The Japan Tourism Agency is set to promote school trips abroad and other overseas tours for educational purposes in order to help expand interaction between young people in Japan and those outside the nation.

The government agency is eyeing China as a major destination for such trips. It will set up a public-private council comprising representatives from the education ministry, the travel industry and others in early February to discuss details, including hurdles that need to be cleared, sources said.

Based on the results of the talks, the agency will hold related seminars for schools across Japan in cooperation with the travel industry from around August, the sources said, adding that guidelines for the industry will also be created.

More and more Japanese high schools have been choosing overseas locations as destinations for their school trips in recent years, but trips to China and South Korea are on the decline, according to the Educational Tour Institute.

In fiscal 2007, a total of 16,500 students from 140 high schools visited China on school trips, and 23,600 students from 169 schools went to South Korea. But in fiscal 2017, only 3,300 students from 29 schools and 1,400 students from 18 schools traveled to China and South Korea, respectively.

Meanwhile, the number of Chinese students who visited Japan on school trips in fiscal 2018 shot up by over twofold from the preceding year to 17,800, partly because the Chinese government has been promoting school excursions, according to the tourism agency.

Given the wide gap between the numbers of Japanese and Chinese students visiting each other’s country, China has been repeatedly urging Japan at bilateral summit meetings and on other occasions to address the imbalance and expand two-way youth exchanges, sources said.

The agency expects that active youth exchanges will lead to a future increase in the number of foreigners traveling to Japan.

According to the Educational Tour Institute, 156,400 students from 895 schools in Japan went abroad on school trips in fiscal 2017, with Taiwan being the top destination, followed by Singapore and Australia.

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