Foreign travellers begin returning to Japan after natural disasters – Nationwide
Tourism in Japan bounced back in October after the number of foreign visitors dropped the previous month for the first time since 2013 following major natural disasters, government data showed Wednesday. The estimated number of visitors from overseas rose 1.8 percent from a year earlier to 2,640,600 in October, according to the Japan Tourism Agency, while the pace of the increase has not returned to double-digit levels seen before the disasters such as strong earthquakes and a typhoon.
By country and region, the biggest number of tourists came from China in October at 715,300, up 7.8 percent, followed by South Korea at 571,200, down 8.0 percent for the fourth consecutive month of decline, Taiwan at 379,600, down 9.9 percent, and Hong Kong at 169,500, down 0.9 percent. The total number of foreign travellers to Japan in the January to October period reached 26,109,300, up 9.7 percent from a year earlier, according to the data.
If foreigners keep visiting the country through the end of the year on a pace equivalent to that of November and December last year, the figure would for the first time eclipse the 30 million milestone for annual visitors. Japan aims to welcome 40 million foreign visitors by 2020.
In September, a magnitude 6.7 earthquake rocked Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido, killing more than 40 people and triggering an island-wide blackout, and a typhoon forced the temporary closure of Kansai International Airport in Osaka, the main international gateway by air to the western Japan region. Earlier this year, a major earthquake jolted Osaka and torrential rains devastated wide areas of western Japan, killing about 230 people.
Licensed private lodgings top 10,000 in Japan – Nationwide
The number of licensed private lodgings for tourists in Japan topped 10,000 in early November, but the facilities were concentrated in urban areas, the Japan Tourism Agency says. Since a new law legalizing minpaku lodgings took effect in June, private home rentals in Japan have continued increasing by over 1,000 per month from 2,210 in the first month on the back of a growing number of foreign tourists.
As of late October, there were 3,444 lodgings in central Tokyo’s 23 wards, followed by 1,211 in Sapporo and 1,055 in the city of Osaka. Lodgings in the three popular tourist destinations accounted for nearly 60 percent of the total number of 9,726 in Japan at the time, according to the agency. On the other hand, the number of private lodgings registered in rural areas remained small, with only five in Akita, six in Fukui and eight in Yamagata prefectures.
The agency is planning to promote private home rentals in the countryside by introducing cases in which such accommodation helped revitalize areas, the official said. The central government, which aims to boost tourism as a pillar of its growth strategy, expects private lodgings to make up for hotel room shortages ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. About 23.47 million tourists visited Japan in the January to September period, up 10.7 percent from a year earlier. Japan aims to welcome 40 million foreign visitors by 2020.
Emperor performs last harvest ritual before abdication – Tokyo
Emperor Akihito has given thanks to the gods for a bountiful autumn harvest, the last time he will perform one of most important annual palace rites before abdicating next spring. Akihito conducted the Niiname ritual on Friday at an Imperial Palace shrine illuminated by torchlight as ancient music was played. He offered harvested rice and other items to the gods, thanking them for the harvest and praying for peace for the nation. Some of the rice was harvested by Akihito from a field inside the palace grounds. The rest was offered by farmers from around the country.
Akihito is to abdicate on April 30 and will be succeeded the following day by his son, Crown Prince Naruhito.