"I've got my business to attend to, so the only time I can take time off for a home visit is at the year end," a Japanese residing in Australia, referred to only by his first name, Akio, tells Weekly Playboy (Dec 26). "I've given up on making it home this year; but if this situation continues in the future I don't know if I'll ever be able to return to Japan."
A survey conducted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in October 2021 found that 1.34 million Japanese nationals reside outside of their homeland. And growing numbers are concerned that their situations are threatening to emulate the title of American author Thomas Wolfe's famous 1940 novel, "You can't go home again."
"By the time travel restrictions on entry into Japan were lifted on October 11 of this year, the yen's value had dropped," said Yukio Yanazawa, an Australia-based writer. "On the one hand that made travel inside Japan considerably cheaper, so the number of foreign tourists planning visits soared. But this threw the balance of supply and demand out of whack, and on top of that the airlines had cut back on their flights during the pandemic, and the schedules still haven't recovered.
"So the result was that prices for tickets to Japan went through the roof."
Australia isn't the only place where Japanese expats have found themselves in a quandary. Closer to home, there's mainland China, which has applied draconian restrictions to control the spread of the coronavirus since 2020.
"Before the pandemic, the prices for round trip flights between China and Japan, whether at the year end or at other times, ran between ¥40,000 and ¥60,000," a Japanese who resides in China told the magazine. "Right now, they've gone up about tenfold, to around ¥400,000. To add insult to injury, upon their return to China travelers must report to a designated hospital for two PCR tests, which cost an additional ¥40,000. The red tape is also really troublesome. That's why I haven't been back to Japan since 2020."
Presently China requires all returnees from abroad to undergo a five-day quarantine in a hotel, followed by three more days of quarantine inside their home.
The key question is, how much longer is this airline ticket price inflation likely to continue?
In theory at least, the prices should gradually come down as carriers increase the number of flights.
"In Australia's case, cabin attendants have been laid off under the pretext of protecting them from overwork, but there are no assurances they'll return to their jobs," Yanazawa pointed out. "What worries me more than anything, though, is that the airlines are coming to the realization that in the current situation, they can get away with selling tickets at even at three times their price before Corona."
While the Japanese yen dropped sharply from its peak of around ¥150 to one US dollar from early December -- to around ¥135 at present -- the article noted that Australia's Qantas airlines has not made any moves to adjust its ticket charges downward.
"I suppose their main justification is that they realize they can sell seats without the need to reduce prices," Yanazawa said. "Also, the differential between the Japanese yen and Australian dollar only changed slightly, from ¥94 to ¥92, which was not enough to impact on their ticket prices."
It may be a long time until ticket prices return to normal -- if ever -- the article concludes.© Japan Today