Japan cancels travel warning to Jerusalem

Monday, December 25, 2006 |  by Staff Writer
The Japanese Foreign Ministry has decided over the weekend to lower the travel warning for Jerusalem and the Dead Sea from level two to level one, meaning there is no restriction to traveling to those areas.

The update in the travel warning went into effect this weekend and was automatically transferred to all travel agencies in Japan. This is the fruit of a long struggle waged by the Israeli embassy in Japan, the Foreign Ministry, and Israeli tourism officials. The one who personally took charge of this issue was the Japanese ambassador to Israel Yoshinori Katori who was able to persuade his government to significantly ease the warning about Jerusalem.

During the years of the Intifada, the entire country was classified as level three, which is the highest level of warning effectively classifying Israel as extremely dangerous. This fact hurt trade and commerce between the two countries and significantly shrunk the already low number of Japanese tourists coming to Israel. At the end of 2004, Japan decided to lower the warning level from three to two, but travel agents in Japan were not quick to recommend Japanese tourists to travel to Israel. However, the number of Japanese tourists that year rose to 6,000.

In 2005, the number of tourists climbed to 8,500. In 2006, the Israeli embassy in Japan planned to double that number, but the war in Lebanon ruined those plans. The estimate is that the number of tourists from Japan will surpass 10,000.

In April 2005, the Japanese Foreign Ministry decided to lower the warning from level two to level one, except for Jerusalem and the seam area which remained on level two. This badly hurt the tourism to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. Israel continued to ask the Japanese to lower the Jerusalem/Dead Sea restrictions from level two to level one, and this weekend the Japanese announced they have lowered the restriction.

Now, the entire country (except for the Palestinian territories) is under level one, which is the same as countries such as Egypt, Turkey, and others who receive hundreds of thousands of Japanese tourists every year.

The Japanese decision is also a gesture for Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni which will arrive in Tokyo for the first time this January.

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