Japan starts 2023 with the world’s most powerful passport, allowing visa-free entry to 193 global destinations, according to the latest Henley Passport Index, which the country tops for the fifth consecutive year.
That doesn’t mean the passport is widely used, even as travel rebounds from Covid. Only 24 million valid Japanese passports were in circulation at the end of 2021, according to the latest available figures from the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That’s down more than 3 million from the year before and means that less than 20% of the population held the travel document.
Singapore and South Korea retained their places in joint second on the ranking, followed by Germany and Spain, and then a slew of other European nations.
The US was among the top 22, with visa-free access to 186 places, matching the likes of Switzerland, New Zealand and Norway. China’s allows access to 80, the same as Bolivia’s. Russia’s is better, providing hassle-free entry to 118 destinations, while Afghanistan’s remained the weakest, with access to just 27.
The ranking, published by London-based immigration consultancy Henley & Partners, uses data from the International Air Transport Association to rank 199 passports’ access to 227 travel destinations. The methodology differs from other passport indexes like one published by financial advisory Arton Capital, which put the United Arab Emirates in pole position.
Separately, a Morning Consult poll conducted in July showed that 35% of adult respondents in Japan indicated they didn’t plan to ever travel for leisure again, a far higher percentage than the other 13 nations surveyed. South Korea was the next, with 15% saying the same.
Nearly 2 million people traveled overseas from Japan in the first 10 months of last year, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization, a long way off the 20 million that did so in all of 2019, before the pandemic.
— With assistance by Kevin Varley