US and other countries ease Japan travel restrictions
As restaurants and shops start to re-open, residents return to the streets in Fukushima, Japan. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
While the situation in northern Japan is still facing numerous challenges, life in the rest of Japan is returning to normal faster than most would have expected.
As a result, the US State Department and other countries' foreign offices are adjusting previous advice to defer all trips to Japan.
For example, as of this morning, the US State Department advises citizens to defer non-essential trips to Tokyo and defer all travel to the evacuation zone around Fukushima. But it's given the green light to travel elsewhere in Japan.
Earlier this week Denmark, Sweden and Finland eased earlier bans that prevented all travel to Japan. Now, the three countries recommend that citizens defer only non-essential trips. Several international organizations such as the World Health Organization have ruled out recommending travel restrictions to Japan, except in areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami.
Last week, I compared cancelling a trip to the areas south and west of Tokyo to cancelling a trip to Atlanta or Miami after 9/11 occurred in New York City and Washington DC, hundreds of miles away. Nearly all Japanese hotels are operating as normal and BBC Travel Facebook fans confirmed that in some areas, it is business as usual.
Naturally, airlines are reporting significant decreases in passengers for flights to Japan, and many are adjusting their schedules around this. But there are still thousands of travellers arriving in Japan every day. Over the last week, Korean Air reports that its nonstop flights between Los Angeles and Tokyo were 65% to 90% full. ANA, Japan's second largest carrier, had 30% less inbound flights and 15% less outbound flights between 11 and 21 March. While those are significant declines for any airline to bear, it's evidence that there are still plenty of people flying in and out of Japan, despite the warnings.
If you're still waiting and wondering whether to take a business trip to Japan in coming weeks or months, keep an eye on government issued warnings. I'm betting that we'll see a greater easing of travel warnings and restrictions over the next week.
Chris McGinnis is the business travel columnist for BBC.com