Okinawa multiple entry visa for Chinese tourists to be approved

May 28, 2011 Ryukyu Shimpo

On May 27, the Japanese government decided to issue multiple entry visas for Chinese tourists visiting Okinawa Prefecture from July 1. The visa can be used multiple times during the period of its validity. Minister in charge of Okinawa, Yukio Edano, announced this on May 27, and Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto will officially inform the governor, Hirokazu Nakaima, on his first visit to Okinawa on May 28. It is thought that while the government stressed that the introduction of the new visa is in response to a request from the prefectural government and is aimed at Okinawan development, it will allow the foreign minister to curry some favor in a situation in which the gap between the local government and Tokyo on the Futenma issue is still as wide as ever. The visit will occur exactly one year after the most recent agreement between the governments of the United States and Japan on relocating the facilities and functions of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station at Futenma to Henoko and returning the land to the residents.

Okinawa had actually asked the government for visa exemptions for Chinese to visit, mostly as a measure to stimulate tourism in the slowdown following the Great East Japan Earthquake, so this is not exactly what was requested of Tokyo. However, Governor Hirokazu Nakaime takes a favorable view, saying, “It will provide a shot in the arm for the Okinawan tourism industry.”

The visa is aimed at wealthy Chinese tourists. The visa holder is limited to Okinawa on his or her first visit but after that it is possible to move out of Okinawa to other locations in Japan. With these visas, they can visit other places including Tokyo without dropping in to Okinawa on their second or subsequent entry to Japan.

Edano said in his interview with the press, “The matter of the entry visa does involve national security. We decided on this to promote Okinawan economic development without creating issues for security, but we won’t stop here; we want to do more to help economic development in Okinawa.”

(English Translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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