• Kyodo


With the Lunar New Year holiday underway, tourists from China are thronging Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district, loading up on duty-free electronics and luxury brands.

“We saw twice as many customers as usual today,” a clerk at a luxury brand store said Sunday. “Our budget was ¥30,000 per person,” said a 43-year-old man who came with his relatives in a group of 30. “I bought a randoseru (the hard-shell leather backpack used by Japanese schoolchildren) and a digital piano for my daughter.”

Of the places he has visited so far, the man said he was most impressed with Kinkakuji Temple in Kyoto.

A 41-year-old Chinese man who came to Japan last Thursday with his family for a one-week holiday said he had bought a Japanese watch and has found sushi and ramen very tasty.

“My son has also been enjoying it,” he said with a smile.

In Osaka, tourists from China, Taiwan and South Korea packed Kansai International Airport while local retailers were busy stocking products before they arrived.

Wan Chen, 30, who visited a Don Quijote discount store in central Osaka last week with his wife, said they walked out with several shopping bags filled with items like plastic airplane models and electric shavers. “We have no idea how much we’re going to spend here,” Wan said with a laugh.

The pair spent some ¥100,000 at the discount store, which opened last June targeting foreign travelers in Midosuji, one of Osaka’s central avenues.

Tourists typically form a long line at the store’s tax exemption counter. For the Lunar New Year holiday this week, the store is also offering “lucky bags” and lottery events.

Kenta Ueda, 32, manager of a premium sneaker store in Shinsaibashi, Osaka’s famous shopping street, breathed a sigh of relief after he managed to open the outlet last Thursday, just in time for the Lunar New Year. “About 70 percent of our customers are from abroad. It’s a very good start, just as planned,” he said.

The number of foreign visitors who disembarked at Kansai International Airport on Saturday was estimated at about 58,000, more than the number of travelers during the Bon holiday in the summer or Japan’s New Year’s holiday.

The Ichiran ramen chain’s Dotonbori outlet, which operates around the clock with no days off, is also benefiting from the surge in foreign tourists.

Last April, the Osaka branch, which draws some 400,000 customers yearly — 60 percent of whom are foreign nationals — to a five-story building, dedicating the entire space to accommodating customers.

Kim Hae-rim, 31, an office worker from Seoul who came to Japan using a budget carrier, praised Ichiran, saying it caters to the needs of travelers.

“Even if you arrive at the airport in the middle of the night, you can come and eat anytime,” Kim said.

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