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Economy

Tourism to Japan drops for 2 months as South Koreans stay away

Travelers from China and US make double digit gains in November

Tourists dress up for a visit to Tokyo's Sensoji, one of the capital's most popular attractions. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)

TOKYO -- Japan's tally of foreign visitors dipped slightly in November, as the continued plunge in travelers from South Korea drove a decline for the second straight month.

Just over 2.44 million people visited Japan in November, down 0.4% from a year earlier, the Japan National Tourism Organization said Wednesday.

South Korean visitors fell by 65.1% last month to 205,000, following a 65.5% drop in October. South Koreans make up the second-largest group of visitors to Japan, after tourists from China.

Japan's overall tourism number slid by 5.5% on the year in October.

Japan has drawn a 2.8% increase in foreign visitors on the year for the 11 months through November, reaching 29.36 million thanks to big gains from countries other than South Korea, the data shows. The increase would reach 10.2% if the decline from South Korea were excluded.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has set a goal of drawing 40 million visitors to Japan in 2020, but attaining this will be difficult at the current pace of visitors. 

The shrinking travel between the Asian neighbors comes amid renewed friction over wartime labor and other historical grievances, as well as a slowing South Korean economy. Budget airlines have cut flights to Japan, and the tourism group said more South Koreans are choosing China and Vietnam over Japan as a vacation destination.

But "recently, some travel companies are seeing an influx of reservations for trips to Japan," the organization said.

Japan did enjoy double-digit increases last month in travelers from other places: 21.7% for mainland China, 11.4% for Taiwan and 17.3% for the U.S.

Separately, the organization reported that visitors to Japan for this year's Rugby World Cup spent an average of 385,000 yen ($3,500) each. The tournament was held from September to November.

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