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Asia Minute: International travel to Japan is picking up

Narita international airport Tokyo tourism
Shuji Kajiyama/AP
Visitors wearing face masks arrive at Narita International Airport near Tokyo on Friday, June 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

Visitors from overseas are coming back — and at a relatively fast clip. Not here in Hawaiʻi — but in Japan. Nearly half a million visitors made their way to Japan last month.

The Japan National Tourism Organization said that’s more than double the previous month’s figures — but still down about 80% from 2019.

Japan just ended restrictions on visitors last month — later than many other countries.

In that last year before the pandemic, nearly 32 million international visitors came to Japan, about a third of them from China.

Chinese government restrictions mean those travelers are not likely to return anytime soon, but some factors are working in Japan’s favor when it comes to tourism.

While the weaker yen makes travel to Hawaiʻi more expensive for Japanese residents, it has the opposite effect on visitors to Japan from the United States and elsewhere.

Currency levels put travel, accommodations, food and other costs on sale.

This week, the government said it will reopen Japanese ports to cruise ships starting next March. Already, nearly 200 ships are scheduled to arrive next year.

Some remaining challenges may sound familiar to local businesses.

Japan’s tourism industry is struggling to find workers.

Bloomberg quotes figures from the Japan Accommodation and Lodging Foundation showing the number of people working at hotels is down about a third from pre-pandemic levels — and hiring remains difficult.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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