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Column: “Seeing is believing” for Chinese visitors to Japan

  • 2015-01-20 15:00:00
  • , Sankei
  • Translation

(Sankei: January 19, 2015 – p. 6)

 

 By Masumi Kawasaki, Shanghai Bureau chief

 

 There have been an increasing number of Chinese tourists returning from trips to Japan who write about their “moving” experience there in blogs or on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.

 

 They talk about the thoughtful hospitality they experienced at hotels, department stores, and tourist attractions. They get all excited about incidents and services that are taken for granted by the Japanese.

 

 While compared with years ago there has been great improvement in China’s customer service, particularly in the urban areas, one still finds many rude and cross sales clerks and waiters. The Chinese visitors, who are used to these things at home, must be pleasantly surprised in Japan. There are numerous postings, complete with creative photos and videos, giving positive images of Japan on the Internet.

 

 The spread of such positive reaction, despite the strained bilateral relations and deep-rooted anti-Japan sentiment in China, must be related to the rapid increase in Chinese visitors to Japan.

 

 Estimates by the Japan National Tourist Organization (JTNO) show that some 2.22 million Chinese visited Japan between January and November last year, representing an increase of 82.2% over the same period in the previous year. Apparently, the total number of visitors in 2014 exceeded 2.4 million. Of course, this is the first time that the number of Chinese visitors has exceeded 2 million.

 

 Amid the overseas travel boom among the rich and the middle class, the depreciation of the yen made shopping affordable and this has contributed to the great popularity of Japan travel. The gradual relaxation of visa requirements in recent years has also been a major factor.

 

 From Jan. 19, the validity of multiple entry visas issued to the rich is being extended from three to five years, while the income requirement for middle class travelers is being relaxed further. This will increase further the number of qualified visa applicants.

 

 A Japanese government source observes: “I have never heard of any Chinese returning from a visit to Japan speaking ill of Japan.”

 

 Postings on the Internet show that some Chinese are beginning to have doubts about their longstanding image of Japan as aggressor or the Chinese media’s propaganda of Japan as a militarist monster. For these Chinese, seeing is indeed believing.

 

 For sure, there are still the usual criticisms. Nevertheless, I believe it is still worthwhile to have the Chinese see with their own eyes the “real Japanese” contrary to what the Communist Party’s propaganda is saying. (Slightly abridged)

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