Photo: Pakutaso

Survey reveals Japan as the top travel destination for Southeast Asians, but not for Westerners

By Koh Ruide, SoraNews24

Japan’s alluring contrast of tradition and contemporary has made it a fantastic getaway destination for travelers looking to immerse themselves in country known worldwide for anime, video games and cuisine.

And thanks to the 2020 Olympic Games looming on the horizon, the country attracted a record number of tourists in 2017, totaling a whopping 28.69 million people. Chinese (7.35 million) and South Korean (7.14 million) travelers claimed the top spots, but according to the survey, only a paltry 3 million tourists hailed from Western countries.

Commissioner of the Japan Tourism Agency, Akihiko Tamura, notes that visitors from Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Canada and Australia associate Japan with Mount Fuji, temples and cherry blossoms. For long periods of stay however, Akihiko laments that visitors find the country to be utterly boring.

Based on those findings, Japan Tourism Agency has begun working toward polish up the country’s image to be more appealing in order to attract more sightseers from Western countries.

They’ve found that several factors could have contributed to the apparent lack of visitors from Western countries, including long travel distances and the general perception that Japan is an expensive country to visit.

Nevertheless, those reasons pale in comparison to what is probably the biggest obstacle preventing Westerners from enjoying Japan to its fullest: the language.

Due to language similarities, tourists from China, South Korea and Taiwan have an easier time navigating Japan. However, for English-speaking tourists who struggle to comprehend what’s available on restaurant menus or understand the historical significance of a 100-year-old shrine, much of what Japan has to offer is essentially locked away behind a steep language barrier.

English education over here in Japan, while compulsory, has not taken off as much as in other nations. Addressing this issue would likely be key in drawing in more visitors from Western countries in the long run.

Source: Reuters Japan, Diamond Online via My Game News Flash

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- The number 1 ‘most satisfying’ city in the world is….TOKYO!!!

-- Japanese government encouraging hot springs to ease tattoo restrictions

-- Why is Japan such an unpopular tourist destination?

© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Language is definitely NOT the biggest obstacle for western tourists, CLEARLY that is distance(& cost of transport) & the cost(especially traditional accommodations)  once you get here.

There done, fixed.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

I agree with GW. Geography is the key consideration here.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Japan is amazing in many ways, and why I continue to choose living here but its certainly not cheap, nor "easy" as a tourist destination.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Japan i believe has the potential to be a major player on the world tourism destination front. Unfortunately if left to the Inside the box thinking that is so prevalent this potential may never be realized. Instead of thinking what you know foreigners would like to do and see in Japan , may wanna try asking them. Also traveling the world to see what sells and what doesn’t may in fact help too. It’s not rocket science. Omotenashi is way off the mark.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

For me personally as a tourist, one of the things I do check is whether or not they fingerprint you at the airport.

There are a few countries I've decided not to visit because of this requirement. Of course, I am subject to this when I come back to Japan, but what can I do? My family is Japanese.

But that's just me. I don't know if the fingerprinting requirement is a detriment or not for most westerners wanting to come here. Would be interesting to find out..

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

What fingerprinting when you enter Japan are you talking about.

Hi zichi.

I'm talking about everytime we enter the country we get fingerprinted and our picture taken.

 Now you don't even need a visa if you have your residents card.

You still have to show your passport though.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

 Now you don't even need a visa if you have your residents card.

Sorry. One more thing: actually your visa status is on your resident card, so everyone who has a resident card has a visa that they present along with their passport. Are you maybe talking about the reentry permit? That's been aboloished.

I was just talking about the fingerprinting of anyone who is not a citizen regardless of their status as tourist, PR or whatever.

As a tourist, I specifically look for countries that don't fingerprint you when I'm looking for a place to visit, and I was wondering just how many other potential tourists do the same and whether or not it might affect their decision to come here. That's all.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This article doesn't speak for me as an Australian. I always pick Japan over the other "typical" destinations such as Bali, New Zealand and Thailand...

Every stay I'm over for at least a month or more. Go through the metros and the inaka every time. Never find it boring.

Maybe I'm just a unique type...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

When Japan is getting millions of Asian visitors, why does it matter so much whether Japan appeals to Westerners who have to travel much further and across many more time zones?

Twelve hours on a plane from Europe will get you to a huge chunk of the world. So Japan has to outcompete all of Europe, all of Asia, all of Africa, and all of North America to attract tourists. The ruined foundations of some factories in Nagasaki may be a World Heritage Site now, but they're not as interesting as the Pyramids or the Taj Mahal. Mt Fuji might look nice from certain spots but there are fewer of them than there are nice spots to look at the Matterhorn, Mt. Blanc, the Rockies, etc. I wouldn't recommend flying past the Maldives to go to Okinawa. Tokyo is a great place to visit, but so is New York, so is London, so is Paris etc. etc.

Reckless mentions the beaches and I think the lack of leisure/doss about options will also affect the number of tourists. Doing a few cultural sites and then going to chill at the beach, the classic Thai holiday, is not really an option in Japan. Okinawa is nice but is much more expensive than other Asian beach destinations. Any tourist commissioner of Japan should really understand how Europeans enjoy their holidays. Only a tiny minority run around like crazy from one cultural site to the next like Japanese tourists. Lots of people are happy sitting by a pool with a book, possibly on a cruise ship.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I take Japan over any country in Europe or the USA .... Even my home country of Australia pretty much sucks that I have spent most of my life outside of it.

1992 - Taichung Taiwan (12 Months)

1993 - Bloemfontein, South Africa (12 Months)

1994 - Chad (3 Months)

1994 - Ivory Coast (6 Months)

1996 - Indonesia (2 Weeks)

1996 ~ 1997 - Japan (14 Months)

1999 - KL, Malaysia (4 Months)

2003 ~ ???? - Japan

Plan on a visit to South Korea later this year and also Taiwan, this time not working, but as a tourist.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Ok yes the finger scanning not printing like what happened when I first arrived in the country. That one should end if visitors have a biometric passport.

Zichi, I have a biometric passport and PR. I have looked into it as has my wife. There really is no way around getting fingerprinted- As far as I know.

Mostly more than 24 hours. I hate that flight(s).

Yikes! I can see why.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Any tourist commissioner of Japan should really understand how Europeans enjoy their holidays. Only a tiny minority run around like crazy from one cultural site to the next like Japanese tourists. Lots of people are happy sitting by a pool with a book, possibly on a cruise ship.

That actually is an excellent point.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Been to Japan a number of times, never been bored but I do notice that the type of Western tourists that go back are totally different than those that go to places like Thailand, beaches in Japan aren't the best Okinawa isn't an option for somebody that has landed in Tokyo. The winter ski season in Japan is a bonus for Australian / New Zealand tourists but European / North American skiers would just stay home and ski locally. Costs in Japan are an issue, Hotel rooms are small, staff sometimes aren't the best, language can be an issue English isn't widely spoken.

Distance is an issue for a lot of Western Tourists North American's can easily travel to Europe, Mexico, Central and parts of South America in the same travel time, Europeans similar places plus other Asian destinations that have a more relaxed lifestyle.

Lastly what does it matter if Western tourists go to Japan if there are already 20 plus million tourists coming from other destinations.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

When commercial aircraft go from 700kms to 2000kms per hour like a Concorde but at the price of a standard flight Japan will be in a lot more favorable position in terms of the U.S and European tourist market. That time is not too far away.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I enjoy skiing, camping, and hiking in Japan. But I gave up sightseeing many years ago. Too many rules/restrictions, underwhelming attractions, bland cityscapes and nickel-and-diming by tourist operators.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Our Mom took a tour of Japan with a Nisei group, and had the time of her life. A wonderful experience. They were treated really well, beautiful scenery, and she raved about the food. I think she was sorry to come home.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Aly Rustom

Why fuss about fingerscanning? Yes sir it's just you.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Well at least Japan FINALLY got it right! I remember when I first washed up here beginning of the 90s the BIG JTB push was always about trying to get westerners to visit Japan & almost seemed like Japan did its best to KEEP fellow Asians from visiting!

And the westerners never showed up in any significant numbers, same reasons STILL apply now for the most part.

But FINALLY Japan figured out where the money was....well actually it was more by accident when they allowed more Asians into Japan & then LOW & BEHOLD Japanese were surprised that Asians actually had $$$$$$ in their wallets!

And here we are today.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why fuss about fingerscanning?

Nobody is fussing about anything. I was making an inquiry. Here it is again.

I don't know if the fingerprinting requirement is a detriment or not for most westerners wanting to come here. Would be interesting to find out..

Tell me now- where's the fuss?

Yes sir it's just you.

And you know this based on what?

2 ( +2 / -0 )


Thank you for that heartfelt post. I have no doubt in my mind that the US is an awful place to go through customs, and even though I went to college there and still have friends who would love to see me, I refuse to go because of the mess that is the security system there. So yeah- you are preaching to the choir on that one.

My initial point was I find it intrusive, and still do. Regardless of the time it takes, the act of taking a person's prints when they have done nothing to break the law is just plain wrong- (as far as I'm concerned) and I know that MANY others feel that way- INCLUDING the special permanent residents here which is why when they reinstilled fingerprinting they kept the SPR out of it.

But that's not the point I'm making. I still live in Japan because my family is Japanese and so have to be fingerprinted on arrival when I return.

Here is my point: I do make it a point to check my destination when I travel to make sure I am not going to be subjected to the same treatment when I am on vacation, and I'm just wondering how many people have checked the same thing on the net and decided not to come to Japan because of the fingerprinting. It could be a miniscule number- it could be a HUGE number- but I do think it is worth researching.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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