More than 1,300 people have applied to travel to Japan on guided tours since the country restarted visa procedures to accept some leisure visitors from abroad a week ago as worries about the COVID-19 pandemic wane, a government agency said Friday.

Koichi Wada, who heads the Japan Tourism Agency, said at a press conference that over 300 applications have been received for June, with around 1,000 from July onward.

The very first group comprising a small number of people arrived in Japan on Wednesday, he said, without revealing their nationalities.

People apply in Bangkok on June 10, 2022, for visas to go to Japan as Japan resumes visa procedures to accept foreign tourists amid receding worries about the coronavirus pandemic. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Wada said he expects entries to Japan to "rise slowly," with most of the arrivals coming mainly from Southeast Asian countries, as well as South Korea and the United States.

Tour participants to Japan are requested to observe infection prevention measures, including wearing masks, and are asked to take out medical insurance in the event they contract the coronavirus. Operators of package tours are required to explain to customers that they may not be able to travel if they do not follow the guidelines.

Tourists need their travel agencies to enter their travel information such as names, passport numbers and their place of stay on the country's immigration registration website before applying for and obtaining visas.

On June 10, the Japanese government resumed procedures to accept foreign tourists, taking the initial step toward increasing inbound tourism for the first time in around two years.

The relaxations are limited to people from 98 countries and regions deemed low-risk for coronavirus transmission, including the United States, Britain, China, South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand.

Japan has slowly lifted its cap on entry numbers, most recently doubling it to 20,000 on June 1. Before the pandemic, the country had aimed for 40 million foreign visitors in 2020 when it was originally scheduled to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which were postponed for a year.

The government has not indicated when it will begin allowing individual travelers again. It has said "appropriate decisions will be made" on further relaxations based on factors including the infection situations at home and abroad.

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