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Tourists to Japan top 20m, a month earlier than last year

Fastest inflow on record buoyed by government efforts to attract more visitors

A couple takes a selfie in front of Sensoji Temple in Tokyo. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)

TOKYO -- More than 20 million foreigners had traveled to Japan in 2018 as of last Wednesday, the earliest date ever that the count has crossed that threshold, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Monday.

Last year, the tally didn't climb above 20 million until Sept. 15.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has promoted tourism as a pillar of its growth strategy. This effort is bearing fruit, Suga noted. "We will work toward our goal of hitting an annual 40 million visitors by 2020." 

Suga spoke to reporters at the Kawayu Eco-Museum Center, located inside the Akan Mashu National Park in Hokkaido. The government has been pushing for more commercial facilities inside eight national parks under an initiative launched in fiscal 2016 to bring more tourists to these areas.

"We hope to expand the initiative to the other 26 national parks in Japan," Suga said, signaling that Tokyo plans to continue promoting inbound tourism.

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