May visitors soar to record 875,000

Kyodo

The number of foreign visitors to Japan jumped 31.2 percent in May from the year before to 875,000, a record for the reporting month, due to the weaker yen and the growing number of flights by low-cost carriers, a government tourism organization said Wednesday.

The previous record was 736,000 set in May 2008, the Japan National Tourism Organization said, adding the latest figure is also the third-biggest on record.

By country, South Korea ranked first in terms of the number of visitors to Japan, with 229,000, up 45.5 percent, followed by Taiwan with 196,000, up 61.7 percent, and China with 82,000, down 27.2 percent, according to the JNTO.

It traced the surge in the number of South Koreans to the string of consecutive holidays in May as well as discounts available in the month, while linking the leap in the number of Taiwanese visitors to the inauguration of flights to New Ishigaki Airport on Okinawa’s Ishigaki Island.

It attributed the plunge in the number of Chinese travelers to the tension in bilateral ties stemming from Japan’s effective nationalization of the Senkaku Islands last year.

The JNTO also revised the preliminary overall tally of foreign visitors for the whole of 2012 to 8.36 million from 8.37 million.