The annual number of foreign travelers to Japan topped 10 million for the first time in 2013. Still, Japan continues to lag far behind other Asian countries as a tourist destination, and much more needs to be done to turn international tourism into one of the nation's growth industries.

When a couple from Thailand arriving at Narita airport on Dec. 20 marked the landmark figure, transport minister Akihiro Ota said Japan will aim to increase the number to 20 million by the time Tokyo hosts the Summer Olympic Games in 2020. The government also has a longer-term target of welcoming 30 million foreign travelers by 2030.

Since the setbacks from the 2008-09 global recession and the March 2011 disasters in Japan, the increase in travelers from overseas has come on the back of growing individual wealth in emerging economies, greater flight capacity to Japan made possible by low-cost carriers and the yen's depreciation, which has made Japan a less expensive destination.