The total number of nights spent by foreign guests in the disaster-hit northeast surpassed the 1 million mark in 2017 for the first time on the back of a continued increase in inbound tourism, according to a recent government survey.
The survey by the Japan Tourism Agency showed a cumulative 1.02 million stays were made in accommodations including hotels and inns in the Tohoku region’s six prefectures — Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Miyagi, Yamagata and Fukushima — up 40 percent from the previous year.
Aiming to attract 1.5 million visitors to the region by 2020, the government has been intensifying tourism campaign efforts, which have particularly ramped up since 2016, five years after the massive earthquake and tsunami triggered the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
Prior to the disaster, the number of stays in the region was 510,000 in 2010, but the survey methodology used at the time slightly differed from the most recent assessment.
In addition to the country’s generally booming tourism sector, it is believed visitor numbers were boosted by travelers from Southeast Asia looking to experience the area’s abundant snow, while others wanted to show support for its recovery.
By prefecture, Aomori topped the ranks in overnight stays by foreign people at 260,000, followed by Miyagi at 240,000 and Iwate at 190,000. Of the six, Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima were those hardest hit by the March 2011 disasters.
Aomori improved accessibility with the 2016 opening of the Hokkaido Shinkansen Line, which passes through the area and on to the southwestern tip of Hokkaido.
According to a survey of accommodation facilities with at least 10 employees, Taiwanese spent the most nights in the region (380,000), followed by Chinese (160,000) and South Koreans (80,000) in the period.