|Above, Hakusan Park in Niigata. Photo by Armand Vaquer.|
Japan is a country of beauty, both in natural beauty and man-made beauty (architecture, etc.). Westerners who are fans of Japanese pop-culture, especially those who are fans of anime, super-hero and kaiju films, have fancied vacations to Japan to see the country for themselves for decades.
While there are many fans of Japanese pop-culture, they aren't enough to sustain the tourism industry to the extent of other first world nations. Japan is at 27th place worldwide in foreign tourism and 8th place in Asia as a draw. With so much going for it, Japan has not been the tourist draw as it should have been.
It has only been since 2003 that tourism became a focus of the Japanese government with initiatives to turn Japan into a "tourism-based country."
Nippon.com points out several reasons why turning Japan into a "tourism-based country" is desirable:
There were good reasons for the government’s decision to emphasize tourism. First, the economic benefits of tourism can be substantial. Second, international tourism is a quick and relatively cheap way of securing foreign currency reserves. Third, global demand is expanding rapidly—especially in emerging markets—thanks to rising incomes, an increase in leisure time, and the development of affordable modes of transport (figure 1). Fourth, tourism is an industry with the potential to revitalize Japan’s languishing rural economies.The goal of the Japanese government is to reach 20 million foreign visitors by 2020 and 30 million foreign visitors by 2030. These are ambitious goals, but they are achievable. If small entities like Hong Kong, Macao, and Singapore can out-perform Japan in foreign tourism, Japan (with some effort) can overtake and pass them in tourist numbers. According to the Nippon.com article, even South Korea has drawn more tourists than Japan, and South Korea is "not especially known for its tourist attractions." Japan has a lot more to offer. Japan lagging behind those places makes it obvious that somebody had dropped the ball in making Japan a top tourist destination.
Thankfully, all that is changing. Japan reached 10 million foreign visitors in 2013 and it is expected to reach 13 million this year.
To read the full Nippon.com article, go here.