Covid travel ban throws lives of foreigners in Japan into disarray

By Maria Roldan

Tokyo, June 15 (efe-epa).- When Walter Mastroluca arrived in Japan a little over four months ago, he never imagined he would be stranded in a country known to be one of the most expensive places to live amid an uncertainty looming over his return to home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 32-year-old Italian arrived with his bicycle in late January and was to leave on Mar.18 for South Korea.

But the closing of the international borders due to the spread of the novel coronavirus and declaration of a state of emergency in Japan halted all his plans.

Used to traveling with only bare essentials, Mastroluca is currently working in a cafe whose owners have given him accommodation.

He told EFE that he camped most of the time he spent in Japan as he awaits the flight back to Italy, which is set to leave on July 2.

When Mastroluca learned he would not be able to leave, he cycled around the country and covered Hiroshima, Nagoya, Toyama.

As he headed toward Hokkaido, one of the biggest Covid hotspots in the country, he was advised to move towards Kanazawa, where he came to know about a hotel that was providing free accommodation to stranded foreigners.

The initiative, “Room4Rescue,” led by Kename Inn Tatemachi hotel, was run in collaboration with three other Tokyo hotels to provide accommodation for around 50 people from 17 countries, including Argentina, Italy, France, Russia, Spain, Hungary, and New Zealand, its managers told EFE.

After a nearly month-long stay, Mastroluca headed towards the capital.

“If they cancel my flight it could be a problem, because, after July 2, I have only 18 days to leave the country,” he said, adding that his visa has already been stamped with “final extension”.

His compatriot Michael Forchina was luckier.

After nearly three months in Japan, the 28-year-old landed in Italy on June 3.

“The hardest part was to see all my flights and previous travel plans to Japan being canceled and getting trapped in a country so expensive with a limited budget,” Forchini said in his email.

Border closings led to the cancellation of seven booked flights, apart from hotels and reservations of other things and whose charges have been barely reimbursed.

After weeks of not taking the exorbitantly priced air tickets, around 3,000 to 4,000 euros, he got one to travel to Italy, where he would wait for the situation to normalize before setting out for another travel.

Tourists were not the only ones taken by surprise after the borders were closed.

Under its containment measures, Japan invalidated all the expedited visas and disallowed travelers from its chosen 110 countries on which the restrictions were imposed from returning to Japan.

Miguel Osorio from Spain came to Japan in 2018 to study Japanese and a year later he managed to get a work permit after his Japanese firm sponsored the same.

Japan recently revised its policy to change the status of the beneficiaries of the tourist visa. The process was carried out in the archipelago not long ago but now it can only be processed in the native country of the person seeking it.

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