The estimated number of foreign visitors to Japan in January rose 9.0 percent from a year earlier to 2,501,500, a record for the month, the Japan Tourism Agency said Wednesday.
But the growth rate was the slowest since last March partly because the Lunar New Year, a major holiday season celebrated in China and elsewhere, began later than last year. The holidays started in late January last year.
“We had expected the possibility of a drop in the number but it turned out solid. It is a good start” to the year, Akihiko Tamura, commissioner of the agency, told a press conference.
Over the Lunar New Year holidays in February, Tamura said many travelers from China chose to visit snowy areas in particular such as Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost main island, the Tohoku region in northeastern Japan and Niigata Prefecture facing the Sea of Japan.
By country and region, visitors from South Korea ranked top at 803,800, up 28.5 from a year earlier, amid an increased number of low-cost carrier flights.
Visitors from China came second at 632,300, up 0.3 percent, followed by those from Taiwan at 350,500, down 0.1 percent, and Hong Kong at 160,500, a drop of 13.5 percent. The number of visitors from the latter two regions fell also due in part to the schedule of the Lunar New Year.
Meanwhile, visitors from Indonesia and Russia posted strong growth, at 32.7 percent and 31.9 percent, respectively, according to the data.
An increase in the number of flights from Indonesia pushed up the number of visitors, while easing of visa restrictions also helped boost the number of Russian travelers to Japan.