The number of foreign tourists visiting Japan hit a record 4.37 million in 2005, up 13.8 percent from the previous year and surpassing 4 million for the first time, a government-affiliated organization said Monday.

The Japan National Tourist Organization attributed the increase to the World Expo in Aichi Prefecture from March to September and visa waivers made permanent for tourists from South Korea and Taiwan.

About 1.75 million of the tourists were from South Korea, followed by sightseers from Taiwan, the United States and mainland China, according to JNTO, an affiliate of the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry.

The overall number of visitors was a record 6.73 million in 2005, up 9.6 percent from a year earlier, it said.

The government aims to raise the number of visitors to Japan to 10 million annually by 2010.

The number of Japanese who traveled abroad was 17.4 million in 2005, the second highest ever, following 2000, it said.

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