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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #138: June 12, 2003

Foreign visitors to Japan top 5 million in 2002

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Foreign visitors to Japan top 5 million in 2002"
(by Kyodo) Yahoo


The number of foreign visitors to Japan increased significantly last year (2002), to the all time high of 5.24 million people. It was significant indeed, an increase of 467 thousand people, or 9.8% from the previous year.

But the number may be deceiving. Last year was a big year with the unforgettable event of the World Cup soccer co-hosted by Japan and South Korea. (Nobody talks about it here anymore, though, except in the context of a bunch of stadiums built for that single occasion left to lose millions of dollars of public money annually onward.) Sure enough, visitors from Korea showed an increase of 12.2% last year, or 140 thousand people, comprising 30% of the total increase.

Whatever the case, in contrast, 16.52 million Japanese traveled abroad, three times that of incoming foreigners.

Japan has never been enthusiastic about attracting foreign visitors. For a while after WWII, Japan was one of the least less-developed countries (LLDC), in today's language. There were few hotels in just a couple of large cities capable of providing adequate accommodation, and there was not much to see for the foreigners, on either business or pleasure. During the first decade after the war, Japan was busy rebuilding industry to produce goods to be exported. Tourism was still considered as luxury domestically, which prevented from better lodging facilities to be built. And much needed hard currency could be earned more efficiently through exporting goods than receiving tourists.

Mainly because of foreign exchange reasons, Japanese people were prohibited to travel abroad for sheer pleasure until 1964, when legal restraint was lifted, but limitation of foreign exchange continued for a while afterwards. In 1970, 854 thousand Japanese traveled abroad, and 863 thousand visitors came to Japan. By 1985, the numbers grew to 4.95 million and 2.33 million respectively, which means more than double the number of Japanese went abroad compared to foreigners who visited Japan.

Then came the surge of Japan's economy, which was later dubbed as "the bubble." In 1990, the number of Japanese traveling abroad topped the 10 million mark, at 11.0 million, while 3.2 million foreigners came to Japan.

It is only very recently that people, including politicians and bureaucrats, began to realize the implications of receiving tourists. On top of their direct spending locally, they would induce new industries, in both manufacturing and services, across the country worthy of visiting. And as a derivative effect, localities would start thinking and acting for themselves to make their towns and villages worthwhile to visit.

In 2001, Japan was at 35th place in the world for attracting foreign tourists, and only 9th within Asia. China being the top at receiving 3.3 million foreigners, and down the list were, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Macao, Indonesia, South Korea, and finally, Japan.

This year, under Prime Minister Koizumi's initiative, the government has put up a campaign to promote tourism for foreign visitors. Dubbed "Visit Japan" campaign, a fancy logo was created using a part of the specially allocated budget, and further measures are planned to be put in place during the course of the year.

Traveling and getting exposed to alien land, food, and people is certainly an enchanting experience for an individual, and as more people share the experience, it would eventually form a productive base for mutual understanding at ordinary peoples' levels, which is undoubtedly an ideal process leading to create a better world for people to live in.

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications