MANILA, Philippines—Filipinos who wish to visit Japan may now apply for multiple-entry tourist visas, a privilege the Japanese government extending to Philippine citizens for the first time as part of the relaxation of its visa policies toward Southeast Asians.
The Japanese Embassy in Manila this week confirmed that the cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe eased its visa policy for citizens of Southeast Asian countries as Japan aims to boost tourist visits to Japan by citizens of the fast-growing region.
“The cabinet of Prime Minister Abe decided to allow the issuance of multiple-entry visas from the Philippines,” said Kenji Hirai, embassy press officer.
Previously, multiple-entry visas to Japan were issued to three categories of travelers, Hirai said: those visiting Japan for commercial purposes, artists and specialists (athletes, professors and government officials) and immediate family members of Japan residents.
The Japanese visa is known to be among the toughest to get for Filipino tourists in light of Japan’s strict requirements and screening process. Japan offers other types of visas for Filipinos, including single-entry visas for spouses, relatives or friends of Japanese residents and visas for medical stay.
“We welcome the decision of the Japanese government to take important steps to further boost tourism between Japan and the countries in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines,” said Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez, spokesperson at the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“We expect that the relaxation of their visa policies will encourage more Filipinos to travel to Japan and will create more opportunities for people to people exchanges between our two countries,” he added in a statement issued Saturday.
The Japanese government adopted its new visa policy for Southeast Asian tourists on June 11 in hopes of increasing arrivals from the region.
Apart from the Philippines, Vietnam was also granted multiple-entry visas for tourists. Visa requirements were altogether waived for visitors from Thailand and Malaysia.
In asking his cabinet to approve the new policy, Abe said the relaxed requirements aim to “let many people from around the world directly experience beautiful Japan,” the Japanese news agency Kyodo reported.
The news agency said Southeast Asian tourists account for barely a tenth of arrivals in Japan, with 780,000 visitors from the region out of the 8.37 million tourists who traveled to Japan last year.