Japan's foreign ministry issues Y2K travel warning

Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has warned travellers and Japanese residents abroad to be ready for "inconveniences" arising from the Y2K computer problem over the New Year holiday.

The ministry said in a statement released on the internet on Wednesday that globetrotting citizens should plan for the possibility that services may break down while they are overseas. Before venturing to foreign lands over the New Year holiday, travellers should leave a detailed itinerary with family or friends, confirm the latest year 2000 information with their air carrier, and check to see if their travel insurance covers year 2000-related mishaps, the ministry added.

Generally speaking, Japan's domestic preparations for the year 2000 computer problem appear to be in hand. However, the Foreign Ministry is not alone in casting a wary eye over the level of readiness in other countries.

Japan's largest travel agency, the Japan Travel Bureau (JTB), said last month it will restrict the sales of tours over the New Year period due to concerns about the effect of the year 2000 problem on airline safety.

JTB will not sell any tour packages with flights on New Year's Eve and January 1, according to a spokeswoman at the company. The ban will include any flights that break the midnight barrier in local time or GMT (Greenwich Mean Time), the spokeswoman said.

The New Year holiday and the recently ended Obon summer holiday are the most popular times for Japanese to travel abroad.

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