Tourism to Japan Soars, Exceeds Pre-Pandemic Levels

Tourism to Japan Soars, Exceeds Pre-Pandemic Levels

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Picture up airplane against Japanese flag
Picture: Canva
Japan is setting records for the number of tourists visiting - and it's doing this despite record low turnout from China.

Tourism has been on the rise since Japan re-opened its doors in October 2022. Now, the country’s tourism agency says that business is better than it was even before the pandemic.

Who’s coming to Japan?

Creative abstract business travel and tourism concept: air tickets or boarding pass, passports, touchscreen smartphone with online airline tickets booking or reservation internet application, magnetic compass, credit cards and pen on world geographic map atlas with selective focus effect

As we’ve covered before, tourism to Japan went from overflowing to nonexistent in the blink of an eye when the COVID-19 crisis hit. Since October 2022, however, the number of tourists has steadily increased.

We reported recently that tourist spending had already surpassed pre-pandemic levels. Now, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization, the number of visitors is setting new records as well.

The JNTO reported this week that, for the month of October, 2,561,500 people visited Japan. That exceeds the October 2019 totals – the first time that’s happened since re-opening. This is also the fifth month in a row that visitors to Japan have exceeded 2 million people.

Who’s visiting? The largest number come from South Korea, which saw 631,100 tourists vacation here. Next up was Taiwan, at 424,800, China at 256,300, and America at 211,900.

China’s numbers continue to lag

What’s remarkable about this number is that the number of tourists from China is down a whopping 64.9%. Part of that is due to Japan not lifting restrictions on travel from China until August. However, disputes over the handling of radioactive water from tsunami-ravaged Fukushima, along with a lull in China’s economy, have continued to depress tourism.

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Fortunately, visits from other countries are exceeding historic levels. 3.2 times more South Koreans are visiting than usual, and Taiwan’s numbers are up by 2.7 times.

The JNTO predicts that, by the end of the year, Japan will have hosted a whopping 25 million tourists.

What to know before you go

Tourists being guided around Japan
Picture: エガワエン / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

Because of the influx of tourists, many popular locations are contending with overtourism. This might mean you have to contend with large crowds wherever you go. (And this will only get worse as tourism from China picks back up.) Certain locations may also be moving to reservations systems, so check the English language versions of their Web sites before you make plans.

If you’ve visited Japan pre-pandemic, note you won’t be able to get the regular, physical IC card for trains and buses anymore. You can either buy a special visitors-only pass or you can add either Pasmo or Suica digitally to your Apple or Android wallets.

You’ll also be happy to know that contactless payments are much more common now. You can pay for virtually anything (except at certain small shops) with your Suica or Pasmo card. And more stores than ever accept credit card payments (particularly if they cater to tourists). Do keep in mind, however, that IC cards are limited to carrying around 20,000 yen (USD $132) at a time. So recharge early and often!

Despite the proliferation of contactless, always have some yen on you just in case. (You can easily withdraw money from any 7-11 ATM.) Several of the contactless payment systems have experienced downtime this year, which could land you in an uncomfortable situation. And you never know when you might visit a small shop that doesn’t take digital payments.

Want to get a little Japanese under your belt before you go? Check out our guide to learning Japanese online.

Want to explore some of the truly “unseen” parts of Japan with a knowledgeable, Japanese-speaking guide? Contact us at Unseen Japan Tours to create your custom itinerary today.



Sources

10月の訪日外国人251万人余 月別で新型コロナ感染拡大前上回る. NHK News

訪日外国人客、10月はコロナ禍前を初めて上回る…中国は64・9%減. Yomiuri Shimbun

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Jay Allen

Jay is a resident of Tokyo where he works as a reporter for Unseen Japan and as a technial writer. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and is fervently working on his Kanji Kentei Level 2 certification.

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