Foreign tourists to Japan up 2 months in a row, but issues remain

The number of foreign visitors to Japan last month was about 170,000, marking an increase for two straight months. But the figure is a far cry from the 2.52 million entrants, logged in August 2019, before the pandemic struck.

The Japan National Tourism Organization estimates 169,800 foreigners visited Japan in August, including tourists.

Nearly three months have passed since the country eased its anti-coronavirus border controls and reopened to foreign holidaymakers for the first time in about two years. But the rate of increase remains modest and is far lower than pre-pandemic levels.

By country, Vietnam tops the list, with 33,000, followed by South Korea, with 28,500, the United States, with 15,800 and mainland China, with 12,300.

The Japanese government started easing its border restrictions this year, prompting an increase in the number of foreigners visiting the country for work and studies.

Tourism Agency Commissioner Wada Koichi said on Wednesday he is aware that to fully resume inbound tourism, Japan needs to review the current daily limit on arrivals, do away with the short-term visa requirement for visitors and allow overseas tourists to visit without booking through a travel agency.

He also stressed the importance of building confidence among those welcoming overseas visitors while promoting foreign arrivals.

He said the government is studying ways to balance infection-prevention measures and social and economic activities.