BEIJING - As Chinese tourists flock to Japan for the first time, it’s not just shopping they leave with. Many are taking home new, positive perspectives of an often vilified nation.
“Shop clerks were so kind,” said Zhang Yingxi, 21, a university student from Beijing as she showed a Hello Kitty doll she bought. “I was surprised.”
It changed her image of the country for the better, Zhang said, as she had learned extensively about Japan’s invasion of China and not much else.
She posted photos of her Japan trip on a Chinese social networking site, where they were viewed by some 20,000 people.
As for the shopping itself, that brings pleasure, too.
“Of all the things I bought in Japan, none has disappointed me,” said Liu Ruifang, 50, who took a six-day trip to Japan in November with a friend.
The tour she took to Tokyo, Hakone, Mount Fuji, Kyoto and Osaka was an eye-opening experience for Liu, who retired last year. She found that people who looked much older than her were still working and seemed in good shape.
“Some of them were over 70 and were still working, wearing pretty clothes,” Liu recalled. “It’s amazing.”
She and her friend spent around ¥500,000 on hair dryers, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, confectionery, pickles and other items.
“I feel secure about shopping in Japan because there are no fake products,” said Yang Wenxiao, a 27-year-old woman.
Gao Yang, 28, bought vests at an outlet mall in Japan.
“When I asked directions, people were really kind and showed me the way. In China, I often have to ask multiple people to get to the place,” he said.
Deng Yi, 36, and his wife Du Nan, 29, cherish photos they took of sushi, Kinkakuji Temple and a Gundam statue.
What impressed them was the sight of Japanese mothers taking care of their children alone in trains and stores. In China, children are taken care of by the entire family, not just mothers, as having a dual income is the norm for couples, they said.
Just before the Lunar New Year holidays, Japan’s embassy in Beijing and consulates in other cities saw a rush of visa applications.
In 2015, the number of Chinese visitors to Japan more than doubled from the previous year to some 5 million, as a relaxation of tourist visa requirements sparked a travel boom.