The number of foreign visitors to Japan in the first half of 2013 reached a record high of 4.95 million, up 22.8 percent from a year earlier, helped by the yen’s weakness and the popularity of low-cost carriers, a government body said Wednesday.
The figure eclipsed the previous high of 4.33 million recorded in the January-June period of 2008, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.
JNTO said the negative effects on tourism following the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters have been resolved.
By country and region, South Koreans accounted for the largest proportion of foreign visitors, at 1.32 million, up 38.4 percent from a year earlier, followed by Taiwanese at 1.03 million, up 49.4 percent.
The number of Chinese visitors, however, fell 27 percent to 536,200, with those on mainstay group tours falling amid strained relations between Japan and China over the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
The government aims to increase the annual number of foreign tourists to Japan from about 8.37 million in 2012 to 10 million in 2013.
Chinese government data released as of Wednesday meanwhile said the number of Japanese tourists to China in the first six months of this year dropped 25.5 percent from a year earlier to 1.39 million.
In June alone, the number fell 30.2 percent to 221,500, data from China’s National Tourism Administration showed. It was the 12th straight month of decline.
The slump appears to be related to both an ongoing diplomatic dispute between China and Japan over a group of Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea that China also lays claim to, and to growing concerns about severe air pollution in China.
The slump is a blow to the inbound Chinese tourism industry, as Japanese tourists to China make up the second largest number of arrivals, after holiday-makers from South Korea.