travel

Why is Japan such an unpopular tourist destination?

184 Comments
By RocketNews24

You would think that a country like Japan, rich as it is in both traditional culture and technical innovation, as well as plenty of weird and wacky things you’ll never see elsewhere, would be a huge hit with tourists. But as it turns out, Japan is actually not such a popular destination for people traveling abroad.

Tourism from abroad brings in around 900 billion yen per year for Japan. To put it in perspective, France makes around 5 trillion, the UK 3 trillion, Germany 3.7 trillion, and America 11 trillion yen from tourism. It might look like just a matter of zeroes on paper, but that’s a significant difference.

So just why is this beautiful country which has so much to offer such an unpopular holiday destination?

Publicity problems

Firstly, Japan needs more and better quality advertising. With the world now connected by the Internet, you can easily communicate with people half-way around the globe as though they’re right there with you in your room, and people are becoming more interested in other cultures. Japan needs to be able to self-promote, and articulate to the wider world exactly why people should come and visit.

China has size on its side, Thailand has its resorts and backpacker culture, Cambodia has its historical ruins; people visiting Asia for the first time have so much choice on where to go, so proper promotion is extremely important for a country hoping to stand out on a platter already crowded with delicacies. And right now, Japan just isn’t getting itself out there enough.

But what about cool Japan, the government drive to get more foreigners interested in Japan?

There have been attempts to come up with advertising campaigns, certainly, but they’ve fallen woefully short. Celebrities have huge star attraction here, but the PR gurus don’t seem to have caught on that using Japanese stars to advertise Japan just doesn’t work, since people outside of the country often have no clue who they are unless they already interested in Japan, hence these ads are essentially preaching to the choir. Japanese boy band Arashi’s tourism advert, a part of the government’s official Visit Japan campaign, seems more like a music video aimed at teenage girls; not exactly the demographic with the money to spend on flights, hotels and sightseeing.

Are Japan’s woeful tourism figures all the fault of the Japan Tourism Agency? Not quite.

Skytree-high costs

The top reasons people from Europe and the USA don’t come to Japan is that it’s both too far and too expensive. Since the island is pretty much tethered where it is, there’s not much that can be done about the former, but surely there could be some workarounds regarding the latter. Accommodation and transport are very expensive and on top of that are the costs of food, souvenirs and so on, so with a high-valued yen people are bound to look to cheaper options such as Asia, where even the poorest of student travelers can survive.

Lost in translation

Then there’s the fact that it’s not very easy to go on holiday here without knowing the language, because of the comparatively low level of English of most native Japanese folks. Even in the midst of Tokyo you can find yourself stuck due to language issues, and once you get out of the city there are still many supposed sightseeing spots that don’t have any English signs. Japanese also isn’t like languages which use the Roman alphabet, so travellers can’t simply type a written word into their dictionary or translation app (though hopefully one day soon they’ll be able to scan them), so the average not-overly-adventurous traveler is severely limited when they find they can’t even read restaurant menus or the names written on signs at train stations. Japanese people also tend to be quite shy and reserved, even if they do have a smattering of English, unlike other countries where people will go out of their way to try to communicate with you even if they don’t speak a word of your language.

Japanese-only convenience

Japan is often said to be an incredibly convenient place, epitomized by the ubiquitous conbini, and this is true if you are actually living there. Unfortunately, it can still be very inconvenient for travelers and people staying short-term.

Firstly, actually getting into the city can be a bit of a pain since its busiest international airport, Narita, is located quite far out of central Tokyo. Then, when you want to pay for your train or bus ticket you might find yourself in a bit of a bind since Japan is still a mostly cash society and there are many places that do not accept credit cards. On top of that, ATMs that accept foreign cards are few and far between and are often closed outside of regular business hours; something we’ve noted before as a particular irk of living in Japan. And forget hopping online to check your route or research places to visit as, despite Japan’s reputation as a technologically advanced country, there are still very few places with Wi-Fi, free or otherwise. You also can’t buy cheap mobile phones with disposable SIM cards, making keeping in touch with other members of your group difficult.

All in all these factors all contribute to the reality that people aren’t going to be inclined to come and visit unless they already have an interest in Japan.

But all is not lost.

The number of foreign visitors to Japan has been increasing recently, and during the New Year period, department stores reportedly saw three times more foreigners coming to their start-of-year sales than the previous year. More places including shrines are stepping up their game and starting to provide Wi-Fi access, and Tokyo Metro has launched a free Wi-Fi service aimed at tourists across 143 of their stations.

Furthermore, a bank on the road leading to the Grand Shrine at Ise has begun offering a foreign currency exchange service since many people were saying that it was inconvenient not to have any exchange services nearby. These are all signs that Japanese companies are starting to think more about catering to people visiting from overseas. The growth in tourists can also be attributed to the recent weakening of the yen brought about by Abenomics, making things cheaper for Americans and Europeans, and department stores are publicizing the fact that duty-free shopping is available for foreign visitors.

And of course with Tokyo hosting the Olympics in 2020, the country is going to experience a definite surge in foreign visitors. The questions now are whether or not Japan will be ready for them, and if the Games will have a lasting effect on the tourism industry in the future.

Source: Naver Matome

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- We can’t get enough of these clever pouches inspired by Japanese amulets -- Why Japanese Men Can’t Stop Spending Money Just To Drink And Talk With Girls (And Why This Upsets Women So Much) -- All-You-Can-Eat Sushi in Tokyo Only 1050 Yen! (But Per-Plate Penalty If You Can’t Finish)

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


184 Comments
Login to comment

Skytree-high costs

Funnily enough, almost all of my friends and family who visit comment on how affordable things are in Japan compared to Australia and Europe! Perhaps it is the perception that Japan is mega-costly that still exists in those who have not visited.

41 ( +47 / -6 )

Why would any tourist want to visit Tokyo with its 'cool' people jammed into subway cars? Want to pay through the nose for a place to sit down and a cup of coffee? Even going to Hong Kong to Disneyland is cheaper and much less crowded for a Kansai resident! Any exhibition in Tokyo takes hours to see and is extremely tiring. Want to enjoy Kobe beef for dinner? You'll pay around 300 bucks per person for the privilege! Japan cav be done on the cheap but then so can Thailand,Malaysia,Cambodia etc It is a pain to get to Japan and once here it is difficult to see other countries And that is why my next destination is the Phillippines,where I'll be able to have a top class holiday on a budget.....

2 ( +27 / -25 )

People around the world have the perception that the Japanese people don't like nor want us there. I know that may not be true but that is the perception we have. You want to be a part of the international community then get the message out there that you like gaijins and that its not a bad word. Personally I love Japan and studied the language and culture for years but its that dark side that still makes me wonder...

13 ( +20 / -7 )

Lack of publicity Poor reputation for English signage and English-friendly services. Lack of truly world-class tourist destinations in Tokyo and Osaka. (Bad museums, a lot of the old cultural centers have been destroyed, paved over, and filled with post-modern office buildings) China is more "fashionable" as a destination these days. Environmental degradation / poor urban planning in many areas. (Compare Yoyogi to Central Park, or compare Ginza to Park Avenue)
8 ( +19 / -11 )

From my experience working in Japanese organizations, service prices in Japan can't go down mainly because of the embedded culture of intermediaries: everything, but absolutely everything, is done here through third-party enterprises that inflate costs with hidden handling fees and commissions. Tourism is one of the worst cases, since travel agencies charge tremendously for every little service they provide (and, once again, in my experience, don't even provide the high quality services they used to provide during the bubble economy). But, that is a practice rooted in a long tradition of maintaining business and inter-personal connections, so most Japanese cannot even see this as a problem and are bound to perpetuate it indefinitely. The foreigners who want to visit Japan don't have, as a result, any other choice than to literally pay the price.

13 ( +18 / -5 )

Perhaps it is the perception that Japan is mega-costly that still exists in those who have not visited.

I think there's a lot of truth in that. I know literally dozens of people who dream of visiting Japan some day, but believe that they'll have to spend years scrimping and saving in order to amass the money required to afford it. Japan can be surprisingly cheap, especially if you eat like a local.

Another issue, not mentioned above, is that some people are genuinely afraid of earthquakes! One of my best friends refuses to come and visit me here for that reason.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

All the neo-nationalist hating of China and the Koreas can't help since people from those nearby countries are the most likely visitors.

16 ( +25 / -9 )

kurisupisu - you need to travel more if you think that you 'pay through the nose' for a cup of coffee in Tokyo.

8 ( +13 / -5 )

It seems that Japan did not care about foreign tourists but is now changing its behavior gradually.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

The reputation that Japan is "pricey" is more fiction than actual. I have been to Japan seven times and it is no more expensive than the U.S. Sure, you have expensive restaurants in Japan. But you also can eat cheaply there too.

A lot of it, in my view, comes from people not knowing how the yen translates into dollars when making purchases.

Japan, up until a few years ago, was lax in promoting itself. We now see the results of its promotional efforts with record-breaking foreign tourist numbers.

There are plenty of guidebooks available in many languages. Just go to your hotel lobby and there will be a rack with dozens of them. I can't speak or read Japanese, but I have never had a problem with getting around and there are plenty of tourist information centers available and plenty of people to help.

15 ( +18 / -3 )

Japan's not expensive - why is this said? You can get a perfectly decent hotel for much cheaper than in NY or London or LA, easy. Food and drink are quite cheap on average. Tokyo/Osaka transport is super cheap - can get a 1-day Tokyo Metro pass for 1000 yen.

Shinkansen is fairly expensive but visitors get access to the lovely JR rail pass, which is quite a bargain for those moving around a lot.

The problem is not the costs but the perception of the costs.

25 ( +28 / -3 )

It's the only place I actually visit, so....

2 ( +4 / -2 )

First there is an overwhelming attitude in this country that anything old is dirty and worthless. I have visited beautiful old farmhouses in Shikoku and Kyushu asking the owners if theyd tell me the story of the house and allow me to photograph it. More often than not I find the owners are ashamed of their old house and say they wish they had the money to smash it down and build a new home. Almost every river and lake is clothed in concrete leaving very little of the environment in its natural state. There is almost no thought to city planning around cultural sites. Apartment buildings are built within feet of temples, advertising signs are allowed to be posted anywhere and everywhere including temple fences. With such a rich history you would think Japan must have amazing museums but thats not the case. Garbage bins are few and far between which leads to an incredible amount of garbage thrown along roadsides, hillsides, parks and beaches. Almost nonexistent WIFI and those places that do have it require a complicated sign up all in Japanese. Traveling between historic sites is a tiresome adventure with little to no guidance in English as to how and where to purchase tickets for trains and tour buses. Forget about information on discount tickets that`s like a heavily guarded national secret and again with no access to WIFI and very few people, including those who work at information booths, who speak English traveling here is often an adventure in frustration.

22 ( +28 / -6 )

Much of the "beautiful" Japan that you see on promotional posters don't match most of what you see once you get here.

You can get a lot more for your money in China and Southeast Asia which is only a few hours south. The "exoticism" of those countries still exist in the minds of Western travelers while most of that disappeared in Japan in the 70s.

-4 ( +12 / -16 )

Arrogance, cluelessness and disregard for what visitors expect and want by travel industry professionals and therefore wasting billions of Yen in hare-brained advertising. Closed minded and hostility to fresh ideas, especially in the segment of young people because travel related offices and institutions are usually staffed by conservative people who usually have no clue whatsoever what is attractive to hip youth. A general lack of joy of life and cheeriness without being drunk (as opposed to Thailand or Indonesia). Rules, rules, many rules without sense - dame, dame dame, no but or common sense. Lack of flexibility and desire to accommodate expectations different from Japanese rules and customs (perceived as trouble/meiwaku).

6 ( +19 / -13 )

Wow, didn't know there were so many Japan haters on here! They must have visited a completely different country, because my three trips to Japan have been nothing but positive. Japan, you can count on me (and many others) as a recurring visitor that will always come back.

11 ( +19 / -8 )

Japan was pricey 25 years ago, and its reputation lives on, but in reality it has become more and more affordable - prices are much the same as they were back in the early 90s. You can eat well for less than JPY 1000. $5 for a beer might have been a lot 20 years ago, but not today. 500 yen is also the typical attraction entry fee - a bargain compared to many developed countries.

On the other hand, Japan lovers can exaggerate what Japan has to offer. Basically, if you don't like temples, there is not a great deal else to see that other countries do not have. Honshu is geographically quite pleasant, but it lacks the startling diversity of Britain's landscape, for example. The cities are bland and a bit samey. Kyoto has some good sites, obviously, but most of it is just standard "Japan". What is the top site in Sapporo? A pretty dull clock.

Japanese people do enjoy their own country, but it often seems to involve goinng to a place that looks quite a lot like where they came from, staying at an onsen, and going to find the local speciality ramen that it just a teeny weeny bit different from normal ramen.

Saying that, I love it, and on reflection I think i disagree with pretty much everything I just wrote - I would encourage everyone to visit Japan, even if only once.

13 ( +17 / -4 )

Arrogance, cluelessness and disregard for what visitors expect and want by travel industry professionals and therefore wasting billions of Yen in hare-brained advertising. Closed minded and hostility to fresh ideas, especially in the segment of young people because travel related offices and institutions are usually staffed by conservative people who usually have no clue whatsoever what is attractive to hip youth. A general lack of joy of life and cheeriness without being drunk (as opposed to Thailand or Indonesia). Rules, rules, many rules without sense - dame, dame dame, no but or common sense. Lack of flexibility and desire to accommodate expectations different from Japanese rules and customs (perceived as trouble/meiwaku).

Spot on. Japan wants the world to perceive it as it likes to perceive itself. So, as the article says, they are talking just to themselves. Obviously, another thing that everyone seems to want to ignore, is that other than Mt. Fuji and the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima, there are not any widely known landmarks that folks, say in the U.S., have on their "bucket list", like the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace, The Coliseum, The Parthenon, etc. Plus, one would hardly describe any of Japan's big cities as "romantic".

4 ( +19 / -15 )

With all the university graduates employed in the national and local government offices I can assure you all that your opinions and ideas will not be heard because even though the many employees are aware of the many tourism discrepancies and inconveniences there is absolutely no way for anyone to penetrate the walls of silence and harmony within the public offices. That's one of the reasons for much drinking and depression amongst the workers.

No incentives, no rewards and only scolding awaits a young employee willing to say anything. This atmosphere prevails all over Japan and I pity and caution anyJapanese who have studied abroad and returned and tried to upgrade things to the international standards.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

Japanese tourist industries which have enormous influence on tours in Japan depends much on mass-tourism which is not that popular in western world. The biggest issue I think, however, and Japanese people rarely travel while they are young. They rarely spend much time staying in the same resort. Japanese are ushered to the busiest tourist attraction in the busiest season such as when viewing Cherry blossoms and viewing autumn leaves during weekends. To sum up, Japan does not have successful business model other than group tours much of the customers are mainly senior citizens. 13 million oversea visitors are enormous figures but still as a whole minority when gross number of visitors to the tourist attractions in Japan are concerned. And such minority has much diversity which Japanese are not accustomed. It is hard to make a business out of it. So naturally they spend little time and money depending on no-pay volunteers. Also Japanese people in general has little idea how little Japanese tourist attractions are introduced outside Japan. When you see amazon.com and search Mount Fuji you see why. I haven't found any introductory books on Mount Fuji for the beginners. While in Japanese I can easily find hundreds of them. Most of the tour guides published in Japan are for Japan, Tokyo and Kyoto. There aren't even books about Nara, Kamakura, Hiroshima, and National Parks in Japan. Japan has a lot to do. They should be realized that to enhance the effect of the promotion they need first to publish basics about Japanese areas in foreign languages. Because without reliable verifiable resources they have no way of confirming that what Japanese are promoting is authentic.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Who said it's unpopular...? Japan is an awesome nation, as everywhere else there's expensive and cheap stuff. However, it's the safest and cleanest nation in the world. Moreover, japanese people's generosity finds no match globally. So you should correct that "unpopular", doesn't fit with Japan as a great destiny for holidays.

8 ( +17 / -9 )

I think not taking care of historical sites and the environment are big reasons here. As for not enough Latin alphabet signage, I could see that hurting the non-Asian tourist, but I realize the costs involved. I guess another lesser problem is the lack of reasonable costs for things: I had a $30 pizza at an Izakaya that wasn't even enough to fill me up. I don't think that would be tolerated outside of the most upscale restaurants in the west.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Less than 2% of the world's population speak Japanese, and getting around in Japan without Japanese is very difficult.

Parts of China can be difficult if you visit the rural areas, but in any reasonably large city someone will come over to help you out if you're having communication difficulties (often a university student). I've visited almost every country on that list (not Macau and not Vietnam), and in every country EXCEPT JAPAN the people were happy to at least TRY a bit of English and communication was achieved.

I'd say that the biggest problem with Japan is the wide-spread attitude that the foreigner has to make an effort to speak Japanese and risk embarrassment, while the Japanese person doesn't have to try because they might not be perfect. It reeks of arrogance. Whatever happened to the customer being God?

2 ( +13 / -11 )

My parents enjoyed their visits to Japan; it's quite different to Europe, safe enough and they aren't interested in my moaning about the government.

These days it isn't particularly expensive to visit here, but I do wonder how many people will come back for a second time. Once you've seen Kyoto and its assortment of old wooden buildings, experienced the urban sprawl of Tokyo and visited a ryokan / hot spring in the countryside you've done pretty much everything. Still, there's plenty of room for growth in tourist numbers yet.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

*Recently I have visited Japan from India.Very neat and beautiful small island country which abounds natural beauty a midst urbanization. People are courteous and helpful.Yet as a tourist, I have experienced difficulties due to language barrier and the cost.Transportation , accommodation and cost of food is not affordable to middle class Indian tourists. There is also not much awareness about beautiful Japan here in India. I love to visit again in spite of these.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

It's all about the country, its geography, where the money is and what appeals to whom. As China grows as a world power, increasing numbers will visit Japan. It's already happening. The Chinese can read the Kanji and have interests in tech and shopping. Japan is comparatively close for Chinese tourists and they travel on packages that make the trip relatively inexpensive. Not many western tourists will repeat the Japan experience unless they have family and friends here. People don't spend repeat money on this scale only to visit temples and onsens and there is little else on the bucket list. Most tourist destinations can offer a view from a tall building and their own food. Chinese tourists are repeat tourists for Japan, as are Koreans, so Japan needs to focus its efforts on Asian tourists, not North American and European ones.

8 ( +10 / -3 )

japan is a pretty boring place from a tourists perspective. The most common thing I hear from tourists is how materialistic and bland japanese are. You get a much better bang for your buck in S. Korea. Better food, rich culture, vibrant nightlife, warmer/friendlier people, Koreans can actually speak english, did I mention better food? Taiwan is tops if you like beautiful scenery and China is great if you like open sewers and seeing people spit.

-7 ( +10 / -16 )

BurakuminDesu: "Funnily enough, almost all of my friends and family who visit comment on how affordable things are in Japan compared to Australia and Europe!"

Ahhh, but you see that's the thing: your "friends and family". I'm assuming at one point they either stayed with you, or nearby, with your help in setting something up if the latter. And in all likelihood, as any friend or family would, you probably showed them around and took them to the best places (for quality as well as reasonable pricing), local places, etc. As you and others have said, and I agree 100%, Japan CAN be as cheap as other nations -- especially European -- to travel, but you have to know what you're looking for beforehand or else have someone here you can partially depend on. After having lived here for a while I know all the ins and outs, and constantly set people up at places or else send them to the relevant sites or numbers to find places where they will be travelling. I was amazed myself to find youth hostels in amazing parts of Tokyo where my sister could stay for not much more than 1000 yen a night (women only). Sure, the JR rail pass is pricey, but no more so than a British Rail pass or Euro Rail.

But if you don't have very good ability to find deals before coming, and just arrive with a back pack and expect to find accommodation and what not as you walk around, you won't. If you don't know where to sniff out 'real' Japanese fare at reasonable costs you'll pay a fortune, not like if you're travelling around SE Asia. So again, it CAN be as cheap as some other countries, but in general it's still far more expensive. Along with the JR rail pass transportation in general from place to place is astounding. Hotels are insane. Food, on the other hand, is not unreasonable at all unless you want high-end, and that's not unique to Japan (more common, but not unique), and of course if you budget -- even one night out at the izakaya can cost you a whole week in another nation.

I would have to say that in combination with the fact that it CAN be more expensive, the whole island nation comes into play as second-most reason. I have had MANY friends backpack across Asia or do a kind of 'world tour' I've been in Japan, and almost none of them stopped by Japan. ALL of them desperately wanted to, but most cited cost/budget as the first reason (and of those who did, some were pleasantly surprised. Some chewed through what a month would have cost them in other Asian countries in less than a week!), others said because it is 'remote' it means you have to commit a certain amount of time from the schedule -- like it's out of the way. In Europe or other parts of Asia it's kind of a one-stop-shopping deal; you can pop by other nations very easily as a kind of bonus even if you that was not the intention.

Japan is WAY better than it was even a decade ago (thanks to losing the Osaka Olympic bid in 2008 and two subsequent Tokyo bids due to being 'non-foreign-friendly') and now you can see signs in at least four languages in the big city, but I agree language is still a major problem for those who don't know it and are visiting (with no friends to help them), and they have to improve this before 2020.

In any case, the weakened yen is helping a little, especially with Asian tourists (I know, there are many Japanese who don't WANT that, but if we're talking about numbers, too bad!), and tourists from the ME, but gradually it's getting better and hopefully will continue to do so. This country is DEFINITELY something you should see and experience if you are a traveller.

12 ( +21 / -10 )

Expensive? Come to Northern Europe.

Parts of China can be difficult if you visit the rural areas, but in any reasonably large city someone will come over to help you out if you're having communication difficulties (often a university student). I've visited almost every country on that list (not Macau and not Vietnam), and in every country EXCEPT JAPAN the people were happy to at least TRY a bit of English and communication was achieved. I'd say that the biggest problem with Japan is the wide-spread attitude that the foreigner has to make an effort to speak Japanese and risk embarrassment, while the Japanese person doesn't have to try because they might not be perfect. It reeks of arrogance. Whatever happened to the customer being God?

I've experienced the total opposite while in Japan. Whenever I looked lost, quite often Japanese people would come up to me and ask whether I needed help. I've also had Japanese, young and old, engaging in conversation with me.

11 ( +14 / -3 )

It's the smoking - you can't go eat and have a drink without sitting in a cloud of smoke emanating from some foul-smelling primitive. Most other civilized countries got past this years ago

1 ( +14 / -13 )

Japan is a country of variety between modern and histrical aspects, cities and rual areas, north and south, and amond prefectures. There are extremely expensive hotels, restaurants, etc., but you can find reasonable or chep ones at the same time safely. Just try supermarkets, convenience stores, discount shops, chain restaurants, etc. that local people use. You can use JR or other transportation passes according to your stay wisely. There are passes only available to foreign visitors too, which is a good buy and I want to use myself but I can't.

I'll teach you one magic word when you are lost, that is "Sumimasen" meaning excuse me. Japanese people are just shy and not confident in their English, not meaning they are unkind. When they hear you say "Sumimasen!", they would think you may be able to speak Japanese. Once you can have someone, then just asking him or her the destination you want to go, maybe with easy English words. I'm sure the person will be kind enough to help you, might be a little bit embarrassed (LOL).

Japan is a boring country? No way! If you think so, I'm afraid you are lack of researches.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

As many have pointed out Japan can be both cheap & expensive, some thoughts.

Until only fairly recently Japanese just didn't care about gaijin customers, SOME now do but it is a fairly recent change & its only SOME, lots still don't want the "hassle" of gaijin customs.

And remember people thinking of coming to Japan are not likely to be comparing Japan to the UK US or Europe, but to China, Korea SE Asia. Now compared to the later Japan IS till expensive & cant compete on value for $$$ it just cant.

And once the decision is made to come to Japan you have to do some pretty good checking to find deals, yeah its better than the 80s 90s but still hard for a family to cut costs on travel & accommodation unless they all want to be back packers.

In the past Japan made the mistake of tourists = US UK & Europe, they totally ignored their closest neighbours! That has/is changing because some have FINALLY realized that's where the $$$ is, they don't care so much about the typical tourist sites but love to SHOP, thankfully more retail outlets are finally getting this.

Japan still has lots to do so it should get better, easier for foreign tourists which is a good thing but Japan has TONS of work to catch up to its neighbours who have been decades ahead of Japan serving foreign tourists!

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Japan has no real sense of architecture within the city, bad isolation in winter, electric pole everywhere , no place to walk and relax, garbage on the streets, everything looks old and used, only it is relatively safe but with local not welcoming foreigners, crowd in every transportation, a govt preaching that foreigners have no human rights, why do you want people to come here exactly ? to eat sushi ? LOL

1 ( +13 / -11 )

I think part of it is the perception that Japan is really expensive. Also, there are that many well known tourist attractions in Japan. Although Japan has a long history, most Westerners wouldn't be able to name a historical tourist sites.

6 ( +6 / -1 )

I would say that most people who visit Japan either as tourists or to visit family/friends go back home with wonderful memories. I know my relatives did. During a 10-day trip, with my help, they had experiences that they could only have in Japan. I took them to see sumo wrestlers practising and they posed for photos with the wrestlers. We went on a yakatabune cruise of Tokyo Bay; they got to interact with the Asimo robot, they went to a cosplay event in Akihabara, saw the tuna auction at Tsukiji, had yakitori under the tracks at Yurakucho Station, then did the Hakone-Fuji trip, Tokyo DisneyLand as well a short visit to Hiroshima to see the A-bomb memorial. Not a dull moment.

Most of the negative reasons being given above come from foreigners who live in Japan. But their perspective is very different from someone planning to visit here.

11 ( +11 / -1 )

Stay at business hotel, cost: $100-150 per night. Buy pre-cooked food at supermarket and heat in microwave at hotel, cost $5-10 per person. Search for bars with Happy Hours, cost of pint of beer, $3-5. It's not so difficult to save a lot of money if you do your research.

6 ( +10 / -5 )

It would appear that a significant part of the problem (that which is in the ability of the Japanese to remedy) is their tendency to look inward and not see beyond this. This impacts their desire to encourage tourism in the first place, to understand the outside perspective (how they use star power) and how infrastructure and society are set up. It represents a clash between Japanese ways and ways that while they may diminish the traditions and Japanese-ness will have positive impacts on the economy and its long term survival. But I fear Japan will be unnecessarily, overly, stubborn.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

It is not unpopular. It is just far away from the US and Europe.

13 ( +13 / -1 )

I have no problem coming here. When I get lost, I just cry and help always comes.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

I visited Japan last October and found it wonderful, not as expensive as I was expecting, blew that myth straight away, London is far more expensive, as for the Language, I traveled around Tokyo and to other tourist spots and had no major problems, I don't speak or understand much Japanese by the way.

The major stumbling block I found, which really didn't inconvenience me that much was the cash society, it would have been nice to use my card on the odd occasion, and to be able to use the ATMs but otherwise all OK, cannot wait to return

9 ( +9 / -0 )

There will always be the divide between foreign residents and visitors. Hard to keep the rose-colored spectacles in place when you spend significant time in any one place.

Other than the shinkansen and outrageously overpriced (per person rates) hotels, I agree that it's quite cheap. Eat like the locals, do your research and you can get by, more cheaply than in Europe, that's for sure.

What I strongly second though are the above comments about the urban landscape. I just spent the morning in Kyoto, hiking, taking in a few UNESCO temples. From atop Higashiyama this morning, one of the two most scenic areas in Kyoto, I looked down on a hideous scene of an urban blight--the result of a complete and utter lack of vision or zoning. I frankly wonder if Soviet era architecture could be worse than what confronts me daily in the Kansai (repeated throughout urban Japan).

There was another thread the other day about development near the 47 Ronin spot--many commenters seemed cool with erring on the side of the present generation, even if it meant sacrificing such wonderful history. Cool, but don't expect folks to pony up the cash to see a plaque in front of a shop or manshon. In Osaka, Nobel laureate Kawabata Yasunari's birthplace gets just such treatment. Today I saw the place where revered Sakamoto Ryoma died honored in the same way--right in front of a shop.

If you want to gaze at horrible cityscapes for much of your time and tourist $, with little brief oases--gardens, temples and the like--as salves to your battered aesthetics, so be it. The best places to go in my experience are into the mtns. (Shinshu, Hokkaido) or the countryside, where some semblance of tradition and charm remains. These alternatives, however, seem the least able to lure international tourists.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

In comparison with other asian nations, Japan is much more expensive , you can literally spend double the time in China or South Eastern countries with the same amount of money that you'd spend in Japan , I know some of my friends been saving forever to visit japan , the 2020 will give a short boost but it won't be much of a help to the tourism industry on the long run, so yeah prices need to go down ,secondly Japan needs better advertising and nothing is better than the media , make more Japanese TV channels available WORLDWIDE other than NHK World , people don't want news channels, people want to get to know a culture and be entertained, bring out those J-Dramas and comedy shows .

0 ( +2 / -2 )

One other point is that Japan is an island. Continental countries (not just Asia) have phenomenally cheaper flights because they have to compete with road and rail based transport. Japan has always had extremely expensive airfares so it's hardly a surprise people choose other destinations there.

To boost numbers you should also look at other island countries such as Australia or NZ. NZ is popular because of its scenery & quietness...also skiing in Europe's off-season, Aust has beaches out the whazoo & is booming with Chinese tourism and also those investigating migrating to an English speaking country. In Asia, Japan is competing with many other countries for its primary attraction, its ancient culture, whereas it remains an expensive destination for those interested in its modern subcultures. Also is still English unfriendly.

Then if you look at the Chinese, who are becoming real travelers nowadays, they will go to Sth Korea for shopping (chk out any Seoul department store for proof) and there is the animosity caused by WWII and still provoked by politicians on both sides. Japan needs to either work to complement tourism with its neighbours more (so tourists visit more than just one country in Asia, or appeal more to China (as unappealing as that may be to those in power). In any case, the status quo isn't going to work and other than an Olympics bubble, tourist numbers won't improve in the long term as far as I can see.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

The rising cost of airline tickets to get here suggests that the headline of this article is either outdated, or altogether erroneous. If ONLY it were still an unpopular tourist destination, we'd be able to come back more often!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Holidaying in Japan is not only a joy but I think it is a cheap destination too! I am Australian & I would spend more holidaying locally than going to Japan! I went twice last year & found after buying a 1st class JR Pass that travel in luxury was cheap, reliable, fast, clean & efficient. Travelling on local lines is always affordable also. Food from local cafes was cheap, delicious & there were literally 100's of places to choose from. If you want to be more budget conscious then the local convenience store (7/11, Family Mart, Lawson's, Circle K etc) has literally everything you need at bargain prices, the service is friendly, efficient & there is always that bow of respect at the start/end of the transaction, try getting that level of service elsewhere in the world! I am flexible with accommodation & willing to shop around so I have found beautifully appointed hotels at a fraction of the prices here, & also Airbnb has some outstanding stays for the budget conscious. There is always the language barrier, nowhere as many Japanese people speak English as you would think, but hey you are in THEIR country so do your homework before going take pictures of addresses of where you need to go & people will go out of their way to help! You cannot compare a Japanese holiday with third world countries, that would not be fair, compare oranges with oranges & you will find it is a more affordable destination than most. Jetstar have really cheap flights going there, if you are flexible with dates, most THINK its expensive without doing their homework, I will be travelling back at least once if not twice this year. Do your homework like I did, I've been there I know how much it costs, not just commenting without really knowing...

10 ( +11 / -1 )

technical innovation

What?! Ah, fax machines and "inkan"?

0 ( +10 / -9 )

Still considered expensive. Misconception of "convenience". Takes forever to get anywhere and just lines, lines everywhere. Misconception of being "technologically advanced". Far from it. Best example I can think of is money & transactions. Not foreigner-friendly. Try getting from, say Roppongi to Disneyland. Will take the average tourist HOURS. Which leads me to... Convoluted transportaion network. In most major cities, the transportation, particularly rail, is handled by a single operator. Predominantly government-operated. Here, it's a nightmare of small, privatised lines. Different maps, different pricing - and the operators don't like working together. 2020 will be fun! Not exactly the most relaxing of places, is it? Leave your hotel at 8am only to bear the brunt of Tokyo's intollerable rush hour.

The way I see it, Japan is stuck in a perpetuating paradox: Hell-bent on maintain "tradition" and "order", yet cannot survive without advancing.

3 ( +12 / -9 )

My experience in Japan: 10 years living (1995-2005) + annual and semi-annual visits every year since. Japanese speaking level: Intermediate My comments are not all-inclusive and there are always exceptions on an individual's case by case experience. That being said, here I go.

THE NEGATIVES: First and foremost, as a tourist (or long term resident) you must realize that 97%+ of the common every day Japanese has no desire, possibly better described as having an outright fear, of having to interact with a foreigner. Also, the less white you are (meaning that the fear factor exponentially increases if you are not a 1st world western caucasian) the less you are actually tolerated or interacted with in a friendly positive manner. If you think I'm wrong or exaggerating then speak with a non-1st world caucasian person and ask about their experiences, especially long term residents. The Japanese government and domestic travel industry talk a big game about wanting foreign visitors to boost tourism and the economy, but the truth is they wish that they could thrive on a Japanese-only model where language and cultural difficulties are kept at a minimum, especially the old guard at the top making the decisions. It is all smoke and mirrors. For the most part the tourism industry providers love your money and would want you to have a pleasant stay, however, from their perspective wouldn't it be great if you could just speak and think like a Japanese then they wouldn't have to deal with all of YOUR cultural differences. Couldn't YOU be just a little bit less "mendokusai"? Instead of the Japanese being a slight bit more accommodating, they want the foreign visitor to do all of the conforming to a pre-conceived Japanese version of good service, fun things to do, etc. Also, as a tourist the higher you are willing to pay then the more international service standard-minded your experience will be and the more English/foreign language speaking staff will be present (This is true in any country). For example, will there be more cultural challenges and language barriers if you stay at the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku or a ryokan in Shiga-ken who actually don't want to deal with a foreigner in the first place? You be the judge. Now, on to the cost of visiting Japan. I believe this comes down to the individual visitor's perspective. If you are coming from a first world nation, especially western European, then Japan is probably not such a bad deal. If you are visiting from a third world country then Japan is probably outrageously expensive in comparison. My best friend, Yutaka, who was a Japanese travel agent with 23-years experience before changing careers (quite late by Japanese standards) explained it to me best. He said, "Do you know how we best judge the popularity of a destination?" I replied, "No, please tell me." Yutaka said, "It's simple. We judge simply upon repeat visits. The more customers repeat visits to a certain destination the more we focus our business towards that place." From that perspective, I wonder what the statistics are for international tourists making that 2nd visit or more back to Japan.

THE POSITIVES: Japan can be an amazingly fun place and it doesn't have to break the bank either. The biggest factor I see other posters comment about is the cost. Well, from my perspective Japan has come down in cost considerably over the years. Yes, you can still pay through the nose for things if you are not careful. But, the overall cost of things has come down. If you are a tourist on a budget I challenge you to find more delicious, and dare I say, nutritious foods in the world than at any Japanese convenience store. If you are willing to put up with a fare amount of inconvenience than guest houses abound in the urban areas with downright cheap prices to lay your head down for a night. On the higher end scale I don't see that four star and 5 star hotels cost anymore in Japan than other places in the world. As far as transportation within Japan goes, if you plan right and have your Japan rail pass or an airline pass then costs can be kept down (BEWARE THOUGH, if you don't have those things then travel in Japan can be downright outrageous. There's a reason Japanese go abroad for vacations longer than 3 days more than travel within their own country!). Museums in Japan are very reasonably priced compared with first world averages and some places are totally free. For the more adventurous souls out there, one thing I will say with 100% certainty is that the cost of nightlife in Japan has drastically fallen (a result of the stagnated economy no doubt). I was in Tokyo last fall and I was astounded by the number of 500 yen (and even 300 yen) a drink bars around the train stations that have popped up. Some dance clubs that used to cost me 3,500 yen with 1 drink ticket are now 1,000 with 1 drink ticket if you arrive before midnight. How hard is that to do? Not much if you ask me. I read a few complaints in the other posts about ATMs (cash dispensing machines). Perhaps in the countryside there are fewer options, however in my humble opinion, Japan is an oasis of ATM options especially when compared with 1995 (Yes, I remember when the 1st Citibank ATMs started popping up. OH THE JOY!!!). Prior to the 2002 World Cup Japan recognized their deficiency in foreign ATMs, and amazingly, did something about it. Now you can use your foreign ATM card in any Post Office in Japan to withdraw money. Also, 7-11 ATMs in Japan provide 24-hour access to withdraw money. Now, I will speak about language barriers. As in any other country, the further you travel from said country's economic center the less foreign language speakers you will find generally. Japan is no different from any other country in that regard. If you have difficulty in Japan trying to get your point across regardless of the situation please try to apply a little bit of patience. In addition, there are several smart phone apps, computer programs, etc. that can translate for you to a reasonable degree. Of course don't expect them to be able to translate detailed brain surgery instructions, but for daily common use, those programs should be more than adequate. Japanese for most part tend to be very patient and gracious hosts (especially if the alcohol is flowing). Please remember that Japan is an extremely stressful place for the Japanese themselves, so patience and understanding goes a long ways. The following is true in any country, not just Japan. If you learn just a smidgin. I mean just a tiny tiny tiny amount of Japanese and use it it will go a LONG WAY to making your visit more pleasant.

Thank you for reading my diatribe.

18 ( +22 / -4 )

"...but the PR gurus don’t seem to have caught on that using Japanese stars to advertise Japan just doesn’t work...Arashi’s tourism advert, a part of the government’s official Visit Japan campaign, seems more like a music video aimed at teenage girls"

I love this whole part.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

I'm finding Japan to be pretty inexpensive these days, probably the best value I've seen in my 20 years traveling there. I spent some time during December in Kyushu and Kansai and never spent more than $45 for a business hotel. Street food is as good a value as it gets, but grazing all day can add up. I think the main cost constraint is airfare. Fares over the winter and summer school breaks are outrageous, when most have time off to drag the whole family over. Maybe the J-feds can drop the airport taxes to entice more toursts? Looking at my last airfare invoice, which is as low as it gets for one way, the KIX tax was something like $375 and the airfare was $125 from San Francisco.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Some of the China/Hong Kong/Macao numbers are skewed by the fact that a good chunk of the travel to the latter two destinations are mainland Chinese doing shopping and gambling tours.

About Japan, having lived there for four years and not so bad in Japanese abilities, I must say that a lot of Japanese tourist info is geared towards other Japanese. Most foreigners do not probably care about the o-miyage of Yamagata prefecture but a lot of Japanese might. Although any decent town will have tourist brochures at their info booth at a station, only the big cities have stuff in multiple languages. Even then, the Japanese ones are much better as are the wonderful guides in the bookstores including local magazines that often have coupons.

Is this xenophobia? I do not think so purposefully. I think it is just the tourist authorities being narrow and focusing on the most easily accessible customer base. The Japanese capacity for collective solipsism remains a wonder.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Try getting from, say Roppongi to Disneyland. Will take the average tourist HOURS

Uh, no. A quick search on Google reveals that it will take 30 minutes and requires one transfer.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Everything is available but it just seems there are small Japan specific barriers in the way. For example, there are reasonably priced accommodations, but business hotels are miserable at the best of times, you wouldn't want to spend a family holiday in one. And with the exception of Kyoto, I think the tourist sites tend to be too far apart too. I don't think there's one big thing that makes Japan unattractive as a destination, just lots of niggling issues that frustrate. In the 30 years I've known the country not much has changed in that respect.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Geography is a big problem and there's not much you can do about that. It's not a natural stopover location on the way to or from anywhere, unlike say Hong Kong which surely has such a high number of visitors from this reason alone. Japan is also an island and so it's usually a single destination visit. Unlike say Malaysia, which is easily reached from both Singapore and Thailand and so can be added easily to any itinerary. My own country (the UK) misses out in being an island as well. Visitor numbers in the UK are quite a way behind the likes of France, Spain and Italy.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Japan has a reputation ( in the west at least ) for being expensive and crowded with a very difficult language/not much English ability. Whether these are true or not, focusing on these aspects alone would probably yield a positive uptick in the number of tourists coming from western countries.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'd say that the biggest problem with Japan is the wide-spread attitude that the foreigner has to make an effort to speak Japanese and risk embarrassment, while the Japanese person doesn't have to try because they might not be perfect. It reeks of arrogance. Whatever happened to the customer being God?

How can anyone come up with this nonsense? Only someone who has not seen anything of this country and the people.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Are they complaining that not enough Australians come here for skiing? I hardly think so. To say that Japan is unpopular is simply a generalization. It depends on the audience. But for mass travel from e.g. Europe, you just have to face the reality that Japan is far away and costly (in terms of time and money) to get to.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Either I read or heard someone talking about this recently.It was stated that although japan has lots of very interesting places to see it doesnt have the appeal of returning to see or do these things a second time.What the japanese consider interesting is not so appealing to a foreigner. And secondly the whole idea of the infamous "omotenashi" has been comandeered by the japanese where it is now used to instil the japanese way onto the foreigner.The accomadating part has been bastardised.into subtle lecturing. They are very polite but you could go to the same convenience store everyday for a year but they will not recognize you and if you made small talk like saying lovely day isnt it? they get freaked out. I went to shikoku in september and the people were so friendly.On my way back to nagoya you could visibly see the change in the way people were once you got to Kobe/Osaka/Nagoya.Busy grumpy unfriendly looks. So if they want to improve numbers they should try and improve the repeat visitors numbers and that maybe the problem.Even the 2002 world cup was a damp squib compared to the atmosphere in Korea.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

And around 13 million visitors in 2014. Btw, what good does it comparing plain visitor numbers to any country by disregarding the population or land size of such country. Japan has roughly 127 million, China 1,357 million and Thailand 67 million citizen. Respectively, 10.3 million, 55.7 million and 26.5 million visitors in 2013. Or, 8%, 4% and 40% of its population were visitors in 2013. Stats are only good if compared properly.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

And around 13 million visitors in 2014. Btw, what good does it comparing plain visitor numbers to any country by disregarding the population or land size of such country. Japan has roughly 127 million, China 1,357 million and Thailand 67 million citizen. Respectively, 10.3 million, 55.7 million and 26.5 million visitors in 2013. Or, 8%, 4% and 40% of its population were visitors in 2013. Stats are only good if compared properly

Following your rationale, Japan would finish 7th in the 'percentage of population' table, so in fact worse than where they are now. Not sure what you're getting at.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

If you want to have an ad campaign that really convinces people to visit Japan, you should listen to the tourists in the first place. They have the most important information you're looking for. They see Japan through their own eyes, own superstitions, religion, etcetera. All there is to do is to use this information, make a proper research. For example: I live in Europe and here where I live nobody thought of advertising walking in the woods, until they acknowledged that the British tourists really enjoy it since most woods in the UK are privately owned and surrounded by fences so no one can really go there and just have a walk.

I had a chance to read many tourist brochures made by JNTO, and I'd say they're okay. But okay means they could be better. In these brochures there is sometimes a certain atmosphere of pride a Japanese person has about own country. But in most cases tourists won't feel the same since they don't identify themselves with Japan. It's just not natural for a person from outside. People would rather see things that interest them personally. So, personally I believe a "wink" to the tourists themselves would be something good, a subliminal message that says "we understand your needs". But the tourism level is not just a matter of advertising. Things that are promised through advertising are verified by personal experiences.

For me, my interest in Japan is, and will probably always be just a hobby, part of a knowledge I have no practical use for. I never visited Japan and I'm not going there soon (low chance of getting there at all). The main reason? Geographical distance (8603 km approximately to Tokyo), and - as a result - high costs combined with the fact that I live in the 2nd world and I'm not high enough on the income chart to go there, even if I made savings for a long time. Cultural distance - would probably need someone to act as a translator for me. No personal connections that would make it easier for me to travel there.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Most "tourists" want a beach and cheap booze.

Fine, go to Spain or the Philippines... The more intelligent might well come to Japan.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

Cafes are now more expensive in Seoul than in Tokyo especially at the current exchange rates.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

liarsnfools:

Some of the China/Hong Kong/Macao numbers are skewed by the fact that a good chunk of the travel to the latter two destinations are mainland Chinese doing shopping and gambling tours.

I don't know whether mainland Chinese are counted as international visitors to HK and Macau or not (you maybe right), but there is NO way HK and Macau visitors can make a dent in the number of international visitors to mainland China. Do you know what the population if HK and Macau is? And not all of them want to visit the mainland.

Miguel Gonzalez:

Wow, didn't know there were so many Japan haters on here!

This isn't about hating Japan or not. This is people giving their honest opinions. If the truth hurts then that's not our problem. Take it as you like. Anyone can come to Japan.

Russell:

I visited Japan last October and found it wonderful, not as expensive as I was expecting, blew that myth straight away, London is far more expensive,

True in some respects - the Underground is ridiculously expensive as are many hotels and restaurants. But like Tokyo, if you know which restaurants to go to, then you can get by. But as a vegetarian, I find nothing in Japan beats London. And the museums in London are FREE. I hardly ever go in Japan because of the high prices. And if you don't want to eat out but cater for yourself, nothing in Japan beats the supermarkets in UK - price-wise and choice-wise.

Who was it who said travelling in Japan was cheap? If you've ever been to South Korea, Taiwan, HK or China, then you'll find out what cheap means. And high-speed rail is a fraction of the cost compared to Shinkansen.

And distance hasn't affected the numbers in China and South Korea. Last time I looked at a map, China was even further from the Americas than Japan, and only about an hour closer to Europe than Japan.

Oh, and by the way, isn't it about time the inns at Shirakawago started using the internet instead of depending solely on the phone and fax? I know that they're quite popular with foreign tourists.

In Japan I usually go for the cheaper business hotels (I'm only sleeping there, I don't need luxury items). Last time I went on business in the north, I got a cheap place (with wonderful wonderful vegetarian meals - a rarity in Japan, and very impressed by presentation and imagination) and spent 500 yen to use the onsen and rotemburo in a more expensive hotel. There are plenty of things you can do to reduce your expenditure, but it helps a lot if you know the country and the language. However, it's a sad fact that, for those living in Japan, holidaying outside the country can be even cheaper when you factor in travel costs.

I doubt whether the Chinese are that much better in English than the Japanese, but they're less shy when approached by strangers. Being shy doesn't help in anyway. Oh, and how increasing the number of restaurants where you don't have to breathe in cigarette smoke? If Japan is not careful (judging by Masuzoe's indifference), China will actually have the upper hand (yet again) when it comes to smoking regulations. Hong Kong is miles ahead in this respect, but then again, I think the local government there actually gives a damn about children's and other people's health.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

however, from their perspective wouldn't it be great if you could just speak and think like a Japanese then they wouldn't have to deal with all of YOUR cultural differences. Couldn't YOU be just a little bit less "mendokusai"? Instead of the Japanese being a slight bit more accommodating, they want the foreign visitor to do all of the conforming to a pre-conceived Japanese version of good service, fun things to do, etc

I totally disagree with this. I think the Japanese tourist industry that are at the coal face of foreigner interaction are amazingly tolerant of culturally clumsy, ignorant and insensitive tourists who often show absolutely no ability to conform to local customs and norms whatsoever.

Why should Japanese people do all of the compromising in their own country? Why should they have to speak English? Why is the onus on entirely on the Japanese? Sounds like cultural imperialism to me.

In fact I see tourist operators in places like Australia show genuine contempt for their foreign customers - particularly from places in Asia.

I, for one, am glad that Japan isn't that popular to foreign tourists - that suits me just fine.

About a fortnight ago I was playing Billiards with some Japanese friends in Shinjuku. A stylish, quiet, immaculate establishment, and as soon as I walked in it was impossible to miss a group of loud, drunk, tattooed group of Australians at a table. To describe them as obnoxious and completely oblivious or dismissive of local manners and a sense of propriety is an understatement. Within 5 minutes, one of them - a complete tool from Queensland came up and wanted to talk with me. No manners, no charm, no wit, no class - just loud, drunk, bombastic, obnoxious, foul mouthed. I was extremely embarrassed to behold my fellow countryman in all his glory. I was embarrassed for my friends, who showed incredible tolerance with the idiot, I was embarrassed to be Australian.

The influx of Australians who think it's cool to go snowboarding in Japan is not a good thing.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

What a stupid article! Did anyone look at the year on year increase? > 20% year on year. And I don't know anyone who doesn't want to visit Japan. Its not even expensive anymore, especially when you take quality into account.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

My first year in Japan I attempted to travel as much as possible on my days off. I soon learned that travel was not particularly difficult but it was boring. It took a lot of time by train to get anywhere. Then I learned that the 'really famous place' was similar to other places I had seen in other places. And I'm not particularly interested in 'really famous food' from someplace.

So, when my parents came, I introduced them to some friends. Took them to a izakaya where I was known. Took them to see some special places I had found (Kiyomizudera for the view and architecture). And skipped the tons of 'really famous places' that were surrounded by tiny shops selling plastic crapola made, even then, in China.

Their reaction? Loved meeting the friends, loved the izakaya, loved the special places. Except for Kiyomizudera, none of these are found on group tours organized by travel agencies. Did my parents like Japan? Loved it. Because I spent a year developing friendships. The people of Japan are the attraction, not the made-in-1972 concrete replicas of Osaka castle et al.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

The problem is not the costs but the perception of the costs.

I agree, I believe many people still remember the costs in the 80s. Plus, it's an island. In Europe the UK is way less popular than France, Italy, and also Germany. I believe the reasons are the same: costs (or perception of the costs) and the fact is an island. The UK has more or less 30 millions of tourists and it's lame compared to almost the 90 millions of France.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I think the biggest reason Japan is not so popular is because you have cheaper options in Asia. Japan is not really pricey, but comparing to the kinds of China, Thailand, Indonesia, etc, well... it turns out being more expensive, for sure.

But I have to disagree with some of the problems the article pointed out (it shows a lot of misinformation): -major stations and some tourist spots in Japan are pretty foreigner friendly, with texts in English and sometimes Korean, Chinese and Portuguese; -even if most Japanese people can't speak good English, they at least try to help the lost tourist. Sometimes even guiding the person; -transport is not expensive at all if you're a tourist: there's the JR Rail Pass, which allows traveling on JR Lines (with just some restrictions) as much as you want during a set period of days. Even if you're a resident in Japan you can travel cheaply with discount tickets, seasonal tickets, unlimited 1-day or 2-days passes or even special tickets valid on Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays; -correct me if I am wrong, but I think ATMs located at some convenience stores accept foreign credit cards 24-hours a day. And well, there's a lot of convenience stores in Japan; -NTT actually offers free WiFi for tourists for 14 days (don't know if it's good quality, though).

So my advice would be: research it before you travel.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I'd love to visit Japan, but it's too far from Europe! This is my main problem and I believe tons of other European Japan lovers think the same (they also believe it's too expensive, because of the years of the bubble, when it was really expensive! I remember I had read that during the 80s a coffee could cost 25 Euro - about 50.000 old Italian Lire). This reputation about being expensive it's still alive.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

".... is that some people are genuinely afraid of earthquakes! One of my best friends refuses to come and visit me here for that reason." Not so sure about that..... 1/5 of the entire USA population lives in California.... by choice.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why should Japanese people do all of the compromising in their own country? Why should they have to speak English? Why is the onus on entirely on the Japanese?

And there, ladies and gentlemen, is the essence of the problem. When an industry wishes to evade making itself attractive to its customers if they don't come from these parts, and assumes a bold defiance of the basic precepts of business out of some default victim psychology to do so, it doesn't take a genius to figure out why tourists don't flock here.

0 ( +8 / -8 )

Not so sure about that..... 1/5 of the entire USA population lives in California.... by choice.

I never hear about strong earthquakes in California, despite her reputation. In recent years, also my country, Italy, experienced stronger earthquakes than California.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

There are challenging experiences in Japan like many countries. Obviously the great sea of people and vast cities present a daunting isolation.

The bold traveler can take the first step and then work to solve all sorts of communication and cultural differences. Sadly for the inexperienced or timid the effort isn't worth the bother.

As a result the more and more precious travel experience is guided to the sure thing and specifically welcoming options. The tragedies of Fukushima and the Chinese conflicts have left residual resistance that accounts for the current drought for the tourist trade.

Going forward Japan may consider packaging specific travel experiences in easily translatable concepts. The 'Golden Circle'. The 'Silver Way', 'Jade Garden Path' or 'Japan Ocean Way' could be offered as reliable routes with locals who are aware of the purpose in clearly define itineraries, the simplification of the complexity of Japan travel.

In essence Japan might condense it's variety with the goal of simplifying travel decisions. If Japan continues to be a daunting concept to the tourist's mind easier options will be taken. That is, if there is any truth in the article.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

There are many reasons. Here is a short list.

There are no good beaches. Well, to be honest, there are, but they seems south of Kagoshima and mostly in Okinawa. You can go there by plane, but why not go to Thailand instead?

The food. If you can are not a Japanese reader and you can read the menu, you are probably in a fast food or family restaurant. How do you order? Also, if you are a vegetarian or have special dietary requirements, good luck. In addition many people do not want to in somewhere that is full of smokers.

What is all this about a beautiful country? Nearly all the river banks are made of concrete, the coastline is surrounded by concrete in the form of tetrapods, the cities are ugly with overhead power cables everywhere and so on. Even Kyoto is ugly for the most part although it does have some beautiful spots, but how many temples and shrines do you want to visit?

In the big cities the interesting eating areas and shopping streets that used to exist are being replaced by new buildings occupied by chain stores.

Everyone knows about cherry blossom, but that cannot be seen most of the year.

As has been mentioned by others, banks, foreign exchange, lack of wi-fi and so on. Why can't I just walk into a convenience store anywhere not just at the airport, buy a prepaid SIM for about 1,000 yen and walk out with a working telephone and new phone number as I can in any other country in a few minutes? Others have mentioned ATMs with no English and ATMs that do not accept foreign cards. Most visitors do no imagine that they must go to a post office or convenience store and no a bank to use their ATM card.

Well, what are the famous sights in Tokyo? The Tokyo Tower, which stopped being the tallest structure in the world many years ago? The Skytree, which is an eysore? Yasukuni Shrine, which is widely publicised by right wingers? Can't Tokyo come up with anything more interesting than shopping in Uniqlo?

The endless noise means it is impossible to relax.

Of course the lack of English is one of the biggest problems. I have been told that in Nisseki in Hokkaido there are many tourists and many English speaking Japanese. This is an exception that should show other places why they are not getting many tourists.

Perhaps, we should add xenophobia.

0 ( +8 / -8 )

Because many destinations have temples, and everywhere has its unique food culture, but many other places are prepared to put the effort in to recruit staff in the tourist industry who speak more than one language, or to not have an omotenashi waiver if the honoured guest has a tattoo.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

And there, ladies and gentlemen, is the essence of the problem.

Disagree, English language is not the essence of the problem, since the UK has less tourists than France and Italy (and in both these countries the level of English isn't good).

2 ( +3 / -1 )

hotmail... totally. I seriously don't get why I got so many thumbs down, I was just talking about my personal experience. Maybe it was because of the comment about China? It was a damn joke but seriously, they spit everywhere. My first time I was in China, I went to a restaurant and the waitress spit right on the rug in front of us. I felt like I was on a different planet.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

@unjoy: you got so many thumbs down maybe because you seemed a sponsor for SK who was bashing Japan for that aim...Seriously. There's not a "boring place" in this planet, in my opinion, every country deserves respect.

Anyway, sorry but I prefer Japan and also China over South Korea.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

In the back of my mind I may be wary to recommend a trip by my sister just because of the gropers on trains. Also she would injury the guy for sure! Not sure how the effeminate men would handle that. Probably cry

Younger store clerks don't speak to you and stare at their shoes. Funny enough it was the older clerks that started the simple conversations and were the ice breakers. I tried a basic conversation in Japanese about weather. That's the international language for small talk.

I liked it. It's a nice place, great food, great people, and wonderful scenery but overall I found the country too racist in thinking. They want white people, anyone else freaks them out. A black friend was merely sitting in a chair in the airport waiting for a friend to meet him and police were called in. Even though mixed marriages have been around for a very long time, the latest trend is to use the term Hafu, which would be short for half-breed in English, something no one would ever say today. This appears to be a regression. For all its technology nothing has really moved forward socially. And of course Fukushima and the lurch to the right-wing only continues to underline its stagnation.

Unfortunately foreigners who live there don't see this because they live in their own bubble and have established relationships around them. Tourists will not have that perspective.

I can hope for change though, the country and people deep down deserve to know they are on a wonderfully diverse world that they can contribute to and experience from. If they want it. I hope one day that will happen

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Japan is my dream, and as I said, I think the distance and the costs are the main problem, at least for the Europeans. In Italy there are tons of Japan lovers, many of them are young people who have not the money for travelling to Japan, or their parents are afraid because of distance and earthquakes. Racism can be a problem for people who live and work in Japan, not for the tourists. And I believe, currently, both in the US and in Europe there are huge racism's problem as well, but this is not the point for the tourists,

4 ( +5 / -1 )

It's not the lack of English that keeps people away it's the perception of it. I visit Japan every year and even with virtually no Japanese language skill get by perfectly well. When at home and on internet forums I'm constantly bombarded with questions on how hard is it to get by in Japan. There needs to be far more done to help tourists if that is what they want.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This article misses the main points, imho: Japan is very far both from Europe and America, while it's very close to China, Taiwan, Korea, indeed these are the nations with the highest number of tourists in Japan. Anyway, in the past these countries' people weren't rich enough to afford a travel to Japan, while now many of them can, because of the improvement of their countries' economy, and are visiting Japan, but at the same time, these countries have also harsh relations with Japan, so, for example, I believe many Chinese prefer to visit Korea or Taiwan rather than Japan. Usually, you visit the country closest to yours, that isn't necessarily the country you would love to visit the most. I'm Italian, and I travelled to Austria and Slovenia, not to Japan, even though it's my dream, because it's too far! Tons of Italians go to Spain and Greece on holiday, but this doesn't mean these countries are the favorite countries for all of them...they are close and not very expensive!

2 ( +5 / -3 )

You should be alright if you're white. If not, you'll be thought of as illegal aliens, with police often stopping you to get ID's, if they think you're not Japanese. If you don't have passports with you, you'll be arrested and detained until they identify you, doesn't matter if you're tourists or not. If you're non-white, it's too much hassles to visit Japan.

-4 ( +5 / -9 )

The main reasons I guess would be: 1.) Japan is more expensive than other parts of Asia. 2.) Many international tourists are from Asia (especially China and Korea) and you know the drama. 3.) Strictly speaking of the Hospitality and Tourism industry, you have to cater to the customers. Japan does better in catering the domestic tourists than they do to the international ones. Before anyone says "Why should the Japanese be the ones to do the effort in, for example, speaking a foreign language for foreign tourists in their own country?!?!", I want to you to think clearly about the context of what we're discussing here: tourism.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

gaijintraveller: If you can are not a Japanese reader and you can read the menu, you are probably in a fast food or family restaurant. How do you order?

If local tourist development agencies are collecting tourist tax from these restaurants maybe they could rebate some for printing of English menus.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japan is no more expensive than any other comparable country. The UK is still far more expensive with little value in services received. Of course China, Korea, Thailand are cheaper. Poland would be a lot less expensive than France, for example. People know this for the most part and expect it.

Japan has enormous marketability and for good reason. What needs to be done is effective marketing headed by foreign local companies. So for example if marketing to the UK a British advertising agency needs to be employed as they know more fully how to catch their public imagination. Also more and more foreign people need to be taken on outside the country working for the JNTO and associated Japanese stake holders. This might move some focus away from assets like the 4 seasons and on to more tantalising realities that exist in Japan.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Japan has so many places to visit one needs several trips and a RailPass to enjoy its culture, planning is # 1 in this respect. go your own way,without the guided tours & you'll have a great trip as for lodging & meals "When in Rome,Do as the Romans!" & ENJOY!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Publicity is a problem but more of a marketing issue. For the most part Americans love japan but few see a path to get there for a vacation, for the west coast especially. I myself travel everywhere and Japan and Hong Kong are far easier to travel too and deal with than Europe when you live in Los Angeles.

Though I can in fact speak and read japanese, which makes it easier for myself, I can take advantage of it but few americans learn other languages, I did because I happen to work for japanese companies.

As far as cost, other than the extreme cost to get out of the airports, I have always found Europe to be a lot more expensive than Japan. Both accommodations and food. Not that japan is the least expensive, Hong Kong, Singapore, Manila especially will all be less. Japan is more like america for accommodations, about the same service and prices. So again a marketing issue. Hong Kong or Manila can take a 250 dollar a night room and you get the best possible service, met at the car by a deck clerk, already checked in. Excellent room. America, in san San francisco or LA, a really good room, LA is slightly better with service but neither as good hong kong and here is where japan Fits. If you pay say 150, you will get passable accommodations.

Go to europe and for 250, it will be holiday inn express junk hotels. If you can find less, then the room will be less than a motel 6. The only way to get good hotels and service is to shell out 500 or more a day in rates and even then they are likely to not be as good as Singapore or hong kong.

So the point here is if Japan marketed better, they have what americans look for, decent accomodations, you will pay less than a trip to europe, for the west coast, the travel is actually easier, for everywhere else it is at best the same or a couple of extra hours travel.

Once there, yes the EU countries all pretty much have English. I have even been in Hong Kong malls watching chinese store clerks and customers switch to english. Manila, Singapore, all english a definite advantage. The only way around that really is for Japan to have a lot of english speaking tour companies that seem very inexpensive and accommodating and start adding very easy to read and clear English signage on everything where the Japanese want people to go. I can say now, even me being able to read japanese, i have had tough times just trying to get around tokyo, let alone from tokyo out to Disney or a palace, Mt Fuji or get over to some other city.

I also suggest the japanese try to find small towns to bolster them up as tourist places because many travelers prefer relaxing in countryside locations. Unlike Singapore and Hong Kong, Japan is larger and has a lot more nature available for this type of tourist.

The goods are there, as the author said, good marketing, slightly better prices and some way to help tourists not feel intimidated by language barriers would do the trick. At least the west coast americans would start coming, especially if this can be seen as a week trip which is easy to setup and do.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Hotmail: These are just small samples of no Koreans allowed signs all over Japan.

Those signs need peeing on!

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I really disagree with the basic premise. If you look at the chart in the article, tourist numbers are increasing quite a lot, but of course the ranking in terms of numbers can't compare with much larger countries, and comparing it with the EU with all its permeability between adjacent countries isn't really fair.

Japan isn't expensive, and actually, if you know what you're doing it's pretty cheap. Wifi connections are improving, and you have been able to rent keitai at the airport for quite a while, if that is a concern.

The number of foreign tourists to Japan in September through November, 2014, with year over year increase are below. You be the judge, but it doesn't look like a problem to me. 9/2014 1,099,102 +26.8% yoy 10/2014 1,271,700 +37% yoy 11/2014 1,168,500 +39.1% yoy

4 ( +4 / -0 )

1.It's too expensive to stay in Japan!

A lot of people! (Shopping was a bit of a nightmare in Shibuya, Tokyo, Harajuku, hehehe)

Overall, Japan is a beautiful country rich in culture and vast in courteous, kind and considerate people! BUT! the price to stay in Japan compared to other countries such as Thailand, Cambodia or Vietnam is the difference maker.

I love Japan <3 and hope to live there someday!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

When an industry wishes to evade making itself attractive to its customers if they don't come from these parts, and assumes a bold defiance of the basic precepts of business out of some default victim psychology to do so, it doesn't take a genius to figure out why tourists don't flock here.

You miss the point. Japanese hospitality and Omotenashi is performed and presented in the Japanese context, style and custom. It is specific to Japanese culture...because it is Japan!

Isn't that what you come to Japan for if you are a tourist?!

If you want a cheap, watered down holiday experience because you are too ignorant or culturally inept to handle and appreciate the Japanese way, then don't come. Go somewhere else.

or to not have an omotenashi waiver if the honoured guest has a tattoo.

I love this argument. Typical egocentric Western mentality in all it's self centred glory. No tats means no tats. Why should exceptions be made? Tourists are no more important than the next person.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

It's not necessarily that expensive in Japan, but it is expensive to travel there. Also a major lack of English services in Japan. You ever find a policeman or a worker at the train station who can speak more than rudimentary English? Those train maps are pretty daunting. Also there's a pretty big lack of free wifi in Japan.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I think distance is the major issue. In fact, number of Asian travelers (especially Chinese and Korean, regardless of political conflicts) keeps increasing. I know so because I live in East Coast and I don't go home in Japan as much as my parents want me to.

Ask any Americans if they want to visit Australia. They'd say, "Sure!" Then tell them it'll be a 25+ hour flight with 2-3 stopover. They'll say, "Ok, never mind."

@papi2013

In the US, permanent residents are required to carry their green card at all times. While I have never asked to present it on a street, they do make you carry it just in case, right? ($450 replacement fee if I lost it, by the way!)

Two years after 9/11, while visiting Florida, I was asked to show the transportation authority both my passport and visa even though I did provide my out-of-state license. I wasn't offended at all. As a resident or a visitor, cooperating with the authority when needed should never be a burden—freedom and peace comes with responsibility and obligation.

@unjoy

Sorry you hate Japan but I love South Korea. I cannot live without kimchi and H-mart and Dr. Jart. I visited Seoul once and except for some crappy incidents (rip-off taxi, being chased by a crowd of people,) most people were super nice and food was great! I'd love to visit again.

@Alex80

Your comments made my eyes watery.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The biggest recent positive for visiting Japan is that it is actually less expensive relative to recent years because there has been very little if any inflation. Language can at times be an issue but foreigners are likely to be fine in the most popular tourist destinations.

On the negative side, traveling in the dead of summer, winter, or inclement weather can be miserable. Getting around often requires a lot of time walking around train stations, waiting on platforms, and long rides between destinations. In good weather conditions it's great. In the middle of August it can be hellishly hot and uncomfortable. There probably is not much that can be done about that except only traveling during pleasant times of the year.

Although I am familiar with Japanese culture and customs no one should expect new tourists to be culturally or linguistically able to navigate Japanese society. If Japan truly wants more foreign visitors then they should make available more linguistically capable people in key places to smooth the way.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

@HaraldBloodaxe: When an industry wishes to evade making itself attractive to its customers if they don't come from these parts, and assumes a bold defiance of the basic precepts of business out of some default victim psychology to do so, it doesn't take a genius to figure out why tourists don't flock here.

The headline should read "Why is Japan little known as a travel destination” Until about 10 years ago Japan did not bother to promote itself as a travel destination in the international market. After WWII the country put priority on developing infrastructure, industries and later trade so there was close to no attention to inbound tourism. This said, domestic as well as overseas travel bloomed and thanks to this there is a great number of ryokans and historical places to visit and the necessary infrastructure is already in place. I am glad that the government eventually decided to enter the international travel market and the efforts of all involved parties (private companies, government and NGOs) have paid off. In just about 10 years Japan achieved the number of 13 million foreign visitors and knowing how hard the Japanese work to achieve their goals, I am sure that they will get the 20 million inbound travelers they are working for by 2020. As a recently introduced destination, Japan has not yet entered the period of relying on repeat visitors. As a “product” travel to Japan is still new and there is a lot of room for growth. Promotion and the generosity which the Japanese traditionally demonstrate to guests help a lot.

@ John Ngo :2.) Many international tourists are from Asia (especially China and Korea) and you know the drama.

And yet the numbers are as folows: Tourist from Korea 2012 123.2%, 2013 120.0% year-on-year growth; China 2012 147.5%, 2013 92.8% (which in absolute numbers is still much more than 2011.) Also, the data for 2014 has not been published yet but it seems that there was no problem with decline in 2014.

@unjoy: japan is a pretty boring place from a tourists perspective. The most common thing I hear from tourists is how materialistic and bland japanese are. You get a much better bang for your buck in S. Korea. Better food, rich culture, vibrant nightlife, warmer/friendlier people, Koreans can actually speak english, did I mention better food?

There is no problem with loving your country but spewing your jealousy on any occasion you get is ridiculous.

@jerseyboy: Arrogance, cluelessness and disregard for what visitors expect and want by travel industry professionals and therefore wasting billions of Yen in hare-brained advertising. Closed minded and hostility to fresh ideas, especially in the segment of young people because travel related offices and institutions are usually staffed by conservative people who usually have no clue whatsoever what is attractive to hip youth. A general lack of joy of life and cheeriness without being drunk (as opposed to Thailand or Indonesia). Rules, rules, many rules without sense - dame, dame dame, no but or common sense. Lack of flexibility and desire to accommodate expectations different from Japanese rules and customs (perceived as trouble/meiwaku). Spot on. Japan wants the world to perceive it as it likes to perceive itself. So, as the article says, they are talking just to themselves. Obviously, another thing that everyone seems to want to ignore, is that other than Mt. Fuji and the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima, there are not any widely known landmarks that folks, say in the U.S., have on their "bucket list", like the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace, The Coliseum, The Parthenon, etc. Plus, one would hardly describe any of Japan's big cities as "romantic".

Funny, isn’t it jerseyboy? Each of the tourist spots you mentioned is in a different country – one in each. And your mentioned two in Japan. Is that you have not done your homework before commenting on this thread?

There are still many improvements to be made as the market trends and business environment will keep changing. However, I doubt that the government and the travel industry will give up working on this. The latest topic of discussion among all involved professionals is that Japan will have to continue working to ensure growth of the travel industry even after 2020. It seems that they are on the right path, no?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I agree with a lot of the comments here-- some of the problems in making Japan a tourist destination include the perception (rather than reality) of Japan being expensive and the distance involved. Also, unless they're really into Japan, people aren't really sure what to do if they do come. Other places kind of solve that problem by themselves by having gigantic walls or gorgeous beaches and other natural wonders. I don't think Mt. Fuji, Tokyo Disneyland and various temples and fake castles are much of a draw when Japan has to compete with Great Walls and Great Barrier Reefs and the dream of Audrey Hepburn tooling around on a motor scooter with Gregory Peck. I came to Japan to explore some "niche" interests like street fashion and noise rock. Not exactly things that scream "tourist paradise" for most people looking for a relaxing, pampering experience in some exotic, unique, romantic locale.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I live in Japan and travel within Japan from time to time with my 3 kids. When I do, the hotels bend me over rape me and take my wallet charging extra for every single person. When I return to the States I fit my whole family in a huge hotel room with beds galore for the price of one person in Japan. Since hotels are my major cost that is the reason I do not travel more in Japan.

-1 ( +7 / -8 )

"But what about cool Japan, the government drive to get more foreigners interested in Japan?"

In order to improve its PR, Japan should drop the totally uncool "cool Japan" gimmick. It never worked, and it's just getting worse. (that what happens when you let obviously boring and uncool people to run a "cool" campaign)

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Reckless, I have a plan to travel with my 2 kids next month. We'll pay 2700 yen for the older one to stay (plus buffet dinner) and the younger one stays for free.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I love Japan and I love travelling around in Japan. But I do it solo. My wife and son wouldn't understand if they saw signs that say in English "Japanese Only." I can ignore it but I don't think that's fair and it's not very welcoming to see signs like that in this day and age.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

According to the chart above, the popularity of Japan as a tourist destination is skyrocketing, year on year. In fact 2014 will have way outstripped 2013, I bet.

The title of the article should surely be: "Why is Japan such a popular tourist destination?"

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I love Japan and I love travelling around in Japan. But I do it solo. My wife and son wouldn't understand if they saw signs that say in English "Japanese Only." I can ignore it but I don't think that's fair and it's not very welcoming to see signs like that in this day and age.

I don't get it - why would you be bringing your wife and child to red-light areas?

7 ( +9 / -2 )

@kikuman: Japan should drop the totally uncool "cool Japan" gimmick. It never worked, and it's just getting worse.

While I do agree that JNTO has to continue the PR campaign under a different motto, I can’t see how the "Cool Japan" one did not work. The number of foreign visitors has been growing for the last several years and you are telling us that the PR campaign has not worked. Hmmm…

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Transportation, lodging, and eating out in Japan are quite inexpensive compared to Britain. While Arashi might not light fires in European countries or North America, Japanese popular music has a big following in some Asian countries. Since most tourists now come from Asia and the potential for expansion in their numbers is far greater than that for tourists from Europe or North (and South) America, tourist promotion efforts should be geared in the first instance to Asians.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

All the neo-nationalist hating of China and the Koreas can't help since people from those nearby countries are the most likely visitors.

Most of the tourists seem to be Chinese or Koreans so you are talking rot, yet again.

I tell everyone to come to Kansai. So much to see in a "small" area and you can scoot off to other parts of the country on a JR rail pass if you want to. Just get up early and come home late, or stay overnight.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

charging extra for every single person.

Stay at a business hotel. They are often sold by the room, not by the person. Toyoko Inn is pretty bare bones, and is very small, but it's always clean and also includes a simple breakfast.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Great information nandakandamanda. Typical tourists that think about coming to Japan would beyond a doubt ahead for cities like Tokyo,Osaka,or Kyoto. But an attentive tourist should take a cruise out to the country side to get a glimpse of Japans natural scenery.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

indeed, japanese people are shy and silent if you don't start to talk, i went to japan and just said the keyword sumimasen, almost everyone i met were so helpful and kind.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

@JaneM: While I do agree that JNTO has to continue the PR campaign under a different motto, I can’t see how the "Cool Japan" one did not work. The number of foreign visitors has been growing for the last several years and you are telling us that the PR campaign has not worked. Hmmm…

Its impact was much less than desired. In this sense it didn't work out as planned. If I buy a computer that works only 70% of the time, I'll say it's not working properly. The "cool Japan" branding attracted some visitors, yeah, but not enough to be considered a successful camping in my opinion. Also, the number of visitors might rise regardless, or even in spite of any PR campaign, due to many other reasons…

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

gaijintraveller

Well said! you are truly a traveller!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The picture graph says it's increasing though:

2012: plus 34.4%

2013: plus 24.0%

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@kikuman: Its impact was much less than desired. In this sense it didn't work out as planned. If I buy a computer that works only 70% of the time, I'll say it's not working properly. The "cool Japan" branding attracted some visitors, yeah, but not enough to be considered a successful camping in my opinion. Also, the number of visitors might rise regardless, or even in spite of any PR campaign, due to many other reasons…

And it can not rise as much you might wish despite any PR campaigns due to environmental factors like natural or man made disasters, financial crises, regional or domestic (civil) wars, highly infectious disease outbreaks, currency fluctuations, and what not. I think I gave you some of the reasons why the numbers are not as high as you might have wished. So, sorry to disappoint you but your computer example is hardly applicable in the case of tourism.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Where to begin...?

Japan is my destination of choice for my annual holiday practically every year since 2006... and I have never encountered any problems. For bus and train travel I have a PASMO card, which I load up as and when needed. My credit card is accepted at 7/11 stores so I can get cash whenever I need it. My Japanese is not great but I know enough to ask questions and when I'm stuck I have an electronic dictionary in my bag when out and about.

All it takes is a little research and some friends to point you in the right direction.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

In my tourist experience it feels different from other countries when traveling around in Japan. 90% is great, easy and affordable, especially in big cities like Tokyo or Kyoto. That said, there are a few things:

When I'm anywhere that doesn't regularly have foreigners I get oggled. Nothing rude, but it's not a very comfortable experience for those unaccustomed. The Japanese used is usually not something like "Welcome!" but rather "Holy crap there's a foreigner's here!"

As mentioned, things that are "cool" to the Japanese are not necessarily popular (and even off-putting) to the outside. Signs/labels/menus with the overly cute characters or underage girls are among these.

There is a huge emphasis / amount of fame given based on historical value in Japan, which is lost on tourists. Most of these places just come off as tourist traps, and most of the famous food is not understood as most is not very memorable. Many places I have been have some kind of manju, cookie or cake which is famous..but at the end of the day they all taste very similar. Sanuki Udon was a big one in my experience- went to Kagawa to try a famous shop and while it was delicious, there wasn't anything particularly unique about it.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Sadly, I have had few visitors from my home state whether it be a relative or friend. Maybe two cars, a big house while raising a family until retirement is what keeps everyone home based, but the people who have made the journey to Japan often call it a lifetime experience. Luckily my command of the language and years of living here are helpful to those who visit. Language, distance and money play a key role in a person's decision to visit, but once they put those fears aside, everyone is usually delighted to have visited Japan.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Why would anybody really want to come to Japan, when the alternatives are so much more attractive?

Compare a holiday in Japan, with spending the same money to go around Europe, through some geniunely beaufitul areas, incredibly wide open and clean air, with people who don't stare at you, smoke constantly in restaurants and on the street, etc., and you can see why people don't want to come here. If I didn't work here earning money, I would not be here. None of you would, given a free choice of anywhere to live or travel to.

It is a smoke-filled grim concrete xenophobic factory; literally the mirror opposite of somewhere like the south of France, or the Spanish islands.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

Japan is a great place to visit once, Like any other Island unless you fall in love with what it uniquely has to offer, the world has many more options to chose from. I don't know anyone who vacations in the same place year after year, but to each his own.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Firstly, actually getting into the city can be a bit of a pain since its busiest international airport, Narita, is located quite far out of central Tokyo.

Well so are many of those other airports on your list. I found Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia's main airports to be painfully far and harder to get to.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@ Strangerland..

I didn't realize that Akihabara was considered part of Japans' Sex-Trade district.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I think that most of the Japan haters on this thread have never visited the Country. I visited last July 2014 and will be visiting again this July 2015. My experience: Hotels are usually cheaper and better than in other mayor cities such as London. Some people have mentioned trash on the streets? During my 3 week stay i have to say that Japan is the cleanest country I have ever visited. Tokyo the cleanest city i have ever seen.

The only think i would love to see is some more hotels with swimming pools for the summer months!

Japan really impressed me which is why i changed my original plans and decided to return for a second year in a row!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I didn't realize that Akihabara was considered part of Japans' Sex-Trade district

More like Sex-less Trade district, haha!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I went to Japan on 2011, 2 months after the earthquake.

But I didn't find it expensive, so the first thing that makes Japan "unpopular" is the perception of being expensive, you do have to do a little research, but at that time, all the advertisements that percolated overseas is that if you wanted to eat the blowfish thingy (i don't recall what is called sorry) it was incredibly expensive, and the perception grew to other stuff, like accommodation and transportation. When I arrived at the hotel that I booked via the travel agency it was not expensive and it was close to many "conbini", so i didn't starve or had a bad time.

The second thing that does pose a problem is the language, people are very nice but too shy if you speak them in English (I didn't want to spook them further talking to them in Spanish), still, I knew a few words in Japanese and, boy "Sumimasen" was my golden word!, I could manage to be around town, visiting shrines, Tokyo tower and Akihabara but somehow I felt that I missed a lot, because it was difficult to ask for directions or read some signs at the stations.

Still, I´ll visit again this year, but Japan really needs to up its publicity a little, it amazes me that for all the English that they promote in schools, it is very little you can find there, even at touristic places, in my country, for all the 3rd world it is, we have a touristic spot in the middle of the desert where you can find many people speaking English...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Why would anybody really want to come to Japan, when the alternatives are so much more attractive? Compare a holiday in Japan, with spending the same money to go around Europe, through some geniunely beaufitul areas, incredibly wide open and clean air,

Don't you love it when people who have not traveled around the country tell you how dirty and un-beautiful it is!

with people who don't stare at you, smoke constantly in restaurants and on the street, etc., and you can see why people don't want to come here. If I didn't work here earning money, I would not be here. None of you would, given a free choice of anywhere to live or travel to.

Oh, but many of us are here by choice and we like it here a lot. I guess that in many remote areas in our beloved Europe (because just like in Japan there are many there too) Asians are stared at, too. I guess that coming to Japan makes us finally realize that we Europeans can be considered foreigners, too.

It is a smoke-filled grim concrete xenophobic factory; literally the mirror opposite of somewhere like the south of France, or the Spanish islands.

Yeah. If you are so concentrated on earning money I guess this is what you get from your every day life at the end.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I didn't realize that Akihabara was considered part of Japans' Sex-Trade district.

Please tell me you're joking...!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I have visited Japan ten times since March 2010. The most expensive part of the trip is the airfare. Flying economy from LAX to Narita/Haneda has risen from approx 928 USD to approx 1300 USD. And it is a LONG flight at 11 hours. When in Japan, my daughter and I stay at Super Hotel and that saves us a lot. Fill up on the free breakfast and we're ready to go.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@JaneM; you are making assumptions there. For your information, I have travelled extensively, by bicycle all over the country, for years. My opinion remains the same. Even in the middle of the country side, there is endless grubby concrete roads, abandoned industrial buildings and everyone smokes constantly. Up the top of the mountains you do get a long distance view, but it is hardly beautiful; merely a long horizon of hazy pollution and power cables.

I realise this is a Japan focused site, so most people will be out to defend the place, but taking a step back, it genuinely is grim.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

As a part of sharing the Japanese experiences, at the start of my stay in Sendai (1 million inhabitants) I went to the local tourist information and asked whether during my week's stay I could attend some live cultural performances, theater, concert etc. They told me that a theater comes down from Tokyo once every few months and I just missed it. In practice, to go to a theater I must do it in Tokyo was their further advice. They then looked for other events and found two during my week: a singing performance by a choir of Japanese housewives that they advised me against attending and a concert by someone playing a flute accompanied by a piano. Summing up that and other Japanese experiences, I have had much better luck with interesting performances by Japanese artists outside of Japan than in. I can hardly believe that for some of those performances they would find any audience inside Japan. At the risk of getting my post erased by the eager moderator, like on most of my other occasions here, when going out to the Sendai's restaurant area, the hookers scene appeared on the other hand to be rather vibrant. Astoundingly, with all of this, Japanese have a high perception of their culture compared to other countries. I won't go into J-pop.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I'm a Chinese, and from what I have seen from my relatives, friends, more and more Chinese are visiting Japan these days. The only problem for majority of Chinese to visit Japan is visa, which requires you to pass certain income threshold. This bar has been softly lifted this year, and I am sure more and more Chinese will visit Japan in the coming years. Yes, there is old history between these two countries, and there are current conflicts as well, but Japan still attracts heaps of Chinese for its shopping, food, and culture, especially for the younger generations, who are less sensitive to political issues. The westerners visiting Japan may on decline, but certainly neighbouring Asians are on a rise, and a large number of Asian visitors, though cannot speak Japanese, have no problems in reading and understanding kanji. Even though you may think Japan is not an English/Western friendly country, it certainly is a country "Chinese friendly", with Chinese signboards, plus people can speak Chinese literally everywhere. (I'm sure this is also the trends of western countries, like in Australia and NZ all the signboards in the airport now added Chinese.)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Alex80, I sponsor S. Korea because it's really underrated as a tourist destination and from the tourists I've talked to (I work in a tourist area in SE Asia and cater mostly to tourists) S. Korea is becoming a very tourist friendly place. The general feeling I get is that S. Koreans are much more warmer towards western tourists than japan. Welcoming to western tourists although some eastern tourists like Indians and East Asians have expressed they get cold shoulders. When I visit japan, I feel it hasn't changed a bit in 15-20 years.

@NYtoday, I don't hate japan but having lived there for 6 years, I understand the sentiment many here have about the country. Too rigid both culturally and politically. I have many japanese friends that I cherish, but the culture there is, and I hate to use the word, xenophobic.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Japan is cheap in my opinion

I'm in Canada and if i want to go to a bar or a lounge or Izakaya, a beer will cost me $7.00 or about 6650 yen

In Japan, many nice bars have beers that are cheap, you can get a beer for like 3 bucks...

Restaurants in Van (nice places but not super super fancy/classy) cost about 20 bucks for a plate of food not including drink. That's about the same in Japan.

Train is more expensive and so are movie theaters though

2 ( +2 / -0 )

24% increase in tourists in 2013 from 2012( the highest in this chart). Seems like Japan is doing well imo.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Since last year saw a record number of visitors coming to Japan,how is Japan an unpopular destination? Some articles don't make sense or just to provoke for provoke's sake.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@unjoy: sorry, but I still can't understand your attitude. "Japan is boring, come to S.Korea". It's childish. As I said, Japan is my dream and to me, it's not a problem if Japanese people are generally "cold". Do you know why? Because I'm an Italian, and I already live in a country where people are generally warm, so I'm attracted to a country where people are different from my own country's people.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I don't hate japan

Oh really? Then why do you insist on using the lower case "j" for every single one of your posts? Are you, and I hate to use the word, racist?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Brainiack your quite right, I've been to japan twice and aim planning my third trip, I can say that i have had one or two uncomfortable moments where translation has been an issue but I've been right unto Niigata and still not had a problem, the last time i went i took my 14 year old son and he loved it, foods good and cheap, beer is cheap travel is cheap as well are the hotels , like £60 for a double room in Tokyo, that in london would be £160+ so is it expensive? the shinkensin is £160 for 1 week or £255 for two weeks, wow thats good value for money and that includes Ferries and buses and other local trains. it can cost from Derby to London £70 for a return ticket, and thats just one day! also most attraction are cheap in comparison to the UK Alton tower tickets are £17.50 booked in advance(each) Lego land is £33 per person. but where ever I go I do make an effort to speak the language, so it does help. but other people are right lack of WIFI is a problem also my i phone would not make local calls but I could phone the UK whys that?? what they could do is at tourist attractions is to install the QR code system this would allow anyone to scan the object/itam into there smart phone and it would explain things, but if you don't have the WIFI back up then thats useless

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The reputation that Japan is "pricey" is more fiction than actual. I have been to Japan seven times and it is no more expensive than the U.S. Sure, you have expensive restaurants in Japan. But you also can eat cheaply there too.

I disagree - but only in principle. Japan IS more expensive for similar food items compared to the U.S., but this is mainly due to the increased operational costs a Japanese restaurant faces compared to a U.S. restaurant selling the same wares. Even though the U.S. just made a big deal about raising the federal minimum wage, there is STILL an exemption for "service-related occupations likely to make part of their earnings in tips" (i.e. waitresses and waiters). What this does is allow U.S. restaurants to set their prices lower than a country like Japan - which decidedly frowns on tips. In effect, the customers are expected to pay part of the waitress' wages directly via a tip, rather than the restaurant owner doing so.

As an example: A Hooters restaurant in the U.S. will be paying the wait staff about $4.00/hr (and I'm probably high on that guess) and the restaurant management only has to supplement that if the employee can prove her tips did not bring her up to the State minimum wage, while a Tokyo Hooters starts the wait staff out at 1,100 yen. Make no mistake, most of Hooters waitresses make above and beyond the State minimum wage once tips are figured-in, but the point is that the restaurant MANAGEMENT isn't shelling out those higher wages, the customers are. With this scheme aided and abetted by Congress, management can keep their operating costs artificially low compared to countries that don't allow or otherwise discourage tipping.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

No. of foreign visitors to Japan in 2014 highest ever at 13,410,000

Something seems to be working.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It's not.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

A lot of these comments are focusing on the wrong things. Yes Japan is expensive, but then so is the US, so is the UK, so is Sweden, and these places get a lot of tourists. You can eat cheaply, get around fairly cheaply, however decent quality normal priced hotels are lacking.

The simple fact is that a lot of the Japanese simply don't want tourists: http://wordpress.tokyotimes.org/japans-lack-of-fondness-for-foreigners/ Call it racism, being xenophobic or whatever you want, the simple fact is that the Japanese mentality does not like outsiders. They tolerate, but never allow integration. Speak to the Koreans and Chinese if you want first hand proof.

Western tourists have higher expectations than Japanese tourists, the ones that have made it all the way out here, have often been to many different countries and been subjected to many different cultures so know what they like and while Japanese service can be second to none in terms of standard, language difficulties (an unwillingness to speak anything but Japanese, not necessarily an inability), lack of convenience (debit cards anyone? Chip and pin?), difficulty in navigating socially accepted norms, and often a difficulty in knowing how to eat a meal (when it has to be eaten a certain way - I've been here a while and know how to eat, however quite often I will eat my way and risk the wrath of the restaurant owner / patrons) means they're put off by bad publicity coming back home.

I've had several groups of friends / family come over while here in Japan and they have all left with favorable impressions, I think only because they have someone who can navigate the social mores.

In relation to Tourism, Japan has a lot to offer, however a culture shift is needed which isn't going to happen overnight or by the 2020 Olympics.

After a year of being stared at, walked into, I no longer care and feel myself becoming a rude Gaijin. Maybe we need more of them over here.... "You mean you can use a knife and fork????" :-)

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I lived in Japan a long time. For rich tourists, it's affordable. For less-than-rich, the costs of hotels, travels, meals are still ridiculously high, even with the high dollar.

Japan is fine with fewer tourists, as long as the ones who come have lots of money to spend. Don't expect the tourist numbers to go up even if the dollar goes up another 20% in value. And don't be surprised if they start using robots to greet you at hotels!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

ReformedBasher said: "Most of the tourists seem to be Chinese or Koreans so you are talking rot, yet again."

Tsk, tsk... such shortsightedness. Warispeace is spot on -- if the Japanese didn't hold weekly hate sessions against Koreans and Chinese, imagine how many MORE of them would be coming to Japan.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

@Muhammad

You have a problem with Judaism, Hinduism and Ba'hai?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I think visiting Japan is great. The Japanese are very friendly and they are willing to help and it is not expensive despite its reputation of being very expensive. Tokyo is a lot cheaper than New York and the people in Tokyo are friendlier than the people in New York.

I don't speak Japanese but I didn't experience any serious communication troubles, I was never lost or something like that.

I really liked visiting China, Taiwan and South Korea too but Japan art and crafts are more interesting imho. You can see a lot of stuff in Japan that you can't see anywhere else. Visit South Korea if you want to visit South Korea, don't visit South Korea because you think that Japan is too expensive, that is unfair to South Korea. South Korea can't substitute Japan, it is too different.

Asia is becoming wealthier so I think that more and more Asians will visit Japan.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@unjoy - China is great if you like open sewers and seeing people spit.

I think you would do better in India, where it has the largest population of people in the world that still practices open/public defecation.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Well, as usual, the Japan Today comment section has become a unidirectional morass of thinly veiled racism. I don't understand why Japan Today just doesn't ban every bilious racist slur against Chinese/Korean/Japanese people, it's getting ridiculous.

Earlier @ReformedBasher said "Most of the tourists seem to be Chinese or Koreans so you are talking rot, yet again." What the hell Japan Today? Why are you actively condoning racism by letting him post that kind of bile? Clean up your house!

Anyway, those huge issues aside, less racist, more intelligent commenters made some interesting points.

To add ,

Some more negative points perhaps:

Blatant pedophilia and prostitution in Akihabara and art depicting such at Comiket. Openly racist establishments *Ueno for sure has a few Izakayas like this which, even if you speak Japanese, will not serve you

Someone needs to get some young people (and dare I say some women) to make the Cool Japan campaign actually cool. Who wants to see boring bar charts and some old guy going on about manga?!?! *softcore porn adverts on trains as well as old guys reading porn on the Sobu line (maybe not so cool for families!) The police may well racially profile you. My South American friend left the country because police hounded him once a month. *The bureaucracy is ludicrous sometimes. In America and UK, (philosophically at least) the customer is always right. In Japan, that's not always the case. If you bring a 13th person when you've only booked 12 for a nomi-hodai that hasn't started yet, it may randomly be decided that one more person isn't allowed. So many weird clauses like that really mess up Japanese customer service and probably offend loads of tourists each year! God forbid you ever make a mistake and come up against immigration, they treat non-Japanese worse than animals, several people died last year because of such mistreatment Horrendous Anti-Korean racist groups / racist political broadcasts I've witnessed Japanese men harassing foreign women / spitting on them / aggressive scary nanpa / following girls. *admittedly some foreign guys (we call them Losers Back Home) mistreat Japanese women in the same way, for that I apologise on behalf of the rest of the world! Wandering Gaikokujin Samurai who tell you off for not being as Japanese-ish as them or just hate on Japanese people!!! A lot of things (at least in appearance) seem exclusive to Japanese people. Festivals, Onsens and things can often feel completely Japanese-only, unless you really make an effort (in Japanese) to integrate yourself and ignore/transcend people staring at you (sometimes with a mean expression!!!). Kanji only buses in more rural areas!

On the plus side.

Most people feel very safe, even amidst huge crowds that in other countries would be terrifying Even within a week, you're likely to meet some incredibly kind people However Tokyo is certainly more tourist friendly than London. JR staff tend to be very helpful, whereas I witnessed first-hand a London bus-driver swear at a group of tourists for no discernible reason. Usually you can find a JR staff member with at least limited English in Tokyo. +1 for not much trash +people tidy up after their dogs (Amazing!!) Nightlife is amazing If you know even a little Japanese, if you can find a decent bar, you can have an awesome time The atmosphere in the bigger parks is so peaceful and family oriented. There is SO MUCH TO EXPLORE but perhaps it's scary without at least basic Japanese language proficiency. So many people go out of their way to help you find places (often missing their train or ruining their own day in the process)

It's an amazing country. I think if you can find the right places, and right people to hang with, you'll have an AMAZING TIME!

LOVE.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Bottom line: "Lost in translation"--Ethnocentricity...

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

During my two visits to Japan, I found Japanese people to be very generous and kind. Temples and shrines are exceptionally beautiful and peaceful places to visit. With a little effort one could find clean and comfortable hotels to stay at in towns around Tokyo. I hope to visit Japan again.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I love the cleanliness and seeing my mother's face everywhere! We, as a couple, really enjoyed feeling safe in Kyoto and elsewhere. I also loved the artistic touches in neighborhoods. I have not traveled to Europe but it was not a priority as high as my grandmother's homeland. Someday, maybe we will go to Europe. Can't really afford it right now.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Arrogance, cluelessness and disregard for what visitors expect and want by travel industry professionals and therefore wasting billions of Yen in hare-brained advertising. Closed minded and hostility to fresh ideas, especially in the segment of young people because travel related offices and institutions are usually staffed by conservative people who usually have no clue whatsoever what is attractive to hip youth. A general lack of joy of life and cheeriness without being drunk (as opposed to Thailand or Indonesia). Rules, rules, many rules without sense - dame, dame dame, no but or common sense. Lack of flexibility and desire to accommodate expectations different from Japanese rules and customs (perceived as trouble/meiwaku).

indeed, and one sector this is absolutely the case is the ski industry. Small towns, narrow minded, stubborn locals councils and utter cluelessness for the potential goldmine they are sitting on. Japan could be a skiing mecca, a small number of Europeans know this and spend their entire season here as the snow in Japan wins hands down. It could be so much more, Apres skiing anyone? not in Japan. Sometimes some ski hills are not owned by one entity but separate entities who cant agree on anything. Happoone in Hakuba for example, in summer one of the owners fences off his section and puts a few cows to pasture, it could be a Mountain bike heaven in summer, keeping the hotels filled, but instead it's gone to the cows.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I told friends and family to stay away from Japan till the radiation hotspots are gone. Just because the media doesn't cover it at the request of the government doesn't mean we've forgotten.

You may not like this reality but so far it seems that most posters are in denial.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

As a reasonably long-term resident of Japan, I was surprised at this headline. Friends of mine who came here for visits loved the country, and would readily return. People who've never visited would not likely know the negative issues, such as lack of spoken English in banks, post offices etc. There is a perception Japan is expensive, but it's a misconception, as several people have pointed out. I suppose the answer to attracting tourists is to mount a more effective advertising campaign.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The way they count the figure is different. For example, I heard that in South Korea they includes the number of transit passengers and airline crews.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

so with a high-valued yen

Clearly the author is financially illiterate. The Yen has dropped in value from it's high of 71 yen/$1 to the current 120 or so/$1. That is about a 40% drop in value. It has not been this cheap to travel to Japan this millennium.

There are so many structural problems in Japan they are too many to list, but the most important issue is you need to roll out the red carpet for tourists. When I was still living full time in Japan I met someone who worked for the tourism bureau and they were studying how to increase tourism, so they sent out a survey to hotel owners in areas they deemed attractive to tourists and asked if they would be interested in free translations of their materials into English and some basic English training that would included a list of common phrases written in kanji and English, so the tourists could point to what their need was.

Over 70% responded that they did not want the training, as they were not interested in foreign tourists. This is a societal issue that needs to be addressed. Where there is a wil there is a way, but there is no will right now.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@Alex80 I don't understand what you're saying. You're saying you're a warm person, so cold people are more attractive? I guess I can understand. Italians are very emotional, japanese are not... so you seek unemotional robot people? That's cool. But, after some years, you will understand that it's not healthy, it's better to express instead of holding it in and being "japanese".

@kickboard It's because I do not respect japan enough to capitalize their name. It's not racism, just a political statement from me.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@unjoy

I agree to disagree with you on this topic (and few others we have exchanged our opinions over.)

Let me tell you one thing, though.

I really like your honesty. You don't sugarcoat, lie, make excuses, or pretend. I am tired of "I like Japan but..." "I am no hater but..." "I only criticize Japan because I pay taxes..." when their past comments nothing but...

So I like you and your honesty.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

BurakuminDesJAN. 18, 2015 - 07:40AM JST

Funnily enough, almost all of my friends and family who visit comment on how affordable things are in Japan compared to Australia and Europe! Perhaps it is the perception that Japan is mega-costly that still exists in those who have not visited.

Funny, I said the same thing in a previous article and was soundly downvoted. The travel costs are the deal breaker, not the actual cost of living upon arrival, if one does not stay in Toyko. The same can be said of any major world city.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Some reasons may be political as in some countries the Japanese are minorities and side with people to stay out of the fray or to get political favors or many other reasons and people in those countries do not want to reward Japan. Japan seems to support the US, but American Japanese do not always seem like loyal citizens, but opportunists. Just my opinion.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

In the same price, You will get 5* facilitities in Thailand compare to Tokyo's 10X10 .

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Dear readers, I may share my own story. I am a french guy, in my early 30's, living in Asia. Growing up in France, the first contact with Japan was the import of all the famous japanime (captain tsubasa, niki larson, hokuto no ken, etc...) in the late 80's. Although France wanted to sweeten the anime, the dialog were really silly. I guess at that time, a guy from Asia would have been classified as "chinese" as most of french people were not educated to distinguish a chinese, from a japanese or a korean. as a teenager, i started to dive deeper into the manga culture and start grasping the interesting japanese culture. as a student, i clearly did dream about going to Japan but costs were definitely too high, without mentionning the language ( yes french people suck in english). When i started to work, i could afford going to Japan but never had the real motivation to start planning the actual trip. Since 2 years back, i had the chance to befriend several japanese families working in the same city than me. That was the spark that really make me wanted to visit Japan. We shared the same values and i was impressed by their kindness and honesty. That made me want to visit Japan.

long story short. We visited Japan in April 2014, during the Hanami season. We had a wonderful time. We are planning to revisit again later this year. On the improvment side, i think it is not easy to visit Japan with Young children. The language barrier somehow limits the interaction with the locals which i think it is a pitty. Availability of halal eateries would also provide a boost in frequentation.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I found that most people Ive talked to that have visited Japan loved their experience in interaction with the people and culture. It's not so much about tourist attractions, temples and sights. The experience is what needs to be exploited and promoted. When you visit japan that's what tourist fall in love with. Things like how considerate the people are. How clean and well kept most of the cities are. How fast the service is when you go to a McDonald's in Japan. The pride the people take in their jobs and rolls in society. The beauty in just that is like no other in the world.

I think also a thing to think about is how Japan's society is structured quite differently from the rest of the world. If you're a woman visiting Japan you will have a totally different experience then if you're a man. There are so many attractive young women in Japan its no wonder they have an age crisis. I remember seeing traveling couples and the look on the dudes faces always looked of regret. The women's looked of jealousy.

Anyway I like the fact that Japan isn't the tourist trap it would be if it was more accessible. Feels more exotic and untouched that way.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Language was the biggest problem when we visited. We could find English speakers here and there, and we are not people who expect the whole world to change for us. If you want suggestions, might have some printed flyers in train stations and bus stations with some already prepared Questions and Answers. Also one designated person with Translation above their head on a sign. However, I know that is unrealistic considering there are many languages in this world. We found the people to be lovely. Sweet and kind. I don't think the title of this article is correct. It's very negative. Japan is not unpopular, it's just not on the wavelength for most Americans due to the language and the rumors they hear about expense. People in the US get tired of strangers who can't speak English, too. It's not just a Japan thing. The trains have a good system of translation. It was great. The busses did not, as I recall, but we were able to figure out how to ride them. Restaurants might want to have an English menu they whip out. Our only other complaint was the muggy, humid weather - OMG. Be careful to warn tourists, because it was the worst thing we experienced and we would have had a better time if we had not gone at the end of June. Overall, we loved our trip!
1 ( +1 / -0 )

People just do not know the nature is superb. Forests, volcanic mountains beaches, lakes. If you love nature and photography this is a dream place to visit. Just remember most people do not speak English and your credit card will only work at 7/11 if you want a cash withdrawal a lot of merchants do not accept credit cards anyway. Its funny the Japanese can you their credit cards at ATMs all around the world but we cant use ours here. Also the food is fantastic. Not just Japanese food but they are great with cuisines from other cultures too. Also it not really that expensive unless you are in the big cities. If you are a single man looking for some night life action forget that. Doesnt exist here. Stop over in Bangkok instead. Otherwise great place to visit.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Japamn is a nice place.Unfortunately goods are expensive

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Japan is very clean great for cycling around and most people here have money so they won t take yours

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Better late than never. On the Japanese being helpful or not. So. On one occasion a bunch of 8 gaijins dropped off a highway bus at a stop called Gujo Hachiman Inter - just to find that the destination, the lovely town of Gujo Hachiman was still several km away and with no taxi or any other means of transportation around the only way to make it was on foot. The sun was falling quickly behind the mountains, with a clear perspective of us getting lost in the middle of nowhere between Nagoya and Takayama. And here came a lady who dropped off the same bus, but unlike stupid foreigners had her little lady's car parked nearby. By means of which she delivered all of us in two rides to the town center. It did not even take a single "sumimasen" - only some "arigato's" afterwards. Our desperate looks was enough to have it done. Meaning that there are people in Japan who are eager to help. Maybe there are who are not. Just like anywhere else in the world. I guess, on average proportion is mostly the same.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have travelled the U.S. and Europe and nothing compares with Japan for its:

People: Very Polite and Hospitable.

Food: The best for me and my wife! Oh the sushi and wagyu beef!

Safety : One can walk late at night without any fear of being mugged or held up. Can you do this in ...New York or Europe?

Costs: One can visit small cozy restaurants and enjoy good cheap Japanese meals. If they cannot communicate then you can always point at the food samples in their windows.

Since the Japanese Government relaxed the Tourist Visa requirements, a lot of Asians now look at Japan as "The Place to visit and enjoy".

Thank you

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have never been there, but I asked my son, who went there three years ago, if cigarette smoke is prevalent, and he agreed, alas. Can someone assuage my disgust of cigarette smoke and tell me that is is quite avoidable? I am willing to stay there a few months, then.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Can someone assuage my disgust of cigarette smoke and tell me that is is quite avoidable?

If you stay in your hotel room, you will entirely avoid cigarette smoke, so no worries.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hello,

I have just come across this article, I have found Japan to be no more expensive than New Zealand, I would struggle to get around the country with out my Japanese wife, there is English around, the JR rail has a massive board up where all the trains go in Japanese and the ticket machines have an English option but if I can't read the board to know how much to pay for a ticket even though the machine is in English it is of no use to me. Japan is an amazing place to see! So much history and culture, beautiful buildings, Japan can show case its self with the Olympic games but the lack of English speaking people makes its a very difficult country to visit! I have visited Japan about 10 times, I can just at a pinch order dinner and buy a coffee but its not easy. A simple easy fix like most European countries do is make English a second compulsory language. Japan has so much to offer tourists, clean, good transport, great weather in spring and autumn ( summer is pretty hot) good food which is priced all ok to me. Lots to see and do, Disney land, Universal Studios Japan, Castles to visit, Akiharabara the biggest electronic district in the world just to name a few!, Japan is an amazing place only let down by its ability for its people to speak English.

Thanks Bruce (New Zealand)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So...what's the reality? Realistic situation? Being a malaysian-chinese (looking mostly like a korean though)...

Am i going to face a bit of... embedded hostility on the first week i arrive in tokyo or osaka? My friends are from Yokohama and Sapporo... so i don't know about that, and... fukuoka too.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan is seeing a huge increase in of Australian visitors YOY with the addition of new airlines flying into the country such as Jetstar and Air Asia. I don't believe Japan has ever been an unpopular tourist destination if anything it has a market awareness problem. Japan is one of the best & safe countries you can travel for multiple reasons. It's a great trip for overseas first timers, families, people chasing the snow and so much more.

The Japan Rail Pass is also a great thing that is offered for when travelling and simplifies the travel around the country. It's worthwhile seeing if it's for you by checking www.hyperdia.com and calculating your single fares vs the JR Pass from the supplier. You can learn how it works here: http://www.japanrailpass.com.au/how-it-works/

I expect to see continued growth in the Japanese inbound travel in the build up to the Olympics.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This doesn't feel true. because for one, Japan was a lot cheaper than expected. getting from narita to tokyo did not take long at all and was a very painless trainride, no transfers everyone... EVERYONE spoke some english. and EVERYWHERE was also translated into english. I wanted to practice my little japanese, but when i'd ask people stuff in japanese, they'd answer in english! not only that, the train systems and many signs are in japanese AND english. it was very easy to get around without knowing a lick of the language.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think the western media never want to promote Japan as tourist destination. In my country I´ve never seen on TV any program showing the atractiveness of Japan as they do to New York, Paris or London. Generally all the time we see the skyline of New York skyscrapers, the Rome coliseum, the Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower and certain lost paradises of Africa, Southeast Asia or Pacific ocean. All the time the media are producing documentaries about remote sites basically oriented to backpackers. I don´t see any interest from them in showing the rest of the world as should be. In the case of Japan they never mention for example the city of Kyoto. The only thing that I see of Japan is the Shibuya´s scramble crossing for 1 second in any History or Discovery channel documentary when they want to show a glimpse of the world. They never say it is the famous Shibuya in Japan. They prefer to confuse the audience by simply associating the crossing image as any convoluted crowded asian city. Another example is the World´s tallest tower called Skytree. If it were an American or European construction for sure they would mention it in many different programs. Thanks to YouTube for the first time in my life I could see the Tokyo´s Skyline and for me is the most interesting city to see from above or at street level more than any city in the world, even more than Dubai that lately is well promoted because there are American and European interests in that country apart that Dubai may pay great great amount of money to the western media owners for this purpose. To finish my comment, I want to add one question: Have you ever seen any image or video of sakura hanami in any western media program, at least for one second?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have put considerable thought into going. Especially after reading about the Bonin Islands.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan Is FANTASTIC.. learn a few phrases.Almost always in busy centres, if you stand around looking at signs and looking a little lost ,a little pixie will pop up and ask " How may I be of assistance?' These pixies (AKA Japanese locals ) love to engage in English . The difficult part is disengaging when you have a train or plane or bus to catch. My advice. Jump in and get wet, the water is fine ! Going back for our 5th visit . Naturally the further away from main centres you go the more difficult communication might be but THAT IS THE FUN PART . making yourself understood to the relief of both parties . However, if you are weak kneed and cowardly go to Disney land in Anaheim.CAL USA .

0 ( +0 / -0 )

While the original article dates from early 2014, and uses 2012 and 2013 data to demonstrate a point, it really missed the key points that have lead to the surge in tourist numbers here in Japan the last few years. Easing visa restrictions has seen Chinese visitors go from 500k to 5M in a few short years and 2016 is double 2013 (in just three years!)

Expensive things - maybe accommodation, but the country, once you are here, is very affordable and cheaper than many other places. This is partly because the actual wages of the locals is low and therefore the costs of meals and public transport are very good. Making excuses for the location of Narita ignores the distances other major cities have to their airports.

The issues now are things like limited tourism infrastructure and resistance from ordinary Japanese to the numbers of tourists. The incoming money is not always welcome, but is part of the challenge of a growing industry. This is a topic I deal with daily in my business as I assist people to visit, and it has made some of the great places and sights of Japan less attractive, but spreading the tourists to less common places is part of the challenge delivering genuine experiences for guests.

The obscure example of the Ise shrine money exchange is out of place - not too many foreigners get out that far, but I did enjoy my visit with my Canadian guests earlier this year.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Is this article super old? Apart from the language barrier, Japan is catered to tourist much more so than it is to its own people and its foreign residents. I mean, come on! The freaking JR pass is a major steal for tourist to go all over Japan for super cheap. It's not available to locals or those living here. Its extortion!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Well.. for price, japan is worth. But for tourist pleasant (if they think you ar chinese or india, my friend there told me), they will show you their very bad face. Not all of them of course, but 75% did this. Its different with my 1st trip in 2013, almost all person i asked is very wolcome. Im not chinese but have chinese face because of my blood LOL.

Some bad thing happen. In restaurant while they already serve us with bad face and they hear us not talked in chinese, they become nice to us. At Ueno Park the security told me with angry face because my kid out of line and I heard word "chinese", I said : im not, im Indonesian and he become nice to me. And many more like that. So its

So.. im very disappointed with most of japanese there (mostly in tokyo) for now. Hope they will pleasant with tourist next time. I still love japan. And I will be back. Soon.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites