• Kyodo News

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The number of foreign visitors to Japan fell 34.0 percent in May from a year earlier to 486,100, declining for the 10th straight month, amid the influenza pandemic and global recession, according to estimates announced by a government-affiliated body Wednesday.

The number of Japanese traveling abroad also decreased because of the new flu, down 18.6 percent to 1.03 million, despite a string of holidays early in the month, the Japan National Tourism Organization said.

The rate of decline was the sharpest since August 2003, when it dropped 22.4 percent amid the SARS outbreak.

Among 12 countries and regions in which the Japanese government has been making efforts to attract visitors, travelers from South Korea posted the steepest decline, of 48.5 percent, followed by Taiwan at 47.9 percent and Singapore at 40.8 percent.

The number of people from China fell 18.8 percent in May.

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