The number of visas issued to Chinese nationals between September and December fell around 44.4 percent from the same period a year earlier, the Foreign Ministry said Monday.
Around 144,000 visas were issued in the three-month period, compared with 259,000 the year before. A senior ministry official said a number of Chinese people apparently refrained from visiting Japan amid bilateral tension over the Senkaku Islands.
In September, the government effectively nationalized the islets, sparking protests in China, which also claims the islets and calls them the Diaoyu.
In the whole of 2012, 1.11 million visas were issued to Chinese nationals, up from around 740,000 the year before.
A total of around 1.98 million visas were issued to foreign visitors in 2012, up from 1.35 million a year earlier, when the number of tourists fell sharply following the March 2011 megaquake and tsunami in northeast Japan and the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Chinese accounted for 56.0 percent of all visas issued in 2012, remaining the top recipients for a second year, with Thais second at 11.5 percent and Malaysians third at 5.8 percent.