• JIJI, Kyodo

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The number of visitors to Japan from January to November this year has been estimated at 26,169,400, up 19.0 percent from a year earlier, the Japan National Tourism Organization said Wednesday.

The annual total will be a record high for the fifth consecutive year, reflecting increases in visitors in spring and autumn, as well as a rise in flights by low-cost carriers. In 2016, the annual sum came to 24,039,700.

“This year’s figure may reach 28.5 million,” Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner Akihiko Tamura told a press conference. “From now, it’ll be important to make efforts to increase consumption (by foreign visitors).”

The 11-month total includes 6,791,500 visitors from mainland China, up 14.2 percent, and 6,461,200 South Koreans, up 40.6 percent. Many South Korean tourists appear to have changed their travel destinations from China to Japan after the China-South Korea relationship began to sour in spring.

The number of Taiwanese visitors rose 9.2 percent, while that of Russians surged 41.8 percent after Japan relaxed visa requirements for Russian nationals in January.

Tokyo is aiming to raise the annual number of foreign visitors to 40 million in 2020 and 60 million in 2030, seeing promotion of the tourism industry as a key growth strategy.

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