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Gov't eyes 20 mil foreign tourists a year by 2020

34 Comments

The Japanese government is holding discussions with various ministries on how to double the annual number of foreign tourists from the current 10 million to 20 million in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday met with cabinet members and government officials and asked them to come up with measures to make it easier for foreign tourists to get around in Japan, TBS reported Saturday.

According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, in 2013, the number of foreign visitors to Japan was 10,364,000, an increase of 24% over 2012. The JNTO said the largest numbers of tourists came from the ASEAN countries, due to the weak yen and visa waiver programs, as well as South Korea, Taiwan and China, despite political tensions between Japan and those three countries.

Tourism officials have already started considering measures such as easier and faster access from Narita international airport to Tokyo; more flights into and out of Haneda airport; 24-hour bus, train and subway services in major urban areas; information in several foreign languages at popular tourism destinations; and more visa waiver programs.

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34 Comments
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As a foreign resident of Japan(Tokyo), an increase of the number of tourists has mostly positive implications for me.

-- Many Japanese will be more at ease seeing and communicating with foreigners as there will more of them around

-- Here in Tokyo, I might even be able to stop speaking Japanese as most restaurants and public places will now be willing(able) to serve me in English

-- Perhaps in the future Yoshiwara will be accessible to non-Japanese as the soap owners just won't be able to ignore millions of potential new customers (fingers crossed!!)

-11 ( +4 / -15 )

-- Here in Tokyo, I might even be able to stop speaking Japanese as most restaurants and public places will now be willing(able) to serve me in English

If you're living in Japan then the onus is on you to learn and use the language if you want to make your stay more pleasant.... expecting the natives to learn English simply so you don't have to speak Japanese betrays a somewhat colonial mentality....

15 ( +17 / -2 )

I agree nostromo. A tourist not learning at least a little of a country's language is backwards.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I can't tell you the number of times I've checked into five-star hotels in Japan and discovered that the desk clerks didn't speak even rudimentary English. This would be truly unthinkable in any other nation.

1 ( +8 / -7 )

Funny how the usual gripes are about Japanese supposedly not speaking English much.

Umm, in the article, it mentions largest numbers of tourists come from ASEAN countries as well as China, South Korea, and Taiwan.

When's the last time the average hotel clerk in, let's say San Francisco, spoke fluent Japanese.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

I'm all for it and it is good for the economy however it sucks that tourists get all kinds of discounts for accommodations and attractions while us hard working taxpayers have to pay extra to make up the difference.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I am not sure how Mr Abe is going to reconcile his currently nationalistic posturing with getting more Chinese and Koreans to visit Japan. If things get worse, it simply isn't going to happen..... Another issue is the Japanese themselves. When the Japan National Tourism Organisation conducted a survey a few years back they found that nearly 50% of local Japanese didn't even want foreign tourists in the country.... this may change over the next few years but I doubt it ...

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Tourism officials have already started considering measures such as easier and faster access from Narita international airport to Tokyo; more flights into and out of Haneda airport

We need more domestic flights to and from Narita, too, for easier domestic connections.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Well, hooray. More tourists in 2013 than 2012. I am sure these statistics have nothing to do with the healthy skepticism tourists showed towards Japan after the mess at Fukushima. I am sure tourism didn't drop sharply after 3/11. But oh, how good it looks on paper and how good it must feel to present a 24% increase.

If Japan is serious about attracting visitors, howcome they don't market themselves? Big tourist countries have massive marketing campaigns. Malaysia and Spain are two examples that come to mind. I think this gambit from Abe is nothing more than BS. My feeling is that Japan does not really want more foreigners here, they don't want to have to change anything (which they will have to). They want people coming to Japan to obey to Japanese rules completely. A good example is how Sento owners recently claimed they wanted more foreigners, as long as they follow the rules and not make a scene.

There is simply very little flexibility here.

I agree nostromo. A tourist not learning at least a little of a country's language is backwards.

That's not what nostromo said. He said "living in Japan". A slight difference, no? While it of course is nice that tourists learn some phrases, I think that if the Japanese want to attract more English speaking tourists, they have to step up their game when it comes to language skills.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Tourists shouldn't need to learn the local language, but residents should.

Anyways, if they want to get 20 million tourists, they are going to need to stop pissing off the Chinese and Koreans, as these two countries are the source of most of their tourists.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Japan sure likes tourist, buts hates the people living here. Increase consumption tax. Tax digital goods starting in 2015. And car tax is going up on yellow plates just as I was about to down grade from white plate to kei car to save some cash. My cost of living in japan is going to go nearly 10% with zero chance of a raise. Kinda makes me want to leave.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Just went through SFO (San Francisco) airport last week. Looked through the gift shops and book stores. Saw tourist books & language guides on China, India and other places but NOTHING on Japan. Don't believe these were sold out - or likely not available. If you don't advertise the tourists won't bother. The Japan Tourist Agency need to spend on media OUTSIDE Japan - TV ads and bookstores. Then again, using a mobile device, material available for DOWNLOADing would save publishing costs and inventory - but put the word out so people can access.

Then again, if FREE WIFI was available that would help. The Tokyo Metro WIFI allows a limit of signing on per day and Starbucks here does NOT have free WIFI either.

If you want people to enjoy their Mobile devices to read, research and use their GPS mapping to get around - FREE WIFI will be an advantage to avoid costly Data Roamimg charges.

So....mark my words ... put the word out and provide Free WIFI will drive those numbers. Or allow iPhone and iPad rentals with unlimited data plans at Narita (sending pics eats up a lot of mbytes of data).

Remember I said that.

And you can thank me later.

May The Force Be With You

0 ( +0 / -0 )

First off many of the largest hotel chains outside Japan DO hire people with Japanese language skills in big city markets. Second, I'm not sure how they'll make access to Tokyo from Narita more convenient. It's either the train to Tokyo station, the limo bus to Tokyo hotels or taxi for a huge amount of money. As a frequent traveler to Tokyo I'd be very interested in how they would accomplish this.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Unfortunately, many tourists from many countries go abroad without learning so much as 'thank you' and 'please'. Many Japanese go to Hawaii because they feel comfortable in an environment where they don't need to use another language. Call it ignorant, childish, backward or whatever but that's the reality. What people should study before they travel is hardly relevant. Tourism is a business. I've met many tourists and business visitors to Japan, mostly non-native speakers of English, who've mostly liked and praised the country but have often been inconvenienced by the lack of English-speaking staff.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

If you are going to Japan learn something about the language, culture and stop expecting Japan to bend over backwards to accommodate your ethnocentrism or whatever you may be feeling upon arrival. Is what I would love to say after reading some of the posts here.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

More on the mobile device idea:

Pre-load the mobile device with useful apps:

Dictionary Translation tools (Siri) Favorite spots Restaurants Points of interest Hire a tour guide Shopping areas Etc.

You get the idea - rentals or download package recommendations.

Is the way people get to know where to go - social media.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Kuribo,

Wrong.

If Japan (truly) wants the tourist cash, they'd better start learning to be flexible and start acting like a developed nation and learning/using English. That this is even an issue in 2014 say a lot about how international this place really is. Ienglish, whetther you like it or not is today's de facto world language. People from all countries can learn it. So can the Japanese.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

A good example is how Sento owners recently claimed they wanted more foreigners, as long as they follow the rules and not make a scene.

I see nothing unreasonable here.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

6 years is a long time. Who knows what kinds of catastrophe Japan will experience in between now and then. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics might be a no show.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If your business depends on foreign tourists, then it is the business owners/associations job and duty to draw up rules and regulations that suits the customers/foreigners. Not the other way around where you demand the tourists to follow your rules and not make a scene. Why? Because tourists naturally stand out and will make a scene in a country and place they are not familiar with. Its human nature. Especially in western cultures. Just some white/black/latino guys/gals huddling or travelling in pacts in Japan will make a scene by default.

English is the universal language. Meaning Japanese business owners/customer services should learn the language in the most basic form to complete a business. Especially when you're located in a tourist attraction/location.

Also, proper road signs with proper English will help. You want 20mil tourist to visit you, then equip yourself to be foreigner friendly. The way I see it, with the current and foreseeable political climate, the # of Chinese/Korean tourist will probably not increase significantly to fill that 20mil target. And most likely, you would want more western tourists to diversify the tourism supply in case of further reproach from the Chinese and Koreans.

So Kanji isn't the problem but English is.

TO the comment that visitors should learn the basic indigenous language before they visit is hogwash. Most of the visitors are middle age and above, many of them have a hard time simply using the internet and their smartphones and you expect them to learn your language on their 1-2 week stay at most? Most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Especially considering Japan should be an advance and civilized country friendly to visitors. It is absolutely the host's duty to make itself welcoming to visitors. Not the other way around. People visit Japan to spend, not to be troubled because you can't speak the universal language. Its Japan that is setting a target of 20mil visitors, not the other way around.

1 ( +4 / -2 )

How about asking actual non-Japanese tourists what they think instead of asking a bunch of middle manager ojii-santachi who don't speak a lick of English and never ventured outside the country rarely, if ever?

Classic Japanese mentality: "Let's see what we can do to improve our standing with foreigners!" Then they gather in a room with zero foreigners there and come up with an action plan.

Personally I think the country has so much to offer already they could easily hit that number if they advertised other destinations. Many tourists never venture outside Tokyo or Kyoto, with an occassional jog over to Hiroshima or Nagasaki. While definitely the biggest and most impressive tourist draws, those cities aren't the end all and be all of what Japan has to offer. How about tropical adventures in Okinawa and experience the unique local culture? How about hanging out with the Ainu people in Hokkaido and then jump over to Sapporo for some partying or Hakodate and see some history?

Another idea is to give training to and cheat sheets to business owners with some handy English phrases, and vice versa a free English (and other languages)<-> Japanese phrase booklet to all visitors, complete with Romaji spelling? To be sure, the efforts at making schoolkids more English conversant will fail miserably for no reason other than lack of actual comprehension of language rather than rote memorization of phrases and of course lack of chances to practice, not to mention most people who own business and cater to foreigners are adults and rarely remember their English language skills. So the logical conclusion is that phrasebooks and (by then) more advanced translation software.

Free wifi around cities, too, so foreigners can use their software on their phones would be helpful too. I'm astounded about the lack of free wifi in Japan. In America, everyone from Starbucks to little mom and pop shops give free wifi. I connected at my DMV the other day and browsed the news.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

@Patrick McCormick

Agree 100%. It would be nice if they promoted areas outside of Tokyo - simply because Japan is a very different place outside of this city!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Right idea. Shizuoka, for instance, is near Tokyo with many terrific places to visit, and great countryside with rich history and food and fish straight out of the Suruga Bay. A little guidebook with multi-language point and speak would go a long way to helping out tourists.

Naturally, I'm hoping those 20M tourists will kick up enough of a fuss at the incessant indoor smoking here that the government/tobacco cabal will finally have to back down.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Somebody says that the bulk of foreign tourists comes from China and Korea. It's simply because lots of relatives Monbusho scholars are coming in just to test the waters and actually find how to work and stsay here. Some are even working. This I know when I was still in Tokyo some 20 yrs ago. Not forgetting some trainees who happen to bring in their family. Not all trainees are priveleged to do so. I just wonder how some could. Things could have been different now. I stand corrected. With some Koreans, I met a lady working in the entertainment area with a tourist visa. She really stayed till the end of his visa but always comes back and do the same thing always. So, foreigners with tourists visas aren't always here just to tour alone. But with the coming Olympics, some could be taking advantage of the event and some could really be here because they want to use their money for seeing this once in a lifetime event.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Classic Japanese mentality: "Let's see what we can do to improve our standing with foreigners!" Then they gather in a room with zero foreigners there and come up with an action plan.

Patrick,

Exactly.

Wonder if the Japanese tourist board has any foreigners hired at all. I bet they don't. Just as you say, Japan has plenty to offer tourists but people in charge are somehow so arrogant that they seem to think they need not market themselves. That is fail #1. A marketing campaign, spanning over several years with great photography, great copy and excellent web pages would go a long way to market Japan. A comprehensive goal would also be nice. I am absolutely sure that, if Japan really wanted to and attracted some talent, they would reach 20 mil before 2020. They could start off by dumping the oyaji who came up with "cool Japan". Another problem that I think Japan faces is their minority/superiority complexes. The attitude is always, always, that foreigners, visitors and residents alike are somehow deviant from the norm and need to be taught to conform to the "Japanese Way". That stuff doesn't work for a country that want to seriously attract foreigners.

-2 ( +2 / -3 )

Faster transport to Narita would be a start, maybe a high speed train ( Shinkansen Type ) running to Tokyo, Shinjuku, Ueno and Yokohama. Narita express takes too long.

More locals in the service sector being able to speak a secondary language, more so now they will have Olympics here, tourists cannot be expected to learn the language when most only stay a week or so. Expecting tourist to learn the local language is ludicrous.

Transport ( Local Buses etc ) to use more English and other popular languages, more signs in English etc and easier access to information would all help and encourage more tourists.

More ATM's accepting foreign credit cards for cash withdrawals is also a point that needs to be addressed.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

storm, the Skyliner goes 160 km per hour and it is 36 minutes from Narita to Nippori.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Kickboard that's fantastic if you're going to nippori, for the rest of us though we are not so lucky.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I think they should try to attract tourist in April, May and June... the nicest time of the year in Japan. The summers are just too hot here. If I visited here in August, I don't think I would ever want to come back.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Hi Nostromo, Do you know when that JNTO survey was done, and if the results are published on the Web?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why is English such an issue at all? What's the deal with that? You want tourists? Learn to communicate. Simple as cream.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

They need to stabilize the Fukushima power plant issue before more tourists feel comfortable to come into Japan.

I have a lot of friends oversea love Japan but they are hesitate to travel to Japan at this moment.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I'm from Russia : 'bout 15 millions tourists in year 2012 traveled abroad

1 Turkey 2516.1

2 Egypt 1906.6

3 China 1328.9

4 Thailand 885.1

5 Spain 792.1

6 Germany 713.1

7 Greece 690.4

8 Italy 570.8

9 UAE 549.4

10 Finland 512.5

Japan about 34,0

It's almost impossible to get Japanese Visa

So I can't understand :

"The Japanese government is holding discussions with various ministries on how to double"

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Maybe they can get rid of mandatory fingerprinting of foreigners at the airport, or at least for those actually living in Japan. It`s a joke

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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