In figures, 28,700,000. In words, 28.7 million. 2017 was another record year for Japan in attracting overseas visitors.

Just seven years ago, the figure stood at only 8.6 million, which was a record back then. A year later in 2011, the year of the Fukushima disaster, the number of visitors dropped dramatically. Overseas tourism slowly recovered in 2012. But it  really took off in 2013, when the 10 million mark was topped for the first time.
And now it is close to 29 million, that is 20 million more than in 2010, or nearly tripling in just four years. The government`s target of 40 million visitors from overseas in 2020 is definitely in reach.

You do not need economists to calculate the exact direct positive impact this had on economic growth in Japan, in particular for the tourism and retail sector. You do not think long about how much this contributes to a “cool Japan” image overseas. You do not need polls and statistics to visualize how the Japan image of Chinese people is rapidly changing and turning much more positive.

You should not – as I do sometimes, I have to admit – regret that your once favorite and hidden bar, restaurant or travel destination are more and more discovered by other foreigners, too.

Actually, we can all simply acknowledge that the Abe government, which has pushed and enabled foreign tourism by a wide range of measures, has probably achieved its biggest progress in changing and internationalizing Japan by exactly this tourism drive.

We have laughed about the 40 million visitors target a few years ago. Now we see it realized. And we see rapid changes that come along and which eventually take Japan out of its self-chosen isolation and island status, business and cultural wise.

The old-hand Japan romantics like me need to look harder for hidden gems and/or accept more and more foreigners in our favorite spots (ha, ha). But for Japan overall, it is a very good thing.


Jochen Legewie

Jochen Legewie

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