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No. of foreign visitors to Japan in 2013 exceeds 10 mil target

58 Comments

The number of foreign tourists to Japan in 2013 exceeded the government target of 10 million, the Justice Ministry and Japan National Tourism Organization said Thursday.

The Justice Ministry said that 11,250,000 foreigners visited Japan in 2013, an increase of 22.7% over 2012 and the first time the number has surpassed 10 million, Fuji TV reported.

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.

The government has set an ambitious target of 20 million visitors a year by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

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58 Comments
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Considering the wealth of things to see and do, that would be a 'Could do better'.

0 ( +4 / -2 )

If Japan wants more tourists, they are going to seriously have to improve signage, language and attitudes towards foreigners. I have had numerous friend come and stay and they have ALL complained about the lack of English here.

-11 ( +8 / -18 )

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.

That's no surprise. Despite what nationalists will tell you, the majority of the population of Japan, China and SK are more concerned about their jobs, their family, the next pay increase than the politics. A Korean couple I know here in Australia went to Japan for their honeymoon, and so did my own sister a few years ago for her honeymoon.

With the falling Yen, Koreans and Chinese are travelling to Japan in record numbers. I remember when the sharp drop in Japanese visitors to Korea was reported last year, and people ignored the 30% devaluation of the Yen (not to mention the height of NK threat of nuclear war) and tried to find political reasons saying Korea's anti-Japan stance was the major contibutor.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

I have had numerous friend come and stay and they have ALL complained about the lack of English here.

This news is about ASEAN tourists who happen to come from non-english speaking countries...I think most of these tourists expect more informations in chinese, tagalog, malaysian or korean rather than english....

14 ( +17 / -4 )

Mitch Cohen If Japanese say anti-Japan stance was the major contributor, it was. Number of J tourists to Asean counties and Europe is increasing despite of weaker yen.

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

I've been to Japan numerous times and the lack of English, while inconvenient at some railway stations, by and large doesn't bother me.

What does bother me are Japanese style toilets. If you get caught short last thing you want to do is struggle to figure the right way to squat to evacuate your bowels... which is why in Japan I never eat before I go out unless I know there are modern restaurants around where I can use a western style loo. Public toilets need to be modernised across the board.

3 ( +6 / -4 )

And how many will get sick and die from radiated water and food contamination?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What does bother me are Japanese style toilets. If you get caught short last thing you want to do is struggle to figure the right way to squat to evacuate your bowels...

I've found squatting a slight inconvenience on occasions, but never had issues with "figuring it out". Better than the UK anyway where there either aren't any or they're guarded by goons forcing you to pay to use them.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

This news is about ASEAN tourists who happen to come from non-english speaking countries...I think most of these tourists expect more informations in chinese, tagalog, malaysian or korean rather than english....

Funny, I thought this news was about the number of tourists who came to Japan...

Thunder, I am assuming you're male. I dare say the toilet situation is even worse for the ladies.

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

Good news for the tourism sector here. With the plummeting yen, my friends and family are always commenting on how affordable a holiday in Japan is!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

If Japan wants more tourists, they are going to seriously have to improve signage, language and attitudes towards foreigners. I have had numerous friend come and stay and they have ALL complained about the lack of English here.

I have had numerous friends come and stay, and none of them complained about the lack of English. I don't go in for whiny friends.

2 ( +10 / -8 )

Wipeout, if your friends can sort out days of sightseeing and hotel bookings in Japanese, great. If not? They can pay a pretty penny for English websites and bookings and enjoy having a taxi driver take them all over the place. There were, and perhaps still are, buses in Kyoto with only kanji for destinations to major sight seeing spots. A problem, no?

-2 ( +7 / -9 )

The top three foreign visitors to Japan by nationality (Jan-Dec 2012) were:

South Korea - 2,042,775 visitors Taiwan - 1,465,753 China - 1,425,100

It's good to see that ordinary people still like to travel, despite the problems with politics. Hopefully, these people (including Japanese travelling to Korea and China) return home with the message that the ordinary people of these countries are not monsters, foaming at the mouth and spouting hate. The ordinary people of Japan, China and South Korea have more in common than the headlines and politicians would like to admit. As Mitch Cohen, above, says, ordinary people are more concerned with their jobs and families.

source for data: JNTO http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/ttp/sta/PDF/E2012.pdf

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I have had numerous friends come and stay, and none of them complained about the lack of English. I don't go in for whiny friends.

zinggg!

still, language is a factor for some who may re-consider returning to Japan for another trip. I think they need more tourist friendly ATMs, personally because that's what my friends who have come have complained about. more should be on the interac system. I know the post office is, but how many tourists know to go to the post office for ATMs?

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

I have had numerous friends come and stay, and none of them complained about the lack of English.

Only because they use us to do it for them; otherwise they'd be up the creek without a paddle, hahaha.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

There were, and perhaps still are, buses in Kyoto with only kanji for destinations to major sight seeing spots. A problem, no?

Insurmountable, apparently.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Wipeout, what is your problem? Japan is well known for it's lack of English help - or any other language - for tourists. Great that you have friends who seem to be able to get around but many others have problems. It has been widely discussed on here numerous times. Heck, it's the Olympics are all about improving the English in Japan.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

I was one of those 10 million! Best time of my life

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Many tourists from many countries don't do the common Japanese thing when on holiday - the extremely well-planned tight schedule group tour. Perhaps Japanese people expect them to do this. I had to work a few days when my brother and his partner came over and they were less than impressed to say the least with the treatment they received when traveling in Tohoku and attempting to find accommodation ( in more than one establishment ). We had a great time together in Kyoto and Tokyo when I could converse with staff but I think they left Japan with a slightly sour taste. Lack of English skills ( I think and hope that's all it was in the case of being refused accommodation ) can be more than just an inconvenience.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I have been told over and over by Japanese people that #1 and #3 are not welcome in Japan.

The top three foreign visitors to Japan by nationality (Jan-Dec 2012) were: South Korea - 2,042,775 visitors Taiwan - 1,465,753 China - 1,425,100

-10 ( +3 / -13 )

tmarie, all train and subway stations in Tokyo have signs in English (romaji). As for speaking, you can expect most station staff or hotel staff to have passable English skills but not convenience store staff, but that's the same as Hong Kong. Taxi drivers or shop staff couldn't speak any English there.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Given that the 10-millionth visitor landed at Narita on December 20, and based on the JNTO's figures for 2012 & 2013, it's very unlikely the total for the year was 11,250,000. http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/ttp/sta/PDF/E2013.pdf http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/ttp/sta/PDF/E2012.pdf http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/topics/2013/president_message_20131220.html

That aside, I'm delighted that a target that, to me at least, seemed unlikely to be achieved a couple of years ago has been realised. A good deal of the credit should go to Stefan Schauwecker's Japan Guide website, which added Chinese and Korean versions several years ago.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

@bicultural I'm not so sure that 'most' station staff have passable English skills ( the information booths at the larger stations are a great help ) given my experience when I first came here. As for places to stay and their staff outside of main cities, hotels and ryokan can be very unwelcoming to those who don't speak Japanese ( as I said before, the better side of my nature tends to tell me that it is those who don't speak Japanese rather than non-Japanese in the majority of cases). I'm no Japan-basher and I want to see more visitors to this country and some of the posts here ( not yours ) seem to think that pointing these things out is whining. I haven't met a Japanese person yet who doesn't think that Japan can and should improve its ability to welcome tourists.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I have been told over and over by Japanese people that #1 and #3 are not welcome in Japan.

Although I know exactly what you mean - I've heard the same thing from many of my Japanese friends and students - when it comes to the crunch, most Chinese and Korean tourists seem to have a very positive experience in Japan, and they tell me that Japanese people (the average people on the street) are very kind and helpful and willing to give directions, or even walk them to where they want to go to.

Or that could be an Osaka thing (Osakans are reknowned for their friendly, outgoing natures). Tokyo might be a different kettle of fish. Anyway, nobody should fear coming to Japan as a tourist! It really is a wonderful place for a short-term visit ... cannot recommend settling here for the long term, though, but then again most tourists aren't interested in doing that anyway.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@tmarie

If Japan wants more tourists, they are going to seriously have to improve signage, language and attitudes towards foreigners. I have had numerous friend come and stay and they have ALL complained about the lack of English here.

WhaTTTTTTTTTT? Then kindly remind your friends they are visitors why should Japanese HAVE to learn English. Lets day for example your friends visited your home and told you to do something you didn't want to do you wouldn't like it and if you didn't do what your friends asked you to do they would simply not visit you again, if I can't communicate at all in a country where I visited I just won't go back. Why make people People in JAPAN speak Japanese not all of the Japanese should have to learn ENGLISH!

3 ( +8 / -5 )

@kaimycahl I take it tourism isn't your chosen career path.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

@ Jimzo I am a world traveler and let me put it plain and simple I don't expect people to understand English when I travel. I take into consideration that I am in the host country and I am at the mercy of trying to communicate the best way I can. Now days with smart phones and other means of technology people who DO TRAVEL 70% of the time like myself can use or write anything in English and the language can be converted into other languages as a simple question to ask someone. Tourism is not my chose career path, its the traveling which makes the need for me to communicate for business purposes as well as understanding the host country cultures!! I don't go travel expecting every country to speak English I prepare and require my team to learn to ask simple questions in the native language to get them or myself where we need to go!!

0 ( +5 / -5 )

I think if Japan wants to attract more tourist, the national government should work more with airlines to chip away at Tokyo being the central hub into Japan. All major hubs are located in Kansai so attractions are geared towards these airports. Kyushu is a really good destination for those wanting to see another part of Japan, while still having access to Honshu.

As far as signage and accommodations are concerned a simple solution is to just let tourist be tourist. Foreign tourist (especially those from North America, Western Europe, and China) are really good about using social media to suggest and criticize businesses being inconvenient. If X hotel is mentioned enough times things might not change immediately, but a competitor willing to accommodate will gain a foothold. As for toilets, best thing about Japan is the population is it's getting older. Business will have to accommodate 70plus year olds needing to use the facilities, and they are not squatting.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I think 10MM is pretty small for such a big, "exotic" and with such a high awareness country.

And I bet that a significant part of it is business trips and not tourism.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@kaimycahl I agree with most of what you say but the subject is tourism here. Most tourists want a holiday of convenience and ease. That's very understandable. I used to visit China for work and saw it as nothing more than good manners to have a reasonable knowledge of the basics of Mandarin. However, we are not talking about business trips here. I said in a previous post how my brother and his partner were not made to feel comfortable or put at ease in their precious holiday time in Japan and it's no accident that they have visited Thailand three times since their visit to Japan without coming here. You're a businessperson. Look at it from a business point of view.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I give Japan two thumbs up for attracting an impressive number tourists in 2013; that is where Japan does the best – iconic cultural, polite people and picture-perfect landscapes.

There are very few countries in the world have such soft yet precious assets and do a good job like Japan in tourism.

BTW, the revenues generated from tourism are much greener than industrial production. In addition, pure margins of gains on the return on investment are much higher than other industries in long run. Besides, any age of groups can get a share of pie in entraining tourists and benefiting from it financially. When my friends and I went on tours in Japan, the best place we liked most were those rural places where people from all walks of life are so kind and helpful to foreigners. (Language seemed not the barrier in most case ) Japanese people shared almost everything with us. That is really incredible.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I want to visit Tokyo and Okinawa someday. :)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

No surprise that South Koreans and Chinese among others are visitors to Japan.

This fact alone refutes the notion from the anti Japan crowd that Japan is an outrageously xenophobic and hateful nation. If that were so, then South Koreans and Chinese would NOT visit and spend their money buying Japanese products in Japan. They feel safe, and rightly so.

In fact, while Japanese citizens were being brutally assaulted and their businesses destroyed across China in an orgy of violence in 2012, Chinese people in Japan were quite safe by comparison (exchange students, business people, etc.).

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Japan is much more affordable as a destination now compared to when I first went there and that is a huge factor.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Language isn't what puts me off, the cost of the flight is!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It's the cheap Yen effect. The Yen has lost 30% of its value against the Korean won starting since two years ago. The xenophobia against Koreans are pretty evident in streets of Tokyo and Osaka where anti-Korean demonstrations are held virtually everyday.

This fact alone refutes the notion from the anti Japan crowd that Japan is an outrageously xenophobic and hateful nation. If that were so, then South Koreans and Chinese would NOT visit and spend their money buying Japanese products in Japan. They feel safe, and rightly so.

-7 ( +5 / -12 )

I have always been a proponent of learning some of the language before you visit a foreign country, even as a tourist. But there is a big difference between visiting a country like Japan, and visiting a country with a latin based alphabet if one of those is your native tongue.

If I was to take a trip to somewhere like France, I could spend a few hours on the plane learning some basic French, which would be very useful, but ultimately it would be pretty easy to get around because everything is written in the latin alphabet. If I want to go "Paris Street," the sign is going to say something like "Rue Paris."

When you go to Japan however, if you go anywhere off the beaten track of tourist traps, you're faced with a wall of Kanji. I take this for granted because I can speak and read the language, but for anyone that doesn't, it's not easy. You can't expect someone going on a 2 week holiday to learn hiragana, katakana and enough kanji to get around.

I would expect someone going to Japan to yes, learn some basic phrases, be able to say please and thank you, ask where some basic things are, and so on. But signage really needs to improve. If Japan could make more of the interesting places it has more accessible through improved signage, these figures would be much higher, and tourists would see more of the real Japan, rather than just Tokyo, Kyoto and Mount Fuji.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I wish I could travel internationally. However, my doctor says I'm not healthy enough for long-distance travel.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Japan has a great amount of rich history, foods and sights to visit. The last year I have seen many more tourist than I did two years ago. I am happy for the business' but it's getting harder to walk due to the crowds.

Now, as for the folks who have issues with the lack of English in Japan here is a fix for that. Tell them to go to the JNTO and they can get just about any kind of help. JNTO's are situated all over Japan, in Tokyo alone there are 24 locations.

Believe me when I tell you, the folks there are dying to help anyone. My wife had to use the restroom at one of them and the staff there were jumping all over each other to help me, even though I needed none.

So if you or any of your friends need any help in different languages tell them to head over to the nearest Tourist Information Center. But if they can't even do something as simple as that, well then they are too daft to travel.

It's not that hard if your friends would plan ahead.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

I was in Osaka for two weeks and stayed with a wonderful host family. I felt like I was the only foreigner there except Kansai Airport. When I traveled to Hiroshima and Himeji, I saw some foreigners like myself. Most of the time I spent in Osska however, I truly felt that I was the only one there.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

NagoyaOya, I agree with you about Japan Guide. Great website, even in English.

And Tessa, I'll test your theory about Osakans on my next visit, in a few months. But I wonder about your comment concerning living in Japan for the long-term. I know a delightful woman with a cabin in the forest near Nagano with whom I'd love to spend the rest of my life. Going to Japanese language classes to improve my chances of that, too.

As I've said in other posts, I do not like leaving Japan. I seem to lose a bit of my spirit every time I do it. Can't explain.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

while it can be inconvenient for tourists that the japanese people don't speak English, i don't understand why people complain about it - i visited some other Asian countries and yes I faced language problems in those countries, but that was part of the experience - I wouldn't expect to see "home" when visiting other countries.

in some countries where people speak English - the expectation is that the tourists speak English, and if the tourists don't speak English, they often get ignored..

i think it's a little arrogant to complain when you visit foreign countries and complain because they don't speak English.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

In order to be understood...you first need to understand. Enough said !!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

i have a friend who visited Japan and got lost.. he did not speak Japanese but knew the name of the destination. he asked a Japanese person who was there and the person didn't speak English enough to explain how to get to the place - what this person did was actually TO WALK WITH my friend to the destination. my friend still talks about this experience.

i do agree, though, with some of the people here, that it'd be better if the signage were improved.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Chucky, are you in Tokyo or Osaka? how can you claim "virtually every day"? stop looking for such weak arguments. Its a good thing we are getting more international visitors from our neighbors. Why try to pull down a good thing with more "oh but Japan hates Korea whine whine whine cry"?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

in some countries where people speak English - the expectation is that the tourists speak English, and if the tourists don't speak English, they often get ignored..

C'est vrai... ; )

1 ( +2 / -1 )

lucabrasi

YES!! :))

1 ( +1 / -0 )

tmarie, all train and subway stations in Tokyo have signs in English (romaji). As for speaking, you can expect most station staff or hotel staff to have passable English skills but...

Yes, because tourist only visit Tokyo, right? No, you can't expect most station or hotel staff to speak English. Get out of your Tokyo bubble and go to another city or the countryside. You're lucky if people can manage to string a sentence together, let alone check you in a hotel or help you with directions to some place.

I am a world traveler and let me put it plain and simple... Classic. I think it is pretty safe to say that many on here are travelers - and most would agree that the level of English here for tourists is shocking. As mentioned, basic phrases are great and much needed. However, when you are out traveling around and want lunch and the menu is all in kanji...

If signage isn't a problen, why on earth is Tokyo changing their signs for the Olympics. Some of you will defend this country no matter what. Ever consider that better signs and more English would draw more tourists? I know people whgo came, had a hard time due to the language barrier and don't it to others. Most people who come here are older and not looking to get lost or have language "adventures".

My sister travelled the world for a year. Her comments to sum up Japan? "Nice people, amazing food and thank god you were there because it has the worst English. Odd for such a rich country and one with a language that no one else outside of Japan speaks." Pretty much sums it up.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

In my experience traveling around Asia, Japan ranks low in spoken English, as does S.Korea (but I only went to Seoul). But who cares. The helpfulness I received from people in both more than makes up for it. Words are overrated.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

chucky If you find anti-China/Korean Japanese, can you blame them?

-9 ( +0 / -9 )

chucky If you find anti-China/Korean Japanese, can you blame them?

Based on that then you can't bash the Chinese or Koreans for being anti-Japanese... See how silly that is?

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Among these, about 2 million each from China, S. Korea, and Taiwan, with whom we have friction. I guess nobody cares about the friction. Saw Chinese tourists this morning in Shinjuku. They were smiling and taking pictures. No they do not look like spies.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I thought the childish digs about the neighbours would kick in. When in China I always recommend Japan as a fascinating place to visit and recommend China as the same when I'm in Japan. The more sober-minded and less hateful people I speak to have either done it or would like to. It's pretty sad that the less sober-minded and hateful are depriving themselves of a great experience. Then again, I suppose those people would be the type of traveller who would spend their time only picking out the negatives of a country and convincing themselves how much better these things are at home.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

If you travel to a foreign nation that it's national language is not your own then it is your responsibility to get the lay of the land.

A. Find tourist information.

B. Hire a tour guild

C. Understand where you are headed and see which places provide English assistance.

D. It is not the nations responsibility to ensure that you have a clue what you are doing.

If I travel to Egypt I will make sure my travel plans are in order, I will not go there expecting everyone to bow to my needs. So I make sure I go to places that will, or I will hire someone who will take care of my needs and will pay them well to do it.

Same for Bali, Indonesia, etc etc etc......

When you travel to another nation whose main language isn't English it is your responsibility to have a clue before you arrive there.

Wow.....

3 ( +6 / -3 )

My sister travelled the world for a year. Her comments to sum up Japan? "Nice people, amazing food and thank god you were there because it has the worst English. Odd for such a rich country and one with a language that no one else outside of Japan speaks." Pretty much sums it up.

It certainly does.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

In Japan, English is taught since middle school. So, maybe write what you want to tell with simple phrase. They learn English from books. If you are not from English speaking countries, do like people from none-English speaking countries. Bring simple phrase translation lists. In Las Vegas here, just native language English signs. I see all sort of tourists who do not speak English who have no problem with English only employees.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

people all over the world, especially those planning trips to japan know that there is such a huge language barrier here. considering that, excellent, excellent job. well done nippon. i guess people who want to come here and visit know well they wont be mugged, raped, shot or even cheated. what japan lacks in international language skills, it makes up with the hospitality and honesty. wish it was a little less expensive here, though. but the locals are living through it too, so no complaints.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

even cheated

Um, pardon? There is a two tier pricing system on many hotel websites. One price for booking in Japanese, one for booking in English. HIS got in trouble for charging foreigners more.

Raped? Can you support that someone is more likely not to get raped in Japan compared to other developed nations like Canad or NZ? Mugged? Same thing please. I don't know which countries some of you are from but you make it seem like a war zone at times.

As for the comment about hiring a tour guide - many people can't afford that and where on earth does one go to do that? It isn't like a developing nation where it is very easy to find guides who speak great English. Honestly folks, suggesting Japanese doesn't need better English/foreign language skills to improve tourism here is a joke.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

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