Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in Sagano, Kyoto, Japan.
For a long time, Japan was not a very popular tourist destination. The language barrier and high price of travelling within Japan are still among many reasons that keeps travelers from visiting Japan. Moreover, the land of the rising sun has been dealing with promotional challenges. There have been many attempts to increase inbound tourism through a variety of advertising campaigns, but unfortunately they did not bring the desired outcome.
Nevertheless, the number of international visitors to Japan dramatically increased in 2015 with Chinese citizens becoming, for the first time, the majority to visit Japan with 19.7 million visitors. Large increases were also noted from other Asian countries that same year: Korean tourist increased by 53.4%, Tourist from Hong Kong increased 48.2%, and Singaporean tourist increased by 40.1%. Another significant increase is also seen with Australians, 31.4%, Canadians, 24.3%, Americans, 22.2%, and Europeans, 15%.
This record growth is attributed to a number of factors. One of these is the growing middle class of several Asian countries, and therefore, the ability and fondness for travelling. There are also domestic measures, such as the ease of restrictions on visas and the improved access to airports. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently announced visa fee exemption for foreigners visiting the three Tohoku prefectures affected by the tsunami.
In addition, free Wi-Fi services were introduced to major public areas of cities in Japan, such as JR, Tokyo Metro, museums, and convenience stores.
For Asian visitors, in particular, Japan has become a bargain shopping destination due to the depreciation of the yen. Moreover, Japanese products are known for their excellent quality and durability. Corresponding to this situation, spending by foreign visitors reached a record of 3.48 trillion yen in 2015. The size of Japan’s inbound tourism industry is equal to its auto parts exports.
Unfortunately, foreign tourists usually visit the most famous cities, Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, therefore, they miss a chance to appreciate the beauty of rural Japan.
With the increasing challenge of an aging population in rural Japan, tourism is seen as the best way to revive these areas. In fact, 16 out of 19 world heritage sites in Japan are found in rural areas.
Many local governments, therefore, have been making a great effort to attract more tourists to their regions for them to experience their uniqueness whether through a product, a monument, or a celebration. Tourism, in the end, contributes to the mutual understanding and foundation of a friendship.