February 19, 2014 11:51 pm JST

944,000 foreign travelers visit Japan in Jan., up 41% on year

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- An estimated 944,000 foreign travelers visited Japan in January, up 41.2 percent from the same month last year and the most ever for the first month of a year, the Japan National Tourism Organization said Wednesday.

     The increase is attributed to holiday travel from the Chinese-speaking region during the Lunar New Year period from late January, loosened visa requirements for tourists from Southeast Asia and Japan being a relatively cheap destination given its weakening yen.

     The number of travelers from South Korea increased 9.0 percent from a year before, reversing the downward trend over the previous three months since last October brought on by local media reports about the radioactive leaks from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the organization said.

     By country or region, South Korea topped the list with 255,500 travelers in January, followed by Taiwan at 196,900 and China at 155,700.

     The first month of 2011 previously saw the most foreign travelers to Japan for a January, at 714,000. In terms of the number of overall foreign travelers in a single month, last month is eclipsed only by last July, when an estimated 1 million foreign travelers visited Japan.