As part of campaign to attract more overseas tourists to Japan, the government is planning to open the State Guest House in Tokyo’s Minato Ward to general visitors as early as April next year, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Thursday.
Earlier in the day, Suga inspected the neo-baroque, European-style structure, which was originally built in 1909 as the Crown Prince’s palace.
Renovated in 1974 into the State Guest House, the palace has provided accommodations for state and official guests, including foreign monarchs, presidents and prime ministers. It has also been used for various diplomatic meetings, ceremonies and receptions.
“This structure is of great value. It was built with the best architectural and engineering skills of the Meiji Period (1868-1912), and now has been designated as a National Treasure,” Suga told a news conference at the palace.
“We will be opening this up to the public so that many (Japanese citizens) and foreign tourists can deeply enjoy the history and culture of Japan,” Suga said.
Suga is a key promoter of inbound tourism campaigns under the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Shortly before the news conference, Suga and reporters were given a guided tour around the State Guest House.
Five main halls are all decorated with huge, shiny chandeliers, including the Kacho-no-ma room, which features 36 fine oil paintings on the ceiling, several tapestries on the transom and 30 cloisonne plaques on the walls, which all depict birds and flowers.
The State Guest House is currently opened to the public for 10 days in August, but it requires applications in advance and visitors are usually chosen by lottery.
The government now plans to regularly open the palace to the public starting in April, officials said.
Abe’s Cabinet is trying to further promote inbound tourism to Japan, which has been rapidly expanding thanks in part to the recent depreciation of the yen.
The number of foreign arrivals totaled 14.5 million for the January to September period this year, up 48.8 percent from the same period last year and already exceeding the 13.4 million total for all of 2014.
The government is reportedly considering raising the target number of overseas tourists to Japan to 30 million a year from the current 20 million.
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