The number of foreign tourists to Japan reached a record high 28,690,000 in 2017, up 19.3 percent from the previous year and rising for the sixth straight year, the transport minister said Friday.
Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Keiichi Ishii attributed the growth to an increase in low-cost carrier flights from South Korea and other Asian countries and cruise ship services between China and Japan as well as relaxed visa requirements for Chinese and Russian travelers.
"In 2017, there was a sharp increase in tourists from Asia, and we need to make more efforts to attract tourists from a wide range of countries and regions," Ishii told a press conference.
The government will release a regional breakdown and other details next week.
The government targets 40 million foreign visitors by 2020, when Japan hosts the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
It plans to use revenue from the 1,000 yen departure tax it will impose on every traveler leaving Japan from January 2019, to promote tourism.