International Visitors to Japan

International Visitors to Japan

According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, the number of international visitors to Japan reached record high of 24,039,000 in 2016. By country of origin, China topped the list with 6,373,000 and South Korea took second place with 5,090,300 followed by Taiwan with 4,167,400. Those four countries together accounted for some 72.7% of total foreign visitors in 2016, while visitors from Europe, N. America and Australia totaled 2,683,000.

We can infer from this that Japan is popular among Asian tourists, but it may not be a compelling travel destination for Europeans/Americans. Asian nations are geographically closer to Japan, but it may not be the only reason. The government may need greater efforts to increase the number of European and American visitors.

At any rate, it is a good news that more Chinese and Koreans are coming to Japan for whatever reasons, because we hear that Chinese and Koreans never forget a legacy of wars in the past. Memories of the Nanjing massacre, the sexual exploitation of “comfort women” more than 50 years ago still affect our relations today.

There are also some concerns about territorial issues even today, which are a major concern in the region.

For younger Japanese, these are things in the past and they have little understanding of what actually happened in China and Korea. We consider the matter to have been settled, because successive Japanese governments offered sincere apologies to two countries and paid an immense amount of compensation to help restore their economies. But these efforts are still believed to be inadequate by many of their citizens.

Key questions for us are, “Are successive predecessors responsible for the criminal offenses of previous generation?”. Also, “How can we establish forward-looking relationships?”

When we read the history of Japan, we understand how much we learned from China and Korea and how this helped build up our civilization. We need to understand that China, Korea and Japan have the deeply grounded common heritage developed over millennia, which can provide a substantial foundation for the true mutual understanding needed to establish a stronger East Asia.