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The number of visitors to Japan hit a record high of 4.44 million in 1999, up 8 percent from the pervious year, mainly due to the economic recovery in Asia following the 1997 financial crisis, according to a government tourism report released Friday.

But Japan is still ranked 32nd in the world in terms of the total number of tourists, followed by South Korea, Croatia and Egypt.

The white paper on tourism calls for further measures to attract tourists, pointing out that the number of visitors to Japan is only one-fourth of the number of Japanese who go abroad each year.

About 63 percent of the visitors to Japan came from other parts of Asia, 19 percent from North America and 13 percent from Europe.

By area, Tokyo attracted the most foreign visitors, accounting for 60.9 percent of the total, followed by Osaka with 22.6 percent, Kyoto 15.7 with percent and Chiba with 15.4 percent in fiscal 1998.

Meanwhile the number of Japanese traveling abroad saw growth from 15.81 million in 1998 to 16.36 million in 1999, thanks to the modest recovery of the Japanese economy and a rise in the yen’s value, the report says.

Other parts of Asia saw particularly sharp rises in the number of Japanese visitors. Travelers to China increased 23 percent, those going to South Korea moved up by 11 percent, and Thailand saw 6 percent more visitors than in the previous year.

An increasing number of Japanese elderly people have been traveling abroad, the report also found. From 1993 to 1999, overseas travelers 60 years and older increased 68 percent to 2.2 million, while the average growth rate of all generations was 37 percent during the same period.