We left the UK on the 29th December to return to Japan. The entry procedures were tedious as was the 6 nights we had to spend in a quarantine hotel. There was so much paper involved. We had to fill in forms online and present QR codes, only to also be asked for paper copies of these forms as well. The forms were checked and re-checked as if our passport numbers and information could magically change while walking down the long corridors of the airport. We were watched at all times and made to wear large green tags on our arms with no explanations. We weren’t even told where we were going to quarantine on the bus that was taking us there. The staff were pleasant and friendly, but it was still stressful as we had already been travelling for over 20 hours before getting to the airport and we were exhausted. We know of people who got refused entry to the country or who tested positive on arrival so all the waiting around was difficult.
Our hotel room was tiny but we did have a view. The handles had been removed from the windows and we were not allowed to leave the room. We were given three cold meals a day. They were mostly white rice and it was difficult to eat the same sort of thing over and over. In theory we were allowed to order in things, but in practice this was not very useful as it could not be raw food, hot food, food that needed heating, or food that needed refrigeration. Since everything had to be inspected, packages would be delivered a day after they arrived at the facility. We did bring dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate with us. Some people had tried to travel with fresh fruit and vegetables, but you are not allowed to bring these into the country. Sometimes people get away with it but our baggage was ready hours before we were, so plenty of time for everything to be inspected.
We had to install apps on our phone so that we can be tracked and contacted by the government. This happens at random times during the day and you either have to mark your location or answer a video call. So far we have had 2 video calls a day and 4 notifications to mark our location. This seemed like too much especially as we were in a room we had been assigned to that we couldn’t actually leave. It also means being near your phone at all times and we are not meant to put it on silent, though I have been doing that late at night. We also were expected to get up early in the morning to submit health check forms and our PCR tests took place between 6:30am and 7:am. I have seen the sunrise every day since we got back.
Now we are back at our home and will get out of quarantine on the 14th January. We have had four negative PCR tests in the last week, yet are having to isolate longer than people in the UK who actually have covid.
There is no doubt that the death rate in Japan has been low during the pandemic, but comparisons of case numbers don’t mean much. The UK, at half the size, is testing more than 1 million people a day, and Japan barely manages 50,000. Both countries have completely different strategies for dealing with the pandemic.