space traveling warriors tier list : Japan is easing its tourist travel ban, but many Canadians who want to visit family still face nearly impossible obstacles.

A man wearing a face mask waits to board a plane at Japan’s Yonaguni Airport on April 13.Carl Court/Getty Images

During video calls from Tokyo, where Alexandre Valiquette lives with his wife and children, his three-year-old son calls Francine Grift “nana”, while his youngest son, seven months old, just bubbles and smiles onscreen.

Hearing that gurgle through a speaker is the closest Ms. Grift, who is Valiquette’s mother, has already got to meet her youngest grandson. She lives in Saint John, and the extended family hasn’t been physically together since before the pandemic. A phone screen now looks to Mr. Valiquette as a barrier that cannot be crossed. “There’s that constant feeling of knowing a touch is impossible,” he said.

The reason for this long separation, and many others like it, is that Japan is one of less than a dozen countries that have remained closed to foreign tourists since the pandemic began. It closed its borders in 2020 and only in the last few weeks has it started to readmit foreigners who have permanent residence there, as well as a small number of students and entrepreneurs.

Until recently, there were no exceptions for family members of Japanese residents, which meant that Ms. Grift couldn’t visit them. She saw a glimmer of hope when the Japanese government announced a new travel visa in February that would allow the family to fly to the country as early as April. But getting the visa requires complicated supporting documentation, like a letter from a guarantor and a complete itinerary. And registrations can only be made in person, at Japanese embassies.

As a result, it remains nearly impossible for most Canadians to travel to Japan. Ms. Grift gave up on his plans to do so. after she realized that the closest embassy to her home is in Montreal, more than eight and a half hours away by car. Flying there would cost hundreds of dollars.

“I just felt like crying,” she said.

Even those who manage to enter the country are still subject to strict requirements, including mandatory quarantine.

Mr. Valiquette, who works for Square Enix, a video game company, has lived in Japan for 10 years and has a permanent residency there. But even that, he said, has been rendered tenuous by the restrictions of the pandemic.

Francine Grift poses for a photo with her son Alexandre Valiquette and their two-year-old son in 2019.

If a Japanese citizen is caught violating quarantine or testing requirements, even accidentally, possible penalties include fines and public disclosure of your personal information. Permanently resident aliens such as Valiquette can be stripped of their immigration status and even deported.

Valiquette said she was considering taking her entire family to Canada last month but decided against doing so because she feared the Japanese government would raise entry requirements without warning. If this happened while he was away, he could not return – separated from his livelihood, wife and children.

“On a whim, Japan almost seems ready to cut off any kind of aid to its immigrant population,” he said. “Getting kicked out feels like a lot more is on the table here.”

Mrs. Grift said Valiquette and her family will fly to New Brunswick in August if there are no changes to Japan’s travel rules. But she doesn’t have much hope.

“They just don’t care,” she said of the Japanese government.

There are about 5,410 Canadians living in Japan who have registered with the Canadians Abroad Registration service, Global Affairs Canada wrote in an emailed statement. The actual number of Canadians in the country is likely higher because registration is voluntary. Many are living there on student visas or 12-month work visas.

Matthew Fukushima, a doctoral student at Toyo University in Tokyo who is in Japan on a student visa, has not seen his family in Windsor, Ontario, for two years.

Mr. Fukushima has a Japanese husband, Daigo. But same-sex marriages are not recognized by the government of Japan, meaning there were no special exemptions available for Fukushima family members despite Daigo’s Japanese citizenship.

The Japanese government began re-admitting students to the country on April 1, but Fukushima said he still had concerns because changes at the border could be sudden.

Matthew Fukushima and her husband, Daigo, in Windsor, Ontario in February 2020.

Japan initially announced in February that it would start letting students back in on March 1. Hearing the news, Fukushima bought a plane ticket so he could visit her house in December. Within weeks, the Japanese government backtracked on the readmission policy as it worked to contain the spread of the Omicron variant.

Fukushima said he was relieved that his family was finally able to visit. in Japan as a result of the new travel visa.

“I don’t think they’re going to apply to come right away, but it’s nice to know that they could come if, knocking on wood, something happened to me and they needed to be here,” he said. He doesn’t plan on leaving the country anytime soon.

“I’m worried they’ll ban us again while I’m out of the country,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Fukushima does his best to start or end each day by talking to his parents. on the phone. But the 13-hour difference makes it difficult to schedule calls.

Last year, her mother was diagnosed with severe liver disease. He started making his potato and cheese recipe whenever he felt homesick. His mother has now recovered, but he said it was difficult to be away during the illness.

“I’m relieved to be able to see them now if necessary, but still upset that I can’t see them easily,” he said. “I also feel very angry at the government even for banning all foreign residents early on – including permanent residents.”

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