The number of foreign visitors to Japan totalled 845,000 in July, the second-highest monthly total on record and a 50.5 percent increase from a year earlier, the government’s tourism promotion agency said Friday.
The latest figure reflects a continued recovery in tourism after the plunge following the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and start of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, but officials are concerned the recent territorial rows with China and South Korea could again spark a drop-off.
“I hope ties with South Korea, as well as with China, do not get any worse,” said Norifumi Ide, head of the Japan Tourism Agency.
The Japan National Tourism Organisation, which operates under the agency, said the July total was still down 3.8 percent from the record high set in July 2010 but showed a “recovery trend overall” in tourism due to increased family trips during the summer vacation season and the launch of new airline services.
The yen’s appreciation, which makes travel to Japan more costly for foreigners, and concerns over radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster continue to weigh on the industry, the JNTO said.
In July, the number of foreign travellers from China and Taiwan both hit record highs for any month, with visitors from China surpassing 200,000 for the first time. The number of visitors from Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam all set new records for July.
But the number of visitors from South Korea was down 19.6 percent from the prequake level in July 2010, at 189,700, even before the dispute over islets in the Sea of Japan flared anew in recent days.
The government lodged a protest after South Korean President Lee Myung Bak’s visit last week to one of the islets controlled by South Korea and claimed by Japan.
And tension between Japan and China spiked this week with the arrest by Japanese authorities of Chinese activists who landed on the islet of Uotsuri in the Japan-controlled Senkaku group to press China’s claim to the territory.