Still, it is interesting that no other country seems to have inspired the same level of eagerness. From vaccinated travel lanes (VTLs) to mostly European destinations earlier in the pandemic, to more recent easing of entry requirements to regional getaways like Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, no other border reopening has been this widely anticipated.
Even South Korea, which one might think is a must-visit for Singaporeans thanks to the massive popularity of K-pop, K-dramas and Korean food, ranks fairly low on the ISEAS survey. Only 5.9 per cent of Singaporeans list it as their top destination.
Perhaps one of the reasons lies in how Japan is one of the last few countries to loosen entry requirements – and absence makes the heart grow fonder. As of now, China, which used to be Japan’s largest source of tourists, is still largely closed, so there could be a rush to make it there before even more travellers flock to the country.
WHAT MAKES JAPAN SPECIAL
But beyond the surface, it is worth noting that since the 80s and 90s, Japan has been masterfully building its soft power by exporting its entertainment like anime and video games, and making its cuisine and brands ubiquitous around the world. For those of us who grew up during that era, it is inevitable that we feel drawn to the country.
Thanks to campaigns targeted at foreign tourists, Japan was among the fastest-growing tourism hotspots pre-pandemic, with 2019 marking its seventh consecutive year of record-high tourist arrivals.
It takes just one trip to Japan to fall in love with its vast range of offerings. There is something for everyone: Foodies wax lyrical about the freshness of Japanese produce and seafood, culture vultures are drawn to its unique festivals and traditions, and nature lovers cannot resist the draw of the country’s stunning landscape from Mount Fuji to the beaches of Okinawa.