The number of foreign visitors to Japan marked the largest percentage drop in more than seven years in October with a 5.5 percent on-year fall, as a devastating typhoon and a continued plunge in South Korean tourists more than offset the effect of the Rugby World Cup, government data showed Wednesday.
The number of overseas visitors came to 2,496,600 in the month, down from 2,640,610 in October last year, the Japan Tourism Agency said.
The 5.5 percent decline was the biggest since February 2012 when the figure sagged 19.6 percent, a setback to the government's efforts to boost the number of annual inbound visitors to 40 million by next year when the country hosts the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Overseas visitors totaled 26,914,400 in the first 10 months of the year, up 3.1 percent from the same period a year earlier.
In October, the number of South Korean visitors plunged 65.5 percent to 197,300 following a 58.1 percent drop in September and 48.0 percent tumble in August amid frayed ties between Tokyo and Seoul.
Bilateral relations have soured since South Korean court rulings last year ordered Japanese firms to compensate for wartime labor during Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945.
The row has escalated in recent months into a tit-for-tat trade dispute, prompting both governments to revoke each other's preferential status as trade partners. Seoul also decided not to renew a bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, which expires on Saturday.
Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner Hiroshi Tabata said at a press conference that reduced flight services connecting the two countries continued to have a significant impact.
Typhoon Hagibis, which made landfall on Oct. 12 and left more than 90 people dead as it lashed wide areas of the country with record-breaking torrential rain, also impacted the number of foreign visitors, the agency said.
"Some people had to postpone or cancel their trips to Japan" as their flights were canceled due to the typhoon, Tabata said, but added that the impact of the disaster was modest.
The number of overseas tourists failed to increase overall, even though those from the 19 visiting nations participating in the rugby tournament from Sept. 20 to Nov. 2 rose by 81,000 in October from a year earlier.
A total of 764,100 people visited Japan from those nations in September and October, up 29.4 percent from the same period last year.
Ireland and South Africa, the winner of the tournament, showed significant growth during the two months, rising 446.4 percent and 397.9 percent, respectively.
By country and region, China led with 730,600 visitors in October, up 2.1 percent, followed by Taiwan at 413,700, up 9.0 percent. South Korea was third, followed by Hong Kong with 180,600, up 6.6 percent.