• Staff report

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The government may temporarily lift regional restrictions for issuing visas to Chinese tour groups, allowing visitors from any part of China to enter Japan during the 2005 World Expo in Aichi Prefecture, which will run from March 25 through Sept. 25, transport minister Kazuo Kitagawa said Monday.

“We need to set up an environment to make it easier for Chinese people to come to Japan in order to further expand interpersonal exchanges between Japan and China,” Kitagawa told reporters before leaving for China to promote Japan as a tourism destination.

Japan currently issues tourist visas to group travelers residing in three cities and five provinces — Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin, and the provinces of Guangdong, Shandong, Zhejiang, Liaoning and Hangsu.

In 2000, Japan started granting tourist visa to Chinese group tourists only from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong Province.

The tourism industry has been pushing the government to allow more Chinese visitors in Japan, and in September, Japan eased the geographical criteria to add one city and four provinces on the list of areas that could qualify for visas.

Japan has been cautious about issuing visas to Chinese travelers, citing concerns about those who may try to stay on illegally after arriving here.

The Aichi Expo is estimated to draw 15 million visitors from around the globe. The government hopes the event will boost the number of foreign travelers to Japan to achieve the target under the Visit Japan Campaign to attract foreign travelers.

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