Emotional turmoil, financial turmoil and extreme desperation – international students barred from entering Japan have felt them all. For the past 20 months, Japan’s travel ban has left couples, students, university researchers and workers in limbo.
After tentatively opening this month to business travelers and students, it close its borders on the concerns of the Omicron variant. It is despite that recording a 99% drop in the number of coronavirus cases since August and the highest vaccination rate among the world’s major wealthy nations.
International students shared their feelings on social media platforms such as Twitter, using hashtags like #educationisnottourism and #japantravelban. As 2022 approaches with no clear timetable from the Japanese government as to when they might return, many students are frustrated, feeling helpless and simply overwhelmed.
“Spending months in isolation and not being able to meet my friends is very hard. My whole life is currently online,” says Eva Guido, a French student enrolled at the Akamonkai Japanese language school. “To overcome the pain , I started taking medication for stress and pressure,” she continued.
Below, we get to know the international student side of the story and how they handled those tough two years.
Hopeful: “Stay Strong”
“I was fascinated by Japanese culture and mentality, which prompted me to move there. In Russia, they basically take a year out of your life because joining the army is compulsory – which made me want to go abroad even more. The ban on travel to Japan should be lifted as students are fully prepared to undergo quarantine measures, PCR tests and even pay for them with their own money. All I can say now is stay strong and hope for the best. Sergei Ovcharenko, MANABI Japanese Language Institute
In limbo: “I’m so lost”
“My goal was to study economics at a Japanese university. So I decided to take a high-intensity language course to pass the entrance exam. I have difficulty learning the language because I am not assimilated into the Japanese environment. Also, since there is no clear timeline with Japan’s travel ban, I can’t even plan to work or go on vacation. We (stranded students) need more communication as we feel ignored – it is unfair that Japanese citizens are allowed in and out for tourism purposes. Even the immigration restriction measures announced by the WHO are counterproductive. I am so lost and desperately waiting to enter the country. I would advise students to be aware of the potential discrimination they will face as foreigners. Eva Guido, Akamonkai Japanese Language School
Akamonkai Japanese Language School
Stuck: “Living in a Suitcase”
“After visiting twice, I fell in love with Japan. I have now been waiting almost two years for the travel ban to Japan to be lifted and I feel like I have been dragged down by the Japanese government. After living in an empty apartment in Brussels for a year, I moved in with my mother for six months taking online classes at 6 a.m. I am currently living in a suitcase for months on hold, which makes me “has been emotionally and financially drained. I think we’ve come to a point where we (stranded students) need to boycott the country’s ‘fix’ for online learning and unanimously turn our backs on the country. It there is no way to plan for the future and now I have to start my life over Iku, Tokyo Galaxy language school.