Around 6,000 Japanese citizens are thought to have travelled to Qatar for the World Cup 2022, the envoy said.
The Embassy of Japan has seen a noticeable rise in visa requests from Qatar since the start of the year as the visa exemption agreement between Qatar and Japan approaches implementation, The Peninsula reported.
Qatar and Japan exchanged official memoranda early February to begin the process of mutual visa exemption for holders of regular passports in the two countries.
Speaking to local media, Japanese envoy to Qatar, Satoshi Maeda, stressed that it is his responsibility to encourage reciprocal visits between Japan and Qatar, not just one-way visits to Japan.
“I am greatly pleased that the visa exemption agreement was finally concluded during the Strategic Dialogue, following the tremendous long-term efforts by both Japanese and Qatari authorities. The agreement is based on a pre-registration system of passports,” he said.
“However, it is expected to dramatically simplify the existing procedure and waive processing fees for those Qatari citizens wishing to travel to Japan.”
“This year, we are already receiving significantly more visa applications to our embassy. In this respect, the agreement would further positively impact the inbound of Qatari nationals to Japan, together with the easing of COVID-19 prevention measures,” Maeda added.
The move, scheduled to take effect from 2 April, allows holders of ordinary Qatari passports who intend to remain in Japan for a period not exceeding thirty consecutive days to visit Japan without acquiring a visa.
Qatari nationals will receive free registration certificates that are good for three years in order to avoid the need for a visa.
As of February 2023, Qatar is home to about 550 Japanese nationals, the ambassador said.
While Qatari authorities said the agreement will go into force on April 2, Maeda noted the Japanese government has not yet made specified a date.
Travel between Japan and the Middle East region has grown popular in recent years, prompting the Japan National Tourism Organisation to establish a Middle East office in Dubai in 2021 designed to educate potential tourists about halal offerings and other religious-related requests.
During the FIFA World Cup at the end of last year, some 6,000 Japanese citizens are thought to have travelled to Qatar for the tournament, Maeda said.
Meanwhile, the envoy highlighted the importance of Qatar-Japan relations, pointing to collaboration on commerce and liquified natural gas (LNG), in particular.
Doha and Tokyo have long enjoyed relations in multiple sectors, the most robust of which involves LNG.
Qatar is one of Japan’s biggest sources of LNG imports, alongside Russia, Australia and Malaysia.
In April 2022, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida confirmed their cooperation in stabilising energy markets, amid the insecurity the Russian invasion of Ukraine unravelled onto the market.
However, Maeda said relations between the two countries should venture beyond just trading LNG, highlighting Japan’s commitment to expanding bilateral ties in ways that are beneficial to both nations and also coincide with Qatar’s National Vision 2030.
“Indeed, Japan became the first importer of Qatar’s LNG export in 1997. Since then, the two countries have been fostering mutually-benefit primarily in the LNG sector,” he said, adding that in a bid to further deepen Japan-Qatar connections, Tokyo seeks to create multi-sectoral collaboration with Qatar that spans national security, academic exchange, new and renewable energy, culture, science, and technology, as well as human resource development.
Maeda further noted that Qatar’s exports increased from $0.76 billion in 2021 to approximately $1.23 billion last year. On the other hand, imports from Qatar increased from around $9.57 billion in 2021 to about $13.05 billion in 2022.
The envoy said that while the number of visits by Japanese businesses to Qatar is continuously increasing, the number of automobiles exported from Japan to Qatar in 2022 increased from 2020 to 21,825 vehicles. He continued by saying that more Japanese businesses are considering investing in waste electricity generation and wastewater treatment.
The trips of senior officials from both countries, according to Maeda, speak volumes about the importance of the political connections between the two nations, pointing to the Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani’s visit to Japan during the Second Japan-Qatar Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue.