Visitors to Japan top 1 million for record-high month in July

Kyodo

More than 1 million foreign visitors came to Japan in July, a record high for any month ever, due partly to the effect of eased visa requirements for Southeast Asian nations, a government tourism body said Wednesday.

The arrivals, numbering 1,003,100, eclipsed the previous record of 923,000 set in April and was 18.4 percent higher than in July last year, the Japan National Tourism Organization said.

July saw the start of a new waiver of visa requirements for short-term tourists from Thailand and Malaysia and the granting of multiple-entry visas for three years to visitors from the Philippines and Vietnam.

The government aims to boost the annual number of foreign tourists to 10 million this year. Foreign visitor arrivals from January to July numbered 5,957,700, according to a tally by JNTO.

By country and region, South Korea ranked first with 244,000 visitors, up 28.6 percent, partly due to discounted tickets from South Korea, followed by Taiwan with 238,500, up 48.7 percent, supported by new flights by low-cost carriers.

Visitors from Thailand marked an increase of 84.7 percent to 30,200, while those from Malaysia rose 25.2 percent to 9,900.

A JNTO official voiced hope that visitors from Malaysia will increase further in August and beyond, given that July was when Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, started.

The number of visitors from Hong Kong posted a 65.7 percent increase to 85,300, due largely to chartered flights to cities in western and southwestern Japan.

But visitor numbers from China fell 31.5 percent to 140,000 due to strained bilateral ties over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. China also claims the islets, and calls them the Diayou.