In September, Japan achieved a significant milestone on the road to recovery as foreign visitors surged to 96% of pre-pandemic levels, according to official data.
The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) reported that over 2 million international visitors explored Japan in September. However, outgoing traveler numbers remain 43% below their respective 2019 levels.
Airline capacity to and from Japan has rebounded, and the value of the Japanese yen is at a 33-year low, standing at roughly 150 against the dollar.
It’s remarkable that incoming visitor numbers roughly quadrupled in the 2010s.
Until 2014, there were roughly the same number of incoming and outgoing tourists to and from Japan.
While incoming visitor numbers have rebounded, Japanese residents seem less eager to travel overseas, and some of that hesitation could be attributed to the low value of the yen.
Japan is again discussing how to “divert” some of the incoming tourists to destinations other than Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, as over-tourism in these cities remains a significant concern.
I recently spent two weeks in Japan, visiting Kagoshima, Fukuoka, Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo. Tourists were back in force, particularly in Osaka and Kyoto, to the extent that some places felt uncomfortably crowded.
My advice is to explore cities and areas outside of Japan’s “Golden Triangle,” although a visit to Kyoto is a must at least once. Even there, you can find pleasant experiences outside of the most heavily visited tourist spots.
Japan aimed to promote the country to incoming tourists in the 2010s, and they have now arrived.
Where there are high numbers of tourists, issues with locals often arise, as is happening not only in select cities in Japan but also in Venice and Barcelona. Additionally, it’s worth noting that arrivals from Mainland China are still nowhere near their 2019 numbers.
I’ll probably take a pass of the 2024 Cherry Blossom season in Japan.