January 9, 2014 12:30 pm JST

Japan marks record high 11.25 million foreign visitors in 2013

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Foreign visitors to Japan totaled a record high 11.25 million in 2013, up 2.08 million from a year earlier and topping the 10 million threshold for the first time, according to preliminary data released by the Justice Ministry's Immigration Bureau of Japan.

     Immigration officials said the weak yen, which helped lower traveling costs in Japan, as well as eased visa requirements for Southeast Asians was behind the increase.

     The total included those who were staying in Japan for extended periods of time and made re-entries after leaving the country. Excluding those re-entrants, arrivals came to approximately 9.55 million, also a record high and up about 2 million from 2012.

     South Koreans were the largest group of visitors to Japan, totaling 2.3 million, followed by 2.16 million Taiwanese and 980,000 Chinese. The Chinese total excludes those from the Hong Kong special administrative region.

     Chinese visitors gradually increased after plummeting in the wake of Tokyo's purchase in September 2012 of Japan-administered islets claimed by China from a private Japanese owner, a move that drew a fierce backlash from Beijing.

     Foreign arrivals reached a record 9.44 million in 2010 and decreased sharply in 2011, when tourism withered due to the massive earthquake and tsunami in March and the strong yen. The visitor count started growing again in 2012.

     Japanese departures, meanwhile, declined by 1.02 million from 2012 to some 17.47 million. The decline was attributed to the weak yen, which makes traveling overseas more expensive for Japanese.