The estimated number of foreign visitors to Japan in October increased 22.5-fold from a year earlier to 498,600, government data showed Wednesday, as the country removed almost all COVID-19 entry restrictions in that month.

The figure was down 80.0 percent from October in the pre-pandemic year of 2019 but improved somewhat from March 2020, when the country started to see a decline of 90 percent or more in its foreign arrivals, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

The figure was up 2.4 times from 206,500 in September, according to the data.

Separate data also showed that the number of foreign tourists in October surged 15-fold from the previous month to some 288,900, boosting the overall number of foreign arrivals.

The surge came as the government removed its cap on daily arrivals and a ban on individuals and non-prearranged trips on Oct. 11.

The government lifted entry restrictions that required foreign tourists to travel on package tours and obtain a visa if they were citizens of one of 68 countries and regions with which Japan had a waiver agreement before the pandemic, according to the Foreign Ministry.

In October, the biggest number of foreign arrivals was from South Korea at 122,900, followed by the United States at 53,200, Hong Kong at 36,200, Taiwan at 35,000 and Thailand at 34,100, according to the tourism organization.

Meanwhile, the number of Japanese who went overseas in October totaled 349,600. The figure was 6.9 times higher than a year earlier but a 79.0 percent drop from the same month in 2019.

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Foreign tourists in Japan in Oct. up 15-fold from Sept. to 288,900