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‘Golden Week’ comes and goes as Japan visitors face COVID hurdles when traveling to Hawaii

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 8:54 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - More and more visitors are starting to return to the islands and the sidewalks of Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki. And at this time of year, more of them would be from Japan.

But, there are still very few Japanese visitors, despite the recent Golden Week holiday.

Golden Week is a time in Japan when a group of holidays converge, which Japanese workers use as a spring break of sorts in order to travel without having to use as much vacation time.

During this time, many of those workers head to Hawaii.

Japan tops the list of international visitors to the islands. In 2019, there were 1.5 million of them. They also typically splurge here, each of them spending $250 per person, per day.

This year, just getting to Hawaii proves to be much more expensive and difficult.

“I think there’s many obstacles,” said Jerry Agrusa, a professor at the University of Hawaii’s School of Travel Industry Management. “The big obstacle is the testing and their lack of having the vaccines over there. They just don’t have it available there like we have here.”

More than a third of the U.S. population is now fully vaccinated, but in Japan, fewer than 3% of people have had their first shot.

Not only is the country far behind on vaccinations. The COVID test to fly to Hawaii is about $300 or more.

That’s just one of the reasons local entertainer and television producer, Pali Kaaihue, stopped his monthly visits to Japan when the pandemic began.

Another obstacle is the mandatory quarantine for anyone returning to the country.

“There are folks that come here from Japan, but again they have to have the time to take off when they return for two weeks,” said Kaaihue.

And there’s another factor: “The big thing they’re worried about is the Olympics,” said Agrusa. “They can’t have an outbreak before the Olympics.”

The summer games are tentatively scheduled for July, but with no fans. And, there’s still an open debate on whether to postpone the games again.

“They’re doing these types of lockdowns in Osaka and Tokyo to battle rising numbers, but also to keep under control the amount of potential exposure, because they’ll want the games to go off without a hitch,” Kaaihue said.

He and other tour guides say trips between both countries are booked as travelers anxiously await the end of the lockdowns and restrictions.

The Honolulu Marathon remains the number one attraction for Japanese tourists. Organizers are hoping the COVID threat is low enough for a big turnout in December.

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