The Japan National Tourism Organization says 466,800 were from South Korea, the most from any country or region. The second highest was Taiwan, with 278,900, followed by the United States with 203,000.
Tourist industry welcomes flood of foreign visitors
Tourist destinations across Japan are once again teaming with visitors from overseas.
A cafe that offers a taste of ninja training in Tokyo's Asakusa district has regained its past popularity with foreign tourists.
Saito says business plummeted after Japan closed its borders to foreign tourists. "It was difficult to get even one reservation a day," he adds.
Since Japan reopened its borders to travelers last October, the number of customers has steadily increased at Saito's cafe. It welcomed more than 1,000 last month, reaching pre-pandemic levels.
"Inquiries are skyrocketing," Saito says. "Sometimes we have to turn people away."
Litter left by tourists causing headaches for shop owners
The increase in tourism is not without its downside. On a popular shopping street in Kamakura — a city near Tokyo that once served as the capital of Japan — tourist litter is causing headaches for local shop owners.
With many shops selling takeaway food such as mochi and crepes, many tourists snack as they stroll the streets.
Kon Masafumi, the head of a local shopkeeper association, says the area in front of his store is often littered with skewers and plastic bags full of food scraps.
The association is handing out paper trash bags with a message printed in Japanese and English. It reads, "To take trash with a pleasant memory of Kamakura is not a trashy idea."
Tourist litter has been an issue for some time, but Kon fears the situation will worsen with the increase in foreign tourists who aren't used to taking their trash with them when they leave.
Spending by foreign visitors tops $7 billion
The Japan Tourism Agency on Wednesday released a preliminary estimate of 1.01 trillion yen, or about 7.5 billion dollars, in spending by foreign tourists between January and March.
That's still down 11.9 percent from the same period in 2019, but the agency says tourist spending is clearly on a path to recovery.
The Japanese government has set a goal for annual inbound spending to exceed pre-pandemic levels and reach 5 trillion yen, or 37 billion dollars, as soon as possible.