August saw record number of foreign visitors

Kyodo News

The number of foreign visitors in August came to 803,000, breaking the previous record of 757,000 for the month set in 2007, owing to surges in Chinese and South Korean tourists, the Japan Tourism Agency said.

It was the 10th consecutive monthly year-on-year increase since November, with South Koreans accounting for the largest portion at 247,000, up 29.3 percent, followed by Chinese at 172,000, up 57.6 percent, the agency said Monday.

The cumulative number of Chinese visitors in the January-August period came to 1.040 million, already topping the yearly total of 1.006 million for 2009.

In contrast, the number of U.S. visitors in August dropped 4.4 percent to 56,000, apparently because of the recent sharp rise in the yen’s value against the dollar.

The surge in Chinese visitors appears to have resulted from the buoyant Chinese economy and the relaxation in July of Japan’s visa requirements.

But agency officials noted that travel agencies have not received orders from Chinese tourist groups to visit Japan during the Oct. 1-8 holiday season or later, amid escalating bilateral tensions over the detention Sept. 8 of a Chinese fishing boat captain off the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

The officials expressed concern that the row may cause the number of Chinese visitors to fall.

Counting up all foreign visitors in the January-August period, the number came to 5.884 million, up 33.5 percent from the same period last year.