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Abe vows further efforts to attract 40 mil foreign visitors by 2020

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As someone who works in this industry allow me to say Abe and co... 'stop'. carrying capacity in places like Osaka, parts of Okinawa, Hiroshima, Tokyo and especially Kyoto are well beyond what the community can handle/reasonably be expected to put up with.

Japan's "tourism model", such as it is, is based on short 1 or 2 night visits somewhere. You may have noticed the lack of clothes hangers and luggage space in that hotel you recently stayed in and the ramen shop and shopping area the visitors guide recommended.

In most cases, foreign visitors are working from a completely different model and thanks to instagram, etc. are 10 steps ahead of any domestic tourism authority/DMO (read: government). I was working in Nara last week on a project and the frustration and exasperation from both locals and visitors is noticeable and also completely understandable.

So, I'd humbly suggest stop any further promotions. Tourists are going to keep coming regardless. Consolidate and actually help local markets by funding training and expansion of visitor services. Spread things out. Give visitors incentives to go off the beaten track (Golden Route) more with discounts, etc. and give main markets a chance to breathe and re-group a bit.

Or, just plunge on and keep packing them in like the Chuo line at rush hour. Let's see how well that works out.

27 ( +28 / -1 )

As someone who works in this industry allow me to say Abe and co... 'stop'. carrying capacity in places like Osaka, parts of Okinawa, Hiroshima, Tokyo and especially Kyoto are well beyond what the community can handle/reasonably be expected to put up with.

This!

If you want all these tourists to have a good experience while they are travelling here in Japan, get the people and infrastructure up to speed first,

When I visited Arashiyama 10 years ago, it was crowded but still enjoyable. Last year I visited and it completely changed. The roads are barricaded to guide the insane crowd into Arashiyama. On top of that they started building these concrete new shops that don't fit in the picturesque Arashiyama. I dont mind tourism, but as I have said countless of times before, mass-tourism doesn't make anyone happy. Its too crowded.

24 ( +24 / -0 )

Do everyone a favor, keep this in mind first, prior planning prevents piss-poor performance!

If you want all these tourists to have a good experience while they are travelling here in Japan, get the people and infrastructure up to speed first, particularly in the areas where language skills and assistance are most needed.

And quit using weblio or google translate too!

17 ( +20 / -3 )

I think all this promotion will be aimed at what Japan is already well-known for, Kyoto, Fuji, sushi. Such items already have enough, perhaps too much promotion.

What is needed is more encouragement for the low-budget tourist, the backpackers. It is backpackers that open up new areas to tourism, it is backpackers that opened up Phuket, Kuta Beach and the countryside of many other countries to tourism. It is the countryside that needs tourists to boost the local economy.

Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam were opened up to tourism by backpackers who ventured to lesser known areas before package tours and hotel chains would.

What is often not noticed is that low budget tourists can spend a lot. They do so by spending more time on their trip. They also spread the word and often return to places they like. They are also more likely to spend their money where it is needed, in local businesses.

Most importantly the low-budget tourist is happy to go to places that are not yet developed for tourism and help, encourage such areas to develop.

What will really happen? The government will continue doing what it has already done, more promotion of Kyoto, cherry blossom, Fuji.

I live in the countryside and can see how tourism is being developed here. Well, is it or is it being strangled by regulations? Airbnb and minpaku are being regulated, which is good in a way, but over-regulated to the extent many are just giving up on doing it and that is bad. On many beaches in the season people are not allowed to swim in the water after 5pm, which is when the restaurants on the beach must close.

Japan needs to be more open-minded and imaginative in tourist promotion. I admit there is some improvement, but there is still along way to go.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Be careful what you wish for. It won't be long before people go back to their home country and tell people not to go to Japan. Japanese may not mind waiting in line for 2 hours for a bowl of ramen or 3 hours to wait in line for a ride at Disneyland or overcrowded onsen etc. but I am sure tourist won't want to spend their vacations waiting in lines for hours.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Turism growth is pretty much the only thing visible to everyone that Abenomics achieved through devaluing yen and easing visa rules. Abe needs ' further efforts on all the other promises he didnt keep, not focus on the only one thats working. Still waiting for that MIA Third Arrow and ' drilling the regulation bedrock ' he promised back in 2012.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

a tourism promotion body in the disaster-hit region demanded conditions be eased for government subsidies to tourists visiting the affected areas.

What does this mean? That the Japanese government is planning to give money to tourists visiting disaster-affected areas?

10 ( +11 / -1 )

I thought cities were over capacity? Japan has to say no. Ever increasing tourism just ruins whatever was there before

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Please no.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I've lived here nearly 20 years and only had relatives from the States visit twice. It is too expensive and tiring to get here, and I think most persons in the US are not particularly dying to see anything in Japan compared to say Leaning Tower of Pisa or the Eiffel Tower. I guess maybe Mt. Fuji has some allure.

Also, once the yen rises to 100 or 90 to the dollar this trend will collapse.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

sorry, there is no edit function.

that last bit should read "stop any further new promotions".

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I'd recommend keeping the earlier target of 30 million, which can be reached this year and maintain that level rather than having to increase the numbers, improve the quality over quantity. Divert more traffic to the local regions such as Tohoku where they are ready to welcome visitors with open hearts. I love Tohoku and would recommend it as it reflects true Japan. Go beyond Kyoto, Hiroshima, Tokyo and Osaka. So much to discover and fall in love with beyond those major cities.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

40 million? Shinzo should pledge, urge, encourage 100 million it's not like there is enough accomodation anyway or his talk actually results in anything.. Land of the Que. I live here and I tell my family don't bother. It's hardly a relaxing environment. Resistance is futile.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Liniency on AIRBNB, Unfortunately many can't afford your over charging tiny hotels charging per person instead of per rooms.Tourism skyrocketed these past few years and AIRBNB contributed a lot to that.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Foreigners are not coming to Japan to meet you Mr. Abe.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Yesterday, I went up to the Noto peninsula to see how bad the storm damage was, and dropped by an out-of-the-way scenic overlook on the way back - where a busload of Scandinavian tourists were milling around in the parking lot. This is in the middle of nowhere - do we really need 40 million tourists a year?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Spot on bcexile.

It's also silly to base the Olympics and Paralympics as the core of your tourism strategy when other host cities had a drop in visitors in their Olympic year. It puts off regular visitors who are worried about overcrowded tourist spots and transport and hiked up prices in restaurants and hotels. In London new hotels were built and greedy landlords evicted tenants to use the property as Air BnB etc, it backfired badly on a lot of them. It'll be worse in Tokyo, as at least in London transport wasn't an issue, most Londoners who could took annual leave for the Olympic fortnight. The Tube was much quieter than usual.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Japan is this kind of country where over tourism has ruined the scenery.

Going to kiyomizu-dera was painful because overcrowded. 10 years ago it was a delight.

Mass tourism is for money and Japan was known mainly for its atsmosphere, not its must see monuments.

Shikata ga nai !

You still have plenty to see and experience the real Japan where no English is spoken lol (my sister remembers it around Mount Fuji;))

5 ( +5 / -0 )

So he is also going to build western style toilets? There are about 30 in Kyoto Station, one of the most popular destinations in japan. Not many Nagoya combini have toilets. Combined with Japanese people usually can’t speak English...taiwan is a better choice.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Folks, don't worry, it's just another one of his promises!

And of course, the majority of tourists will visit the same ol' places, Tokyo, Osaka, Nara ... well ya know, those famous tourist spots. But maybe we can convince at least some of them to come down to "inaka"?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Abe vows further efforts to attract 40 mil foreign visitors by 2020

Abe is the king of lip service. The only student he has to increase tourism is to throw more money into the pot. The biggest problem is accommodation. They really stuffed up the home share business by micro-managing it out of existence due to pressure from the hotel industry. They also have to address the issue of ‘foreigner friendly’ accommodation. There are still many hotels and hostels that will not allow foreigners to stay in them. Then, there is the tattoo thing. Also, multilingual restaurants. Japan has some of the finest cuisine in the world and some of the finest restaurants. However, I am yet to see a quality Japanese restaurant with any kind of multilingual menu. There will be millions of visitors to Japan in 2020, but the majority of them will be eating at Saizeriya or Gusto because they can read the menus. They are going to miss out on real Japanese cuisine.

I’m surprised Japan gets so many foreign tourists with the amount of cultural prejudices in place.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

 just spent 8 days in Kyushu, visiting all prefectures and all major spots, and for 8 days I saw a grand total of 6 Western travelers.

I live in Kyushu, and I see more than that number every day - without trying. I agree that the bulk of tourists are Asian, but the number of Western visitors is also way up. There is only one direct flight from Europe to Kyushu that I know of, but that alone would bring in several hundred visitors a day.

But then I think there are already too many tourists as it is.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

BigYen:

Almost every countryside airport in Japan has direct international flights to Taiwan, China or Korea (some have flights also to Indonesia, Thailand, etc). In contrast, the only entrance gates to Japan for Westerners are Narita, Haneda and Kansai Airports. You use the excellent railway network to travel from Narita to Sendai or Hanamaki, while the Taiwanese arrive directly at those airports. It's immensely more convenient. This is why places like Kyushu and Shikoku get few Western visitors but a lot of Asian ones. Actually, many regions in Japan would have had no visitors if it weren't for those direct flights to Asia. The average travel duration for Asians is about 3-4 nights actually. They spend more but for shopping. If you look at the data per country, Asians spend their money mostly for shopping and very little on transportation (since they don't need to travel long distances within Japan and don't stay long), while Westerners spend mainly on accommodation, transportation and activities.

Do the hustle:

Almost none of this is true. Foreigners absolutely don't go to Saizeriya and Gusto, mainly because these places don't offer Japanese-style food. Westerners aren't here to eat pizza or pasta. If you actually go often to Saizeriya and Gusto you'll see how few foreigners eat there compared to any crappy kaiten sushi. Also, there is a huge demand for Michelin-starred restaurants and other high-quality (and expensive) Japanese restaurants. Lack of English menus has never been a problem at those places, because you're usually served a course rather than choose from a menu. Believe me, tourists are not missing out on Japanese cuisine. :)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Phoenixikki could have done a better job of explaining it, but lots of Asian tourists come on group package trips that visit inaka sites like onsens, the various World Heritage sites, and places famous for scenery or seasonal things like snow, cherry blossom, autumn leaves, etc. The last time we stayed at an onsen hotel as a treat from my mother in law, there were well over fifty Chinese-speaking tourists there on a weekday and few Japanese guests. If you go somewhere like the snow road at Kurobe, there will be hundreds of Asian tourists. Skiing and adventurous independent tourists (like BigYen) aside, western tourists don't really do inaka. As Phoenixikki says, they tend to do the golden route and then tick Japan off their list of countries to visit. It is Asians who come repeatedly and will go to lesser sites, not least because they have the transport (charter buses) independent Western travellers lack. Public transport between and around the big cities is great, but once you're in inaka proper, it's one bus every two hours and 1,800 yen to go forty kilometers. It can take you all day and a big chunk of fares on public transport to see a couple of sites. A Taiwanese group on their charter bus will visit five or six sites and also stop off at a couple of viewpoints on the way. As with rural France/USA etc. the thing to do is to hire a car, but that idea hasn't really propagated yet.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Tourists are a plan B or lower for any economy, Shinzo is grasping at straws, He just can't make the economy robust and needs visitors to prop up his failed planning. But what's new from the LDP.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Phoenixikki:

The bigger problem is that unlike the Asians, the foreign travelers from the Western countries have no direct access to the countryside and few of them are repeaters.

I wonder if you could explain what you mean by that. As visitors from Australia we can catch a direct flight from Melbourne/Sydney to Narita (10 hours) and then if we want to visit the countryside we can use the excellent train network, supplemented by buses if necessary. How does that differ from what Asian visitors do?

Our visits have all been from 16-20 nights duration and all have involved travel outside the 'Golden Routes' - including to Kyushu, Shikoku (Shimane), and Sanin (Matsue). Isn't it a fact that most Asian visitors, particularly Chinese, only spend 6 nights or so in Japan even though they spend more per head than non-Asian visitors?

I certainly agree with you that there aren't many Western faces to be seen outside the traditional hotspots - although a JT reader from Tohoku picked me up on this a while ago, and said that there were far more tourists coming in to that region than there were before.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As a regular visitor to Japan (this year will be my 8th or 9th visit) I have seen some changes since 2006 - such as the police cars - I know that a police car looks like a police car, but when I first visited Tokyo the big Toyotas were just black and white with 警視庁 written on the doors... a few years later and they now had a shield on the doors with POLICE in English. Bus destination boards have English, as do all stations. Tsukuba Express, Shinkansen and Yamanote Line trains have messages in English... major street signs are in English...

I can cope.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Bertiewooster, there are US bases in Okinawa because Japan tried to take over the world. The US stopped them in WWII and ended up taking over and by keeping bases in Okinawa it allows the US manage the balance of power and keep an eye on China and NK.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

9 years ago when I visited Japan, the JR office was small and I was the only one picking up the rail pass. This year I came back and it became this big office with line of people zigzagged out the door. Then I soon found out all the tourists in the world was in Tokyo. I love Japan and would come every year but airfare is really expensive and there aren't many flights with just one stop. Somehow, Air Canada always comes out with the cheapest fare but flying with Air Canada means I have to eat a lot of carb and little meat with no vegetable and they're always late. Airfare was so much cheaper and the routes (from US flights) were time efficient years before.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

commanteer

"In the countryside, there are restaurants that haven't changed their ways to accommodate tourists tastes." That's fine and dandy if they have menus that at least have pictures of food on the menu. Otherwise, how are you going to know what to order? If you're a vegan, good luck having the staff answer the million and one questions vegans tend to ask before ordering that sliced tomato "dish".

And that incredible scenery that you speak of... Are they uniquely Japanese? I've been to Hokkaido which is supposed to have the most incredible scenery in Japan. Well, when you compare it to Yosemite, or the Banzai Pipeline, no contest.

And what are the chances aimless driving will lead me to that warehouse of "junk", or something of similar quality?

I do think scooter rentals in the countryside will help. Nothing like a ride through rice paddies at 7 am. I once went to Pai in Thailand. They ran out of scooters because of all the tourists flocking there. Got bored within an hour.

I do like the idea of grannies giving massages.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Liniency on AIRBNB, Unfortunately many can't afford your over charging tiny hotels charging per person instead of per rooms.Tourism skyrocketed these past few years and AIRBNB contributed a lot to that.

This! ^^

You reap what you sew...

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"The target of 40 million visitors to Japan in 2020 is now within our reach. We will swiftly work toward it in the next two years," Abe told a cabinet meeting at his office.

The bulk of the in bound tourists are still from other Asian Countries, the Government keeps saying they would like more Western Tourists but the reality is the Japanese Ski Season is the most popular for Westerners especially Australian and New Zealanders.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Phoenixikki, kohakuebisu:

Thanks for the explanations, much appreciated.

Re the driving, we prefer to use the trains because a) we like travelling by train and b) it's less stressful than driving. If we were going to drive, though, it would be in the inaka, but you've got to get there first. I don't fancy driving through Japanese cities.

The trains are an attraction in their own right, and I don't mean in a trainspotting kind of way. If you get a JR pass and look up hyperdia before you go, your travel between destinations is taken care of. You just have to find the station, find your train, get on board, sit back, relax, eat your ekiben or your fluffy Japanese sandwiches and watch the world go by. Damn hard to beat.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Dear commanteer:

The only airliner company from Europe to Kyushu Fukuoka is Air-Fin from Finland. But most of Europeans come via Dubai to Fukuoka. Others via singapore or Hong Kong. From US the cheapest Delta, others American or Japanese JAL or ANA. For me, I go to Europe or North America from Incheon S. Korea, cheapest way to travel, Asiana or Korean Airlines. That's too bad there's no Dutch KLM from Fukuoka anymore.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

From Incheon, KLM, Air France, Lufthansa, British Airlines and others go direct to Europe. Many American airline companies, too!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's easy to think more is better when whenever Abe visits anywhere he gets a police escort on the highway & crowds at his destinations are strictly controlled. 40m is waaay to many given the current infrastructure. Unless large numbers of people start coming in through Nagoya and other 2nd tier airports I doubt they can even bring in such a number let alone give them an acceptable experience.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

To all of those who say tourists should be steered off the Golden Route... really? What is there to do in the countryside? Every town I have visited in the countryside has about an hour's worth stuff to do before you start climbing the walls.

How much time can you spend dipping in an onsen before your face starts turning purple?

What you need out there are scooter rentals, ziplines, massage parlors... oh wait, Thailand has those.

I say let the 40 gajillion tourists spend their time and money on the Golden Route and wring as much money out of them as possible? Put up with for a few years, then see them all disappear after the Olympics.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

To all of those who say tourists should be steered off the Golden Route... really? What is there to do in the countryside?

What you need out there are scooter rentals, ziplines, massage parlors... oh wait, Thailand has those.

There is much more to life than scooters, ziplines and massage parlors. Frankly, I don't know how any of those can give you a memorable experience.

What is there to do on the Golden Routes of the world? How much time can you spend taking selfies at the Eiffel Tower or Taj Mahal before you turn blue? And inevitably, these places are packed with other tourists and locals who make their living off tourists. There is nothing at all of the local culture to experience at most famous landmarks.

In the countryside, there are restaurants that haven't changed their ways to accommodate tourists tastes. There is great scenery, great food, and all kinds of oddball places. I found a warehouse in the countryside of Oita that could have housed a 747. Instead, it was packed to the gills with antiques, collectibles and old junk. In the countryside, people can be friendly and aren't looking for an easy way to separate tourists from their money. Driving aimlessly in the countryside almost always brings up an undiscovered waterfall or beach, some great scenery, some mysterious old temples, friendly locals and good food.

And if you really need a massage parlor, maybe some old village granny will help you out.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I make two trips a year in Japan, it is almost five years that I do not go to Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and all the crowded tourist destinations I leave the tourist simple, travel to the most remote and little known places in Japan, Fukui, Kamikochi, Iga Ueno, Seki, Okazaki, Tsumago, Echizen Katsuyama, Gujo Hachiman, MAGLEV Yamanashi museum, TATEYAMA, Joetsu, sekigahara, Obama, yonago, Matsue etcc .... the real Japan is in these places ... and tourists in these areas are really very few ............... less bad (smile)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Saizeriya is the Japanese McDonald’s. Recently many izakawa have English menus or photos, but not today’s specials.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

With 40 million visitors, the scramble intersection at Shibuya will be packed to overflowing. Better build a reinforced pedestrian overpass that will double as a platform for elevated shooting, and charge admission.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Some issues for westerners :

Not family friendly at all (pay per head, no further rebate after 1/2 price for kids up to 12...)

limited direct flights. For instance, none between Paris and Nagoya !!!! (Third world country like)

no direct recognition of most foreign driving license and different rules to obtain the right to drive depending on your home country. For instance, I had to get translation of my sister's license through mail and paying. I could not even get the right to use myself translation due to have resided in Japan over a year at that time lol.

Too difficult for old people, even tough with financial means. Inconvenient for people with disabilities who can't have the patience to wait in particular. You can't have unexplained conditions to follow for mass tourism.
0 ( +0 / -0 )

kohakuebisu: Well said, thank you. Just wanted to add that group package trips are rapidly becoming a thing of the past even for Asian visitors. The latest data shows that individual travelers are exceeding the 50% barrier for countries and areas like Taiwan and Hong Kong. This is particularly true for younger visitors.

Spot on about rental cars as well. Surprisingly, Western visitors prefer to use trains and buses, although many of them come with an international driving permit to do the Mario karts. Rental cars are mostly used by Hong Kong and Taiwanese, and to a certain degree by American visitors in Okinawa. Personally I don't get this. It's so much easier and more convenient, especially tourists from Australia and UK who are used to left-side driving should totally rent cars all the time.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Okinawa is easily the best part of Japan for tourism. I can never understand why there are so many US bases here. Beautiful beaches, unique culture, gorgeous scenery. Put the bases up in Hokkaido if they absolutely have to be in Japan somewhere and develop Okinawa for tourism. That would increase the number of visitors hugely and make really big bucks.

-3 ( +13 / -16 )

As someone who's also working in the industry I can tell you that there are a lot of misinformed opinions here. And lots of false assumptions.

The government is actually aware of over capacity issues. That's why in the last few years the focus of promotion has been predominantly the countryside. This is bringing good results and the numbers are increasing (Shimane got 79% more overnight stays than last year, Kochi had over 200% more at one point). The reasons are several: 1) better promotion of the countryside; 2) more repeaters who don't want to visit Tokyo or Kyoto; 3) direct international flights to Asia from all countryside airports as well as cruises.

Tokyo is NOT just promoting its central stuff; on the contrary, its main focus now is "Tama-Shima", aka the Tama area and the Tokyo islands. Kyoto is promoting its sea and mountain areas (Amanohashidate, Miyama, etc). Just because you don't feel the above it doesn't mean it's not true.

The bigger problem is that unlike the Asians, the foreign travelers from the Western countries have no direct access to the countryside and few of them are repeaters. This results in very very few numbers of Western visitors in places like Tohoku, Shikoku, Kyushu, Sanin. I just spent 8 days in Kyushu, visiting all prefectures and all major spots, and for 8 days I saw a grand total of 6 Western travelers. Luckily, the government finally got aware of this around last year and have started targeting Western customers (particularly "luxury travelers", but their definition of luxury is hilarious and basically any traveler from the West fits). It's a well known fact that Westerners spend more.

Also, don't judge the level of services from a Western perspective. The vast majority of Asian tourists have absolutely no problem queuing up 3 hours for Universal Studios or a famous ramen shop.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

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