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Japanese Tourist Numbers 2018/10/14 23:06
Hi All,

I've travelled Japan a reasonable amount and also was lucky enough to live in the country between 2011-2014 for 3 years. A lot of my travels to the main sites occurred during the off season along with the extended lull in tourist numbers after the 2011 earthquake

I have continued to visit Japan regularly but have focussed more on locations which are either reasonably unknown or difficult to get to. This post was inspired by stumbling across the most recent Japan tourist numbers which have absolutely amazed me - there has been a 200%+ increase in overseas tourist in just 4 years! (

What I wanted to know is how the locals and long term residents have found the changes over the past 5 years in the more touristy cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka etc. Has it really seemed as though there has truly been a tourist population explosion? Are locations in the less touristy areas also noticing a large upswing?

Sorry for the scatterbrain post - I'm interested to see how people on the ground currently see the changes....

On a positive note - I've definitely seen a big improvement in signage in multiple languages both at locations and even by obscure towns which now have updated English sites made by local tourist bureaus...
by mfedley  

Re: Japanese Tourist Numbers 2018/10/15 12:15
I live in Tokyo, and yes I do see the surge in recent years.

Starting with my immediate neighborhood (in northwestern Tokyo), it has always had some non-Japanese residents, but recently obvious foreign visitor count has increased. I found that there are a few popular AirBnB locations nearby.

In tourist spots such as Asakusa, yes the overwhelming number of mostly non-Japanese visitors is obvious - I was there recently around 10:30 in the morning on a weekday (I just got done with an early morning job assignment nearby), and it was packed with those visitors.

Some shops in Ikebukuro for example where they sell chocolates and stuff (good for souvenirs) are often full with foreign visitors. Department store clerks are getting better equipped with either English or Chinese language skills. I see more people obviously lost at train stations/on a train seeking help, whom I am happy to help (as long as either Japanese or English language works with them), this has been happening more often in recent years.
by AK rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese Tourist Numbers 2018/10/15 22:05
Thanks for the info AK. It's good to hear what is happening on the ground. I'm still blown away by the number increase and I'm guessing that some people in the Japanese Tourism bureau are currently quite happy....
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese Tourist Numbers 2018/10/16 07:47
Ifm sure much of that is due to the easing of restrictions on Chinese nationals.
by John B digs Japan rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese Tourist Numbers 2018/10/16 09:20
That is partly true - but Chinese nationals only make up around 30% of the market. It's large increases for most countries...
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese Tourist Numbers 2018/10/16 15:41
by hakata14 (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese Tourist Numbers 2018/10/16 23:17
I have never lived in Japan, but hopefully it's OK for me to respond here...

I went to Japan at least once a year from 1999-2010 before taking a hiatus because I had a newborn/toddler/pre-schooler. In 2016, I started going to Japan again and things were so vastly different in terms of crowds and sightseeing in nearly every location I have been to since then with only a few exceptions.

I had been to Japan before in late June/ early July, but I'm also pretty sure that this is not considered a high season because late June/early July is rainy and can be quite hot. Though I admit, back in 1999-2010 I tended to visit Japan more in: October, November, March, and around Golden Week.

Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka are insanely more crowded in particular Osaka. The shopping arcade between Namba and Shinsaibashi was always popular but now it is just a sea of people and it's really rather unpleasant. Osaka, the aquarium was also completely packed in a way that I had not experienced before. In Tokyo, I really noticed the crowds at the Ghibli Museum. It was always hard to get tickets, but when I went in 2001 or 2002, it was nowhere near as unpleasantly crowded. In Kyoto, I've noticed it as well. We went to Kiyomizudera around a little before 9:00 am and the temple was completely full. I can't imagine how bad it was later in the day. It makes me nervous to go back to Fushimi Inari which was quiet and mostly empty when I was there before. Arashiyama was also a lot more crowded, as well as Tenmangu, Toji and Kinkakuji. Miyajima also seemed more crowded than in the mid 2000s. Uji was packed when I was there, but it was mostly Japanese tourists or at least people speaking Japanese because I was there to see the hydrangea temple. Nara was pretty busy as well despite pouring rain. Kanazawa and Takayama weren't packed but definitely had changed. Both had a lot more English and there was an actual foreigner working at the JR counter in Takayama. The tour I had taken in Takayama that had been Japanese only was now Japanese and English. I'd not been before, but in the ryokan stayed in near Kamikochi (Nakanoyu) the other guests were more Americans and a family of Israelis.

On the other side of things, Nagano didn't seem more crowded. There were a bunch of Japanese school trips there when we visited Zenkoji, but that's not the same. We went late in the day, but Matsushima also wasn't packed with tourists. Licca Castle is still really quiet.

I have friends who live in Osaka who complain a lot about the upswing in tourists there. A lot of people refuse to takyuubin and bring huge suitcases on the subways or walk long distances with them and this really bothers the residents.
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese Tourist Numbers 2018/10/21 08:03
Oh really bothers me about the changes you experienced in Japan on the number of crowds. I love Japan and I will be going for the first time to the western area (Osaka-Kyoto-Hiroshima), and I'm afraid of the crowds. I hate being in the middle of massive crowds...I guess I will have no choice then...(there was 3 times in my whole life that I felt uncomfortable with numerous people, it was on a street in London, a bus in Rome and Disneyland Paris, I guess Japan will be my 4th time...).
Well I was prepared for Osaka being crowded but not for Kyoto and Arashiyama (going November but mid-November and not the peak which is late-November). I was hoping that Arashiyama would be more quiet, but it seems that it has more people there nowadays. I'm going to visit on November 15th, it's not really the peak of autumn leaves, and I was in hope to avoid the peak season, so maybe it seems pointless nows, and I will be getting lots of people there.
And Miyajima is getting crowded? I'm going on a weekday (monday), and going quite early, between 7am-8am. Lets see if I have luck on this trip.
Going to Uji as well, and I'm glad your report of Uji seems alright at the moment. Going to Nara as well, but to Nara I'm going extremely early, I'm planning to be there before 8am.
I'm crossing fingers for peaceful days at Kurashiki, Okayama, Iga-Ueno and Mt.Koya...

This all makes me think that it's a very very very bad idea to go to Japan in 2020: OLYMPICS!!!
by catiasmteixeira rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese Tourist Numbers 2018/10/21 15:15
I have noticed Japan getting busier, but large crowds in Japan are much more bearable, specifically if they are mainly Japanese people. The busiest I have ever seen Japan was koto illuminations in Kyoto in 2013 which was busy!!!

This is also why I travel to places off the main tourist trails which have great attractions and often you are the only one there
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese Tourist Numbers 2018/10/21 17:45
Yup the normal run of the mill Hiroshima, Kyoto and Tokyo are gonna be busy.

In 2014 I stayed in Shinjuku-ku, and in 2017 I stayed in Ota-ku. A quiet residential region of Tokyo. It felt much quietier than the 2014 Shinjuku.

I noticed Kyoto was much busier between those years difference. Fukuoka and Kagoshima seems the same between the years difference.

So there is ways to avoid the crowds. Just gotta decide if you wanna go the common places everyone goes to.
by hakata14 (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese Tourist Numbers 2018/10/21 23:28

I think even some destinations that use to feel "further afield" like Takayama now get a lot more people then they once did. When I went in Feb 2010, the Associa lectured me about how of course they don't have hotel wide internet because this is Takayama not Tokyo and the day trip tour I did was Japanese only. I was the only foreigner on the tour (which was quite full.)

I was surprised by how quiet Matsushima was because it's so readily accessible. Nagano just also doesn't seem to be on that many people's lists. I really think it is underrated. Licca Castle is well, a place for doll lovers and is kind of wonky to get to.

To be honest, I've been via car to various destinations, but I've not personally yet driven in Japan. I live in the USA and we drive on the opposite side of the road from Japan and I find the whole thing a bit daunting. Though I might finally give in and rent a car next Summer. I do appreciate that the speed limit it quite low many places in Japan. Roads near me are 25 mph, but that's closer to 40 kph. I also always worry about our dietary restrictions, though Japan is changing in this regard as well.


I wouldn't worry too much about crowds in Kyoto. Tenmangu and Toji were particularly crowded because we were there on flea market days. They were more crowded on those flea market days than they had been in the early to mid-2000s for those flea markets. I expect on non-flea market days they are fine. Kiyomizudera is always crowded, it's just more crowded.. It's still worth visiting. We went to Zuigudo at 9, when it first opened and really enjoyed the experience. We were pretty much the only ones there. The crowds were mostly at the waterfall to drink the stream's water and it was pretty crowded around the main wooden stage. If you can skip drinking from the waterfall, it helps a lot.

The shopping street between Namba and Shinsaibashi was unpleasantly crowded. I wouldn't go but I unfortunately do like to shop lol I also usually end up there on a Sunday, which is the worst day to be there. I have a friend who lives in Osaka though and that is when she has off.

I found Ninnaji in Kyoto was very quiet in June 2016. I felt like we were two of the only people there. I really enjoyed Yoshiminedera. I've heard Fushimi Inari gets less crowded the higher you go. There are so many places to see in Kyoto, but it feels like most people just go to all the same ones.

We went to Miyajima on a Monday. It was not crazy crowded or anything like that, it was just more crowded than it had been when I went in the 2000s.

I am sure you will do fine. Sometimes the crowds make an area feel festive and not oppressive at all, I feel that way about Arashiyama.
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese Tourist Numbers 2018/10/22 03:46

Thank you for your reply. I don't think I will drink from the fountain at Kiyomizudera, though I will try to get close to take some pictures. I believe people likes to do the usual, and since I never been to Kyoto before, I will be like those visiting the usual places. I've got 3 days to do Kyoto, 2 days for Kyoto itself and 1 day for half Kyoto and half Arashiyama, therefore, I will try to explore as much as I can and see temples that are not "famous". I heard the Bamboo Groove gets quite crowded, and I won't be able to go early in the morning since I'll visit first Kinkaku-ji (planning on visiting Kinkaku-ji right before it opens to find a good spot to take pictures). Oh Yoshiminedera...I never thought of visiting it while in Arashiyama, because there's a lot to see and do and Yoshiminedera is far away from the main locations in Arashiyama, besides, it closes at 17:00. If I have time, I'll go, but I don't think I will make it, I don't want to rush my trip in Arashiyama.

I will try to visit Miyajima really early in the morning. Besides, I will try to start each day in Japan quite early, between 7am-8am. I will do that for Okayama, Uji and Nara, I'm going there before 8 am. So hopefully, when I arrive to those locations, there won't be large crowds, or so I hope.
by catiasmteixeira rate this post as useful

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