4 reasons behind the rise of Japan

Back in 2005, the island of Japan was languishing in 34th spot on the most visited countries in the world list. What has happened since can only be described as meteoric. Since 2011, the number of international tourists has increased by more than 360%, with over 28 million people visiting the country in 2017 alone. And with events such as the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games on the horizon, the number of visitors is only set to rise. In fact, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is aiming to break the 40 million mark next year.

But what sparked the rush to visit the far eastern island? And what is fuelling this unprecedented growth? We’ve taken a look at the four reasons why Japan is one of the hottest destinations in the world right now.

The cultural crossover

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Name any childhood craze of the last 30 years, and it’s likely that it originated in Japan. Transformers, Tamagotchi and Pokémon all began their lives in the design studios of Tokyo before popping up in playgrounds around the world. And it’s this crossover of Japanese culture with a western audience that has helped bring the country to life, removing the barriers that come with a different language and widely different customs.

An example of this global appeal is how the art form of manga has become a phenomenon in its own right. In fact, the British Museum is set to host an exhibition dedicated solely to its history and influence, which will also be the largest exhibition of manga ever to take place outside of Japan. With more and more people discovering Japanese culture through these forms, the desire to put down the graphic novels and experience the country behind the work is surely a big influence.

Japanese cuisine is firmly on the menu

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The cultural crossover doesn’t stop at the manga-inspired creations. It’s possible to sample the cuisine of Japan in most towns and cities around the world, with sushi, ramen and miso soup now staples of western diets.

This integration has made the prospect of visiting Japan a lot less daunting for the average visitor, and many make the pilgrimage to sample the sashimi and sake delights at the source.

Cutting of red tape

It’s not just visitors from the West that are fuelling the boom in tourism in Japan. In fact, the majority are coming from neighbouring countries such as South Korea and China, with roughly eight million annual visitors accounted for by the latter.

Since 2013, restrictions have been relaxed significantly, with 68 nationalities – including Indian, Chinese and Indonesian citizens – now able to visit as a tourist without requiring a visa. As the country continues to loosen its barriers to entry, this can only have a positive impact on incoming tourism.

More for your money

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Finally, one thing that is likely to appeal to both business and leisure visitors is an improved exchange rate. The Yen is currently an attractive prospect when compared to the start of the decade – it is sat around 110 ¥ to the US$ (145¥ to the £), while in 2010 it was only 80¥ and 130¥ respectively.

Not only does this make it cheaper to visit the country, but leads to goods manufactured in Japan (which range from automotive parts and electronics through to life-saving pharmaceuticals) being better value for money too.

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