• Kyodo

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The number of foreign visitors to Japan in January fell 4.1 percent from a year earlier to 685,000, declining for the 11th straight month since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, an estimate by the Japan National Tourism Organization showed Friday.

The rate of decline was the lowest and the number of foreign visitors the highest during the 11-month period, showing signs of a recovery, although the Fukushima nuclear crisis and the yen’s historic appreciation continue to weigh.

China’s Lunar New Year holiday that fell in January, as opposed to February last year, is believed to have buoyed the number of foreign tourists visiting Japan, so the figure could fall in February, officials of the organization said.

Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner Hiroshi Mizohata told a press conference Friday, “The figure is picking up quicker than expected but people in South Korea are still sensitive about the nuclear accident.”

The number of travelers from South Korea is estimated to have dropped 35.4 percent, the sharpest decline by country, while visitors from Australia decreased 27.7 percent.

In contrast, the number of visitors from Hong Kong and mainland China posted record highs for the month, with an increase of 40.9 percent and 39.6 percent, respectively, due to the Chinese New Year.

Meanwhile, the number of Japanese going abroad rose 3.9 percent from a year earlier to 1,333,000, up for the seventh straight month, benefiting from the yen’s appreciation.

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