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Thursday, 26th February 2015
In Japan Travel News,

Japan encourages Chinese tourists off the beaten track

Chinese tourists have been flocking to Japan for years, with the country's proximity proving to be a major factor since some parts of China are closer to it than Beijing. However, recent relaxation in Japanese visa regulations and a weak yen have resulted in more Chinese visitors to the country than ever before.

2014 saw 2.4 million people make the trip across the East China Sea to experience Japan's rich mixture of history, culture and urban lifestyle - an 80 per cent rise. While the aforementioned weak yen allows for a more affordable afternoon of shopping in Akihabara or Harajuku, the Japanese consulate in Shanghai has also been responsible for an on-the-ground campaign push that it claims aids diplomatic relationships between the two nations.

Although the government will no doubt welcome the news of so many Chinese tourists given its target to reach up to 20 million visitors by the 2020 Olympics, the industry is having to adapt its campaign to encourage tourists to visit less popular tourist spots.

This is according to Hironori Ito of the Japanese consulate’s economic division in Shanghai, who claims that more than half of current visitors from China follow the so-called Golden Route from Tokyo to Kyoto and Osaka. "Getting lots of [Chinese] people to visit Japan is very extremely effective from a diplomatic standpoint," he told China Real Time. "So that’s why as a consulate we’re making efforts to promote tourism."

With so many people visiting the same cities, however, he added that there is a real risk that tourism infrastructure might become stretched to its limits in certain areas. The campaign, Mr Ito said, is therefore making an effort to promote places that might not necessarily be known to them.

Examples include the southern island of Kyushu and its famous hot springs, which are used for communal bathing (or onsen) purposes. Other lesser-known destinations in the country include Takayama, a small town known for its old-style houses, Inuyama and its magnificent castle and the even smaller island of Shikoku, which is also known for its onsen.

Tokyo remains extremely popular with Chinese visitors, but Sapporo is also laying claim to skyrocketing tourist figures from the country due to the nearby wide open spaces on the sparsely populated island of Hokkaido, coupled with top-quality seafood and sushi.

The island is also said to be popular with tourists from across the East China Sea due to the 2008 release of the Chinese film If You Are The One, which is set in Hokkaido and showcases its admirable natural beauty.

He Wenfan, of the Japan Tourism Board’s Chinese-language website, said that better air quality in Japan has also contributed as people flock from cities such as Shanghai.

"The first thing Chinese people do after they land is to breathe deeply," he told the Independent. "People say, 'I can finally breathe!'"

Related news stories:
Chinese New Year boosts Japan tourism (2nd February 2011)
A cheap yen and investment - foreign tourists flocking to Japan (13th March 2015)