The number of foreign visitors to Japan in the January-November period is estimated to have been 22,332,000, topping the 20 million mark for the first time since the spread of COVID-19, government data showed Wednesday.

In November alone, the estimated number was 2,440,800, close to 2,441,274 in the same month of 2019, before the pandemic, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

The number of foreign visitors, mainly from South Korea, Taiwan and the United States, is steadily recovering on the back of the cheap yen. In October, the monthly number of foreign visitors topped pre-pandemic levels for the first time.

Expectations are growing that the annual number of foreign visitors could hit a new record high in 2024. An estimate by travel agency JTB suggests that the 2024 total could reach 33.1 million, surpassing the current record high of about 31.88 million, set in 2019.

Meanwhile, the number of visitors from mainland China, which accounted for about 30% of all visitors to Japan before the pandemic, has remained sluggish. In November, the number of those from mainland China was down 65.6% from the 2019 level, partly due to a delay in the resumption of flights between Japan and China.

In November, 649,900 visitors came from South Korea, followed by 403,500 from Taiwan, 258,300 from China excluding Hong Kong and Macau, 200,400 from Hong Kong and 184,800 from the United States. All the figures, except for China, renewed their respective record highs for the month.