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The number of foreign visitors to Japan in 2008 turned downward for the first time in five years, totaling about 9.15 million, down 5,800, or 0.1 percent, from the previous year when it marked a record high, the Justice Ministry said Thursday in a preliminary report.

The number “was on the rise in the first half of the reporting year, but dwindled in the latter half against the backdrop of the global economic downturn and the yen’s surge,” a ministry official said.

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