After the tsunami in 2011, Japan’s tourism was withering. But there was still hope that by the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games that tourist numbers would reach an ultimate high — 20 million. By 2015, though, Japan was already reaching its goal. According to the Japan Times, over 19 and a half million people visited Japan in the year 2015. Though the country might like to attribute some of this wonder to China’s flourishing middle-class, the growth in Japan’s tourism industry has more to do with their own actions.
Recently, the yen in Japan has depreciated, largely due to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new economic program. Mid-year in 2015, Japan’s currency reached a low of almost 124 yen per dollar. This has made spending a top desire to visit Japan as it is now more affordable for tourists. Often, designer clothing and accessories can be beyond expensive, which is why travelers tend to pick up knick-knacks for family, gifts for friends and treats for personal use while traveling abroad. Japan’s tourism industry actually now equals its auto parts exports, as nearly $16.8 million was spent by foreign tourists alone last year.
This 43% increase from the year before was exactly what the country needed to help its struggling economy. In fact, 40.8% of the tourist income was due to Chinese visitors (something the Japan Times call bakugai shopping sprees). The Taiwanese followed shortly behind with South Koreans and people from Hong Kong next spending the most money in Japan in 2015.
This influx in spending has also been due to the enlargement of duty-free shopping (a big draw to many tourists, especially cruise goers). Duty-free shops are stores and retail outlets that are excused from payment of national or local taxes and duties. This means that items bought abroad can be bought for cheaper than at home, where local taxes could be anywhere from 10% to 50% of the bill. But these aren’t the only reasons why Japan is a bigger travel destination these days.
Japan has greatly stepped up in easing access to their stunning country. Rules for getting visas have been relaxed and access to airports has also greatly improved. In fact, they’ve begun to issues multiple-entry visas for visitors to the country. Along with this, the application process for travelers from other Asian countries and Indonesia has also been made far easier.
These new administrative improvements have helped budding adventurers and experienced travelers alike have a stress-free time of planning a trip. It’s not news that planning a family vacation or weekend getaway can take time and effort and tends to bring on more worrying than the actual traveling. Searching out the right types of insurance for travel, the right travel agent, hotels, sights, etc. all of this can lead to headaches. Not having to burden oneself about getting a visa or tormenting over the nightmares of visas can make the planning process all the easier.
With these improvements, traveling to Japan has hit its best in years. A tour guide from Jakarta, Indonesia told USA Today that her company has already doubled the amount of tours they have planned from the year before.
However, traveling around Japan has many improvements still to make. Japanese inns (known as ryokan) tend to be unproductive. On top of this, their services sometimes aren’t well matched to foreign visitors. But these are small factors, especially when sleeping accommodations abound across the country. The future trends for Japan’s tourism in 2016 are still a bit uncertain. The year 2015 was a near anomaly, and outbound travel is actually decreasing, making the ability to accommodate incoming visitors more difficult to achieve. Countries need to be importing and exporting; there should be a balance. So although Japan is doing well at enticing visitors, there also needs to be some push for locals to travel abroad.
If you’re looking for your next big destination don’t hesitate to give Japan a second look. Whether you’re thinking of backpacking across the country, jumping on a couple of tours or taking your family to see the sights, Japan is truly a trip worth taking.