wanted to experience as well,” he added.

File Photo: Some local desserts in a buffet spread.

Ambassador Maeda also observed that as both are Asian cultures, Japan and Brunei have more similarities than differences, stating that he was impressed with the local hospitality.

“The peacefulness of the society, the safe environment and natural beauty are everywhere and within a 5 to 10-minute drive – something we cannot see much in Japan, and I have been enjoying that very much.”

He also praised the local community for having good family relationships with each other and wishes to see these relationships maintained.

“Most countries are losing (this aspect) in life and it is great to see it (being encouraged) in Brunei.”

“Every culture is different and Brunei has a lot of good elements, its peaceful society has made me feel really comfortable and safe here. This is a very good part of the culture which I hope will be preserved for generations to come,” he concluded.

File Photo: A retail outlet selling Japanese home and lifestyle products.


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