With its contribution now rivaling that of the auto industry in at least one estimate, tourism is fast becoming a key focus of Japan's economic policy.

After Tokyo won its bid last September to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, the stage was set for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to intensify the government's efforts to promote Japan as an ideal tourist destination.

In January, as part of his "Abenomics" policy, he set a goal of doubling the annual number of foreign tourists to 20 million by 2020. In June, the government drew up a new action program, reworking the tone of tourism promotion measures.