Japan attracted 31.88 million international tourists in 2019. Japan has 21 World Heritage Sites, including Himeji Castle, Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto and Nara. Popular foreigner attractions include Tokyo and Hiroshima, Mount Fuji, ski resorts such as Niseko in Hokkaido, Okinawa, riding the shinkansen and taking advantage of Japan's hotel and hotspring network.
The 2017 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report ranked Japan 4th out of 141 countries overall, which was the highest in Asia. Japan gained relatively high scores in almost all of the featured aspects, such as health and hygiene, safety and security, cultural resources and business travel.
The origins of early traditions of visits to picturesque sites are unclear, but an early sight-seeing excursion was Matsuo Bashō's 1689 trip to the then "far north" of Japan, which occurred not long after Hayashi Razan categorized the Three Views of Japan in 1643. During the Edo era of Japan, from around 1600 to the Meiji Restoration in 1867, travel was regulated within the country through the use of shukuba or post stations, towns where travelers had to present appropriate documentation. Despite these restrictions, porter stations and horse stables, as well as places for lodging and food were available on well-traveled routes. During this time, Japan was a closed country to foreigners, so no foreign tourism existed in Japan.
Following the Meiji Restoration and the building of a national railroad network, tourism became more of an affordable prospect for domestic citizens and visitors from foreign countries could enter Japan legally. As early as 1887, government officials recognized the need for an organized system of attracting foreign tourists; the Kihinkai (貴賓会), which aimed to coordinate the players in tourism, was established that year with Prime Minister Itō Hirobumi's blessing. Its early leaders included Shibusawa Eiichi and Ekida Takashi. Another major milestone in the development of the tourism industry in Japan was the 1907 passage of the Hotel Development Law, as a result of which the Railways Ministry began to construct publicly owned hotels throughout Japan.
For much of post-World War II history, Japan has been an exceptionally unattractive tourist destination for its population and GDP size; from 1995 to 2014, it was by far the least visited country in the G7 despite being the second largest country in the group,and as of 2013 was one of the least visited countries in the OECD on a per capita basis.
In 2018, 31,191,856 foreign tourists visited Japan.
2017 to 2018
2016 to 2017
2015 to 2016
|Total (all countries)||31,191,856||8.7%||28,690,900||19.3%||24,039,053||21.8%|
Domestic tourism remains a vital part of the Japanese economy and Japanese culture. Children in many middle schools see the highlight of their years as a visit to Tokyo Disneyland or perhaps Tokyo Tower, and many high school students often visit Okinawa or Hokkaido. The extensive rail network together with domestic flights sometimes in planes with modifications to favor the relatively short distances involved in intra-Japan travel allows efficient and speedy transport. International tourism plays a smaller role in the Japanese economy compared to other developed countries; in 2013, international tourist receipts was 0.3% of Japan's GDP, while the corresponding figure was 1.3% for the United States and 2.3% for France.
In inbound tourism, Japan was ranked 28th in the world in 2007 when the country had the 2nd largest GDP. In 2009, the Yomiuri Shimbun published a modern list of famous sights under the name Heisei Hyakkei (the Hundred Views of the Heisei period).
Tourists from South Korea have made up the largest number of inbound tourists several times in the past. In 2010, their 2.4 million arrivals made up 27% of the tourists visiting Japan.
Travelers from China have been the highest spenders in Japan by country, spending an estimated 196.4 billion yen (US$2.4 billion) in 2011, or almost a quarter of total expenditure by foreign visitors, according to data from the Japan Tourism Agency.
According to the Japan National Tourism Organization in 2017, 3 out of 4 foreign tourists came from other parts of East Asia, namely South Korea, Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Japanese video games, manga and anime play a role in driving tourism to Japan. In surveys held by Statista between 2019 and 2020, 24.2% of tourists from the United States, 7.7% of tourists from China and 6.1% of tourists from South Korea said they were motivated to visit Japan because of Japanese popular culture.
The Japanese government hoped to receive 40 million foreign tourists every year by 2020,however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the country received only 4.12 million foreign tourists in 2020.
In September 2022, the Japanese government announced that visa requirements from some countries will be waived from October 2022, in a move to reopen travel after the COVID-19 pandemic border restrictions.Prior to the pandemic, Japan did not require tourist visas for 68 countries and regions.
After the triple melt-down of the nuclear reactors in Fukushima, the number of foreign visitors declined for months. In September 2011 some 539,000 foreign people visited Japan, this was 25 percent down compared with the same month in 2010. This decline was largely attributed to the Fukushima nuclear accident and the stronger yen made a visit to Japan more expensive.
To boost tourism the Japanese Tourism Agency announced in October 2011 a plan to give 10,000 round-trip air tickets to Japan to encourage visitors to come. In 2012 free tickets would be offered if the winners would write online about their experiences in Japan. They also would need to answer some questions about how they felt while visiting Japan after the earthquake and how the interest in tourism in Japan could be renewed. About US$15 million would be spent on this program. On December 26, 2011, The Japan Tourism Agency reported on their site that the "Fly to Japan! Project", which would have given out 10,000 round-trip tickets to Japan, was not approved by the government for fiscal year 2012.
By 2012, international tourism inflows had recovered to pre-2011 levels.
Wakayama Prefecture is a prefecture of Japan located in the Kansai region of Honshu. Wakayama Prefecture has a population of 944,320 and has a geographic area of 4,724 square kilometres (1,824 sq mi). Wakayama Prefecture borders Osaka Prefecture to the north, and Mie Prefecture and Nara Prefecture to the northeast.
Shiga Prefecture is a prefecture of Japan located in the Kansai region of Honshu. Shiga Prefecture has a population of 1,412,916 and has a geographic area of 4,017 km2 (1,551 sq mi). Shiga Prefecture borders Fukui Prefecture to the north, Gifu Prefecture to the northeast, Mie Prefecture to the southeast, and Kyoto Prefecture to the west.
Hyōgo Prefecture is a prefecture of Japan located in the Kansai region of Honshu. Hyōgo Prefecture has a population of 5,469,762 and has a geographic area of 8,400 square kilometres (3,200 sq mi). Hyōgo Prefecture borders Kyoto Prefecture to the east, Osaka Prefecture to the southeast, and Okayama Prefecture and Tottori Prefecture to the west.
Nan'yō is a city located in Yamagata Prefecture, Japan. As of 1 March 2020, the city had an estimated population of 31,112 in 11379 households, and a population density of 190 persons per km². The total area of the city is 160.52 square kilometres (62 sq mi).
Nikkō is a city located in Tochigi Prefecture, Japan. As of 2 December 2020, the city had an estimated population of 80,239 in 36,531 households, and a population density of 55 persons per km2. The total area of the city is 1,449.83 square kilometres (559.78 sq mi). It is a popular destination for Japanese and international tourists. Attractions include the mausoleum of shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu and that of his grandson Iemitsu, and the Futarasan Shrine, which dates to the year 767 AD. There are also many famous hot springs (onsen) in the area. Elevations range from 200 to 2,000 meters. The Japanese saying 【日光を見ずして結構と言うなかれ】 "Never say 'kekkō' until you've seen Nikkō"—kekkō meaning beautiful, magnificent or "I am satisfied"—is a reflection of the beauty and sites in Nikkō.
Takayama is a city located in Gifu Prefecture, Japan. As of 1 January 2019, the city had an estimated population of 88,473 in 35,644 households, and a population density of 41 persons per km2. The total area of the city was 2,177.61 square kilometres (840.78 sq mi) making it the largest city by area in Japan. The high altitude and separation from other areas of Japan kept the area fairly isolated, allowing Takayama to develop its own culture over about a 300-year period.
Owase is a city located in Mie Prefecture, Japan. As of 1 August 2021, the city had an estimated population of 16,910 in 9177 households and a population density of 88 persons per km2. The total area of the city was 192.71 square kilometres (74.41 sq mi).
Tanabe is a city located in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. As of 1 November 2021, the city had an estimated population of 70,972 in 35076 households and a population density of 69 persons per km². The total area of the city is 1,026.91 square kilometres (396.49 sq mi). Tanabe is the second largest city in Wakayama in terms of population, and the largest in the Kansai region of Japan in terms of area.
Nachikatsuura is a town located in Higashimuro District, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. As of 1 November 2021, the town had an estimated population of 14,420 in 7622 households and a population density of 79 persons per km². The total area of the town is 183.31 square kilometres (70.78 sq mi).
A Shinto shrine is a structure whose main purpose is to house ("enshrine") one or more kami, the deities of the Shinto religion.
A Kumano shrine is a type of Shinto shrine which enshrines the three Kumano mountains: Hongū, Shingū, and Nachi [Kumano Gongen (熊野権現)]. There are more than 3,000 Kumano shrines in Japan, and each has received its kami from another Kumano shrine through a process of propagation called bunrei (分霊) or kanjō (勧請).
Nikkō National Park is a national park in the Kantō region, on the main island of Honshū in Japan. The park spreads over three prefectures: Tochigi, Gunma and Fukushima, and was established in 1934.
Tottori is the capital and the largest city of Tottori Prefecture in the Chūgoku region of Japan. Within Japan the city is best known for its sand dunes which are a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors from outside the prefecture. The sand dunes are also important as a centre for research into arid agriculture, hosting Tottori University's Arid Land Research Center. Most of Tottori is located in the western part of the San'in Kaigan Geopark.
Kumano Nachi Taisha (熊野那智大社) is a Shinto shrine and part of the UNESCO-designated World Heritage Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range of Japan. The Kumano Kodō route connects it to other sites under the same classification, which are primarily located in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. The four sites on the route, classified as pilgrimage destinations and World Heritage Sites, are: 1) Nachi Taisha; 2) Hongū Taisha; 3) Hayatama Taisha; 4) Koya-san.
The Kumano Kodō (熊野古道) is a series of ancient pilgrimage routes that crisscross the Kii Hantō, the largest peninsula of Japan. These trails were used by pilgrims to "Kumano Sanzan" (熊野三山) or the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano: Kumano Hongū Taisha (熊野本宮大社), Kumano Nachi Taisha (熊野那智大社) and Kumano Hayatama Taisha (熊野速玉大社).
Kumano Hongū Taisha (熊野本宮大社) is a Shinto shrine located in Tanabe, Wakayama, deep in the rugged mountains of the Kii Peninsula of Japan. It is included as part of the Kumano Sanzan in the World Heritage Site "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range". The main deity enshrined is Kumano Gongen (熊野権現). All of the ancient Kumano Kodō routes lead to the Grand Shrine.
Kumano Hayatama Taisha (熊野速玉大社) is a Shinto shrine located in Shingu, Wakayama Prefecture, on the shores of the Kumanogawa in the Kii Peninsula of Japan. It is included as part of the Kumano Sanzan in the UNESCO World Heritage site "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range". The three Kumano Sanzan shrines are the Sōhonsha of all Kumano shrines, lie at between 20 and 40 km of distance one from the other and are connected by the pilgrimage route known as "Kumano Sankeimichi" (熊野参詣道).
Yunomine Onsen is a hot spring system and resort town in Tanabe, near Hongu Town in southern Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. The Tsuboyu bath is located there, a UNESCO World Heritage site.