A pair of factors combine with pent-up post-pandemic Japan travel desire to break the one-month record.

During the pandemic, when Japan instituted some of the strictest border control regulations in the world, there was some talk as to whether or not this was going to put a damper on foreign tourists’ desire to visit the country once they were finally allowed to do so again. Especially with the country’s popularity among young travelers booming right before its borders were closed, there was the question of whether, after having to postpone their Japan travel plans for so long, many would just give up and find some other country to get hyped about visiting instead.

None of that ended up happening, though. Inbound foreign tourism is back in full force, and not only has it recovered, it’s surpassed pre-pandemic levels. According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, in March Japan surpassed three million foreign visitors in a single calendar month for the first time in history. It didn’t just barely make it over that threshold, either, as Japan welcomed approximately 3,081,600 visitors from other parts of the world.

Six different countries/territories had over 100,000 tourists come to Japan in May: South Korea (663,100 travelers), Taiwan (484,400), China (452,400), the U.S.A. (290,100) Hong Kong (231,400), and Thailand (131,700). March also marked the highest number of inbound tourists to Japan ever from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Vietnam, India, Germany and Italy.

Two huge factors helped trigger those record-setting numbers. First: cherry blossoms. Though classically associated with April, in recent years sakura have begun to blossom in late March, and with the flowers being an iconic symbol of Japan, they’re something just about anyone with an interest in traveling to the country would like to see. Second, the value of the yen has plummeted versus foreign currencies, reaching its lowest levels since before the bubble economy of the 1980s. While that’s putting increasing pressure on Japanese consumers as prices rapidly rise for imported items and foodstuffs made with foreign-sourced ingredients, it’s making a trip to Japan more affordable than it has been in decades for foreign travelers.

The weak yen isn’t just making it easier for foreign tourists to visit Japan, it’s making it easier for them to spend much more lavishly while they’re here. Japan National Tourism Organization statistics show that between January and March, foreign travelers spent 1.7505 trillion yen within the country, also a record for a three-month period.

Sakura season winding down will probably cause a dip in inbound tourism for April, and May and June tend to be less popular months for foreign tourists to visit Japan due to, respectively, the domestic crowds at sightseeing destinations during the Golden Week holiday period and sticky, humid weather of the rainy season. But with the yen not likely to become significantly stronger before travelers lock in their summer itineraries, odds are Japan is going to be seeing another surge of foreign visitors come July.

Source: Japan National Tourism Organization (1, 2), TBS News Dig
Top image: Pakutaso
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