During his days as a backpacker, Masamitsu Fujita visited 45 countries, joined around 15 adventure camping tours and befriended hundreds of fellow globetrotters. The thrill of meeting new people of various nationalities was liberating, so much so that Fujita went on to open a guest house in his native Kyoto catering to foreign tourists.

The timing couldn’t have been better. This was in 2014, when the number of international travelers to Japan was seeing a noticeable rise, surpassing 13 million for the first time. The figure continued to grow exponentially, edging near 20 million the following year and, in 2017, when he opened another inn, climbing close to 29 million.

The government’s goal was to attract 40 million inbound visitors by 2020, when the Olympics were set to come to Tokyo, and 60 million by 2030. It wasn’t an unrealistic target considering the rapid surge in the 2010s. Almost 32 million overseas tourists visited Japan in 2019.