More than 100 foreigners who arrived in Japan via cruise ships have been reported missing in the country since last year.
Since the Ship Tourism Landing Permit System under Japan’s Immigration Control Act took effect on Jan. 1, 2015, the country has seen a huge rise in foreigners travelers.
Roughly 410,000 foreigners entered Japan via cruise ships in 2014 to 2.44 million in 2018, according to SoraNews24.
Travelers on cruise ships can have their visa requirements waived and do not need their photographs taken when going through immigration, provided they arrive on ships approved by Japan’s Immigration Bureau, have their passage home booked on the same vessel and provide their fingerprints through scanners upon entering in the country.
The new system does not make any significant changes for tourists from the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia or Korea (citizens of which are allowed to visit Japan for 90 days without a visa). But it does make travel significantly easier for those coming from China or a number of Southeast Asian countries who face more difficult visa requirements.
While the subsequent increase in foreign travelers via cruise ships has been good for tourism, it has also led to a massive rise in missing foreigners who take up this route to enter the country.
The number of people who went missing in 2015 was only 21, but that figure quintupled to 106 in 2018. These 106 foreigners entered Japan via cruise ship, but never left the country through the same mode or by any other means.
Japan’s Immigration Bureau denied one of the cruise lines that repeatedly had passengers missing from renewing its Ship Tourism Landing Permit System status in July 2018. This was the first time a cruise line has had its request denied.
In addition, the bureau asked other cruise lines for greater diligence in vetting their passengers who intend to illegally stay in Japan upon arrival.
The bureau also asked that they reject entry to passengers who might have greater risk of disappearing in the country.