Foreign visitors to Japan in 2002 increased by 9.8 percent from the previous year to 5.24 million, topping the 5 million mark for the first time, the transport ministry reported Tuesday in presenting a to-do list for achieving the government goal of attracting 10 million annual visitors by 2010.

The government’s fiscal 2002 white paper on sightseeing and tourism says more than one in 10 foreign visitors had some sort of grievance about their stay in Japan, with the complaints ranging from high transportation costs to language problems.

Non-English-speaking visitors find it particularly vexing for the lack of information at tourist attractions around the country, the report says.

The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry, which compiled the white paper, listed three key steps for achieving the goal of 10 million visitors: set up multilingual signposts at tourist sites; reduce sightseeing-related costs; and simplify and expedite the visa process.

On top of the language barrier and the high costs of transportation for bullet trains, subways and taxis, foreign visitors also complained about the high cost of accommodations.

The white paper says 21.9 percent of foreign visitors complained of high lodging costs, while 19.4 percent complained of language problems at accommodation facilities. The figures were based on a multiple-choice survey, officials said.

Despite a surge of foreign visitors to Japan last year, helped probably by the 2002 World Cup soccer finals, their number is still dwarfed, by a ratio of three-to-one, by the number of Japanese who travel overseas. According to the white paper, 16.52 million Japanese went abroad last year.

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