Japan saw an estimated 1,949,100 foreign visitors in April, equivalent to 66.6% of the number recorded in April 2019 before the coronavirus outbreak, government data showed Wednesday.

The total was up nearly 14-fold from a year before and marks the highest number of foreign visitors since February 2020, when the pandemic caused a sharp decline in arrivals.

Japan's cherry blossom season, an increase and resumption of

flights in East Asia, and the start of the holiday season in various parts of the world bolstered the number of visitors to the country, the Japan National Tourism Organization said.

The Nakamise shopping street running to Senso-ji temple in Tokyo's Asakusa district is crowded with foreign tourists and others on May 17, 2023. (Kyodo)

By country or region, the most arrivals came from South Korea at 467,000, followed by Taiwan at 291,600, the United States at 183,900 and Hong Kong at 152,800.

Visitors from mainland China numbered 108,300, coming in sixth place after Thailand at 121,000.

The figure for those inbound from mainland China topped the 100,000 mark for the first time since February 2020 in a sign the tourism sector is recovering, partly helped by an increase in travel by affluent individuals.

While Japan's airline industry has been gradually recovering from the impact of the pandemic, challenges such as rising commodity prices and airfare costs continue to deter potential travelers from visiting, the organization said.

Meanwhile, the number of Japanese who went overseas numbered 560,200, up from 129,168 in April last year, but still 66.4 percent less than the same month in 2019.

Related coverage:

March foreign entries to Japan at 1.8 mil., 65% of pre-pandemic level

Japan ends COVID-19 border controls before Golden Week holidays