The number of foreigners entering Japan surged nearly 12-fold to 4.20 million people in 2022, as COVID-19 border control measures were eased gradually and the number of inbound tourists spiked, the Immigration Services Agency's data showed Friday.

The figure is up sharply from around 353,000 in 2021 but far below the record 31.19 million in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, according to the data.

International-flight passengers arrive at Haneda airport in Tokyo on Sept. 7, 2022. (Kyodo)

Foreign entries began rising sharply in October when the government removed almost all border restrictions, such as the daily cap for overseas arrivals and the entry of foreign tourists only via package tours.

Japan saw foreign arrivals post all-time highs for seven straight years through 2019, as the government took measures to boost tourism as a pillar of its growth strategy.

Of the total in 2022, short-term visitors accounted for roughly 70 percent, at 2.86 million people, a nearly 40-fold from 2021, boosted by an increase in the number of tourists. In 2019, short-term visitors totaled 27.81 million.

The number of people who entered for a mid or long-term stay, such as technical intern trainees, highly skilled professionals and overseas students, returned to nearly pre-pandemic levels.

By country and territory, South Koreans led with 953,000, followed by visitors from Taiwan and the United States.

The number of Japanese nationals who went overseas more than quintupled to 2.77 million in 2022, the government data showed.