TOKYO, September 14. /TASS/. No decisions have been made concerning the further easing of visa restrictions between Japan and Russia, particularly between the Hokkaido Prefecture and the Sakhalin region, a source in the Japanese Foreign Ministry told TASS.
When asked to comment on Sakhalin Region Governor Oleg Kozhemyako’s proposal to abolish visas on a mutual basis, the source said that "as for the further measures on easing visa restrictions, including the idea to abolish visas for residents of Hokkaido and Sakhalin, nothing has been decided yet." The source pointed out that since January 2017, the procedures for obtaining Japanese visas had been simplified for Russian citizens. "If we speak in general, we believe that it is important to step up humanitarian exchanges between Hokkaido and Sakhalin, which are neighboring regions of the two countries, in order to boost Japanese-Russian relations in various spheres," the Japanese Foreign Ministry added.
On September 6, during the Eastern Economic Forum in Russia’s Vladivostok, Kozhemyako held a meeting with Hokkaido Governor Harumi Takahashi. Following the meeting, the Sakhalin regional government’s press service said that the governor had suggested to establish a visa-free "tourist bridge" between Sakhalin and Hokkaido.
"The potential of bilateral tourist exchanges is huge and I am sure that the introduction of visa-free travel for Russians visiting Japan could help us fully use it," Kozhemyako said at the meeting with Takahashi. "Visas have only been abolished for Japanese citizens travelling to Sakhalin by the Korsakov-Wakkanai ferry service. If Japan took similar steps, a new tourist product could be created that would be very popular. Residents of the two countries would receive an opportunity to freely visit the resorts of both Sakhalin and Japan," the Sakhalin governor added.
On January 1, the Japanese authorities eased visa formalities for Russian citizens. The decision was made in order to implement agreements reached at the Russian-Japanese summit on December 15-16, 2016.
Visa validity periods for multiple short-stay visas for Russian citizens was extended to five years, these kind of visas allow a continuous stay of up to 90 days. Besides, Japan also started to issue multiple-entry visas valid for up to three years as well as short-stay visas allowing a continuous stay of up to 30 days, this rule will particularly apply to tourist trips. In addition, Japan canceled the requirement according to which Russians had to submit a guarantee letter from their Japanese hosts when applying for an entry visa individually.
Moscow expects these steps to facilitate contacts between Russian and Japanese citizens and boost mutually beneficial economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation.