Japan’s appeal as a Chinese vacation hotspot is on the rise.
Mainland China is Japan’s third largest source of overseas tourism, and the number of Chinese travelers to the country is increasing. The Japan National Tourism Organization reported that there were 2.41 million Chinese visitors to Japan in 2014, an 83-percent increase from the year before. The Japanese yen’s depreciation against the U.S. dollar and the country’s new multiple-entry visa policy are the largest contributing factors to the tourism boom.
Last year, the yen fell to a seven-year low against the dollar. According to Rao Tian, deputy general manager of the overseas tourism department, China International Travel Service Limited, Head Office, the depreciation is drawing Chinese shoppers looking to purchase goods overseas.
“Shopping in Japan is very important for Chinese visitors,” Rao said in an interview with China Daily. “The devaluation of the yen makes the travel cost lower and Japanese goods cheaper. In the beginning of 2014, 10,000 Japanese yen equaled about 800 yuan, but it is more than 500 yuan now.”
Japan has also accommodated high-income Chinese travelers by extending the validity of three-year multiple-entry visas to five years. Eligible tourists can travel throughout the country without restrictions. However, travelers must make their first destination Okinawa or one of three areas subjected to disasters — Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima — and stay there for at least one night.
Those who wish to apply for Japanese visas must must do so through agencies accredited by the Japanese embassy in Beijing. The embassy reports that over 250,000 Japanese visas of all kinds were issued to Chinese travelers in January.
“The rejection of a visa application is rare,” says Keiji Kamei, a consular official at the embassy. “The agencies will tell applicants the requirements, how to prepare the needed documents, and won’t send us ineligible applications.”
Over the past few years, most Chinese visitors to Japan were middle-class people between the ages of 30 and 40. But traveler demographics are diversifying, with more university students and elderly people visiting the country as well. According to Wang Guangxin, a manager in the Tokyo office the Nagoya-based Caravan Tour Co., Chinese travel preferences vary widely.
“Many Chinese customers join traditional group tours, especially the itineraries between Tokyo and Osaka,” Wang said. “It’s like taking a bus, with fixed itineraries. Some choose the more expensive customized tours, and they can decide the itineraries just like taking a taxi.”
Chinese visitors tend to enjoy “detailed, independent tours of single cities” like Kyushu, Tokyo, and Osaka. More low-key cities like Nagasaki and Okinawa are also drawing travelers. Many Chinese people are making repeated trips to the country.
Wang, however, also notes that travel to Japan can pose difficulties.
“The problem is that it’s not easy to book a train ticket or accommodations at peak seasons,” he says. “It’s Japan’s national strategy to build a tourism country, but they don’t have sufficient tourism capacity.”
image credit: DILLEmma Photography