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Tea Leaves

The new geopolitics of travel bubbles

Stakes rise in East Asia as tourist restrictions are eased

The International Departure Lobby of Narita Airport's Terminal 1 is deserted due to the effects of the new coronavirus on June 10. (Photo by Konosuke Urata)

To adapt Oscar Wilde, if there's one thing worse than hordes of tourists everywhere, it's no tourists anywhere. Such were my thoughts as I tramped through the deserted hallways of Tokyo's Narita Airport one recent evening.         

The lighting was dimmed as if for a funeral, and the only refreshments available were in eerily glowing vending machines. However, I got personal service from a cluster of masked and gloved immigration personnel who politely asked why I was leaving Japan and warned that I might not be allowed to return.

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