The estimated number of foreign visitors to Japan in January increased by some 130,000 from the previous month to almost 1.5 million entries, government data showed Wednesday, thanks to a boost from the Lunar New Year holiday and eased coronavirus measures for many countries.
But while travelers from East Asia, including South Korea and Taiwan, represented about 1 million visitors, the total was still 44.3 percent below pre-pandemic January 2019.
Chinese visitors totaled 31,200, down 95.9 percent from the same month four years prior as the Japanese government enhanced border controls for people traveling from China, where infections spread explosively.
January's figure of 1,497,300 people was lifted by travelers visiting from countries observing the week-long Lunar New Year holiday period running from Jan. 21 to 27, while demand from Western countries was low following the December holidays, the Japan National Tourism Organization said.
According to the data from the JNTO, travelers from South Korea constituted the largest share with 565,200 visitors, followed by Taiwan at 259,300 and Hong Kong at 151,900.
The United States came fourth with 88,100 visitors. China was eighth, with a revival in visitor numbers from the country widely seen as the key to Japan's inbound tourism industry making a full recovery.
Japan is planning to ease its coronavirus measures against visitors inbound from China within the month to test arrivals by random selection at its airports, a government source said earlier.
Currently, all visitors to Japan by direct flight from mainland China are tested on arrival. The government also plans to keep requiring entries from China to present a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours before departure, according to the source.