japan encourages Chinese tourism, japan china relations
Tokyo skyline

Japan Cautiously Beckons Chinese Travelers

February 11, 2009 01:02 PM
by Isabel Cowles
Japan hopes to encourage tourism from wealthy Chinese travelers, despite xenophobia and longstanding political tension between the two nations.

Japan Relaxes Rules for Chinese Tourists

Japan announced a plan this week to allow Chinese tourists to visit the country on an individual basis, as long as they are rich enough.

Currently, Chinese tourists are allowed to visit Japan only in large, guided groups, a measure intended to prevent them from overstaying their travel visas. According to the Associated Press, the escorted groups typically vary in size from 5 to 40 people, although families with an annual income of at least 3.3 million yen (approximately $36,000) can visit in smaller groups. Under the new program, individuals can qualify in the same manner.

The Japan Tourism Agency will verify income of Chinese tourists seeking visas by reviewing air travel mileage and credit card records, Shanghai Daily reports.

The move is part of an overall effort by the Japanese government to increase worldwide tourism to the island nation. The government hopes to attract 10 million travelers by 2010; last year, 10 Chinese residents from four families had visa applications approved.

Background: Tension and tourism between China and Japan

Tourism officials in China and Japan have been working toward better relations for several years, although cultural tensions have led to declining tourism cooperation between both nations.

Most notably, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s repeated visits in 2006 to the Yasukuni Shrine, which commemorates Japanese soldiers who committed atrocities during World War II, soured political relations and kept tourist exchanges at bay.

Additionally, Japan is notoriously discriminatory against Chinese tourists and has earned a reputation among travelers as “culturally impenetrable and overpriced,” according to The Japan Times.

According to the publication, Japan’s widely recognized xenophobia has contributed to a “3.5 trillion yen trade deficit in the area of tourism,” with China being most neglected as a potential market. In the past, Japan has purposefully limited Chinese visas to residents of specific “economic zones” (including Beijing, Shanghai and Canton Province) to purposefully suppress Chinese tourism, the Japan Times says.

Recent political gestures may help bolster better relations, however. Last May Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Japan, marking the first time a Chinese president has made the trip in a decade.

Related Topic: The reputation of Chinese travelers

Since enjoying an economic boom in the last few years, Chinese citizens have traveled abroad by the millions, earning a reputation on the way. According to The Christian Science Monitor, Chinese travelers may be the new "Ugly Americans": “Just as brash Americans attract glances from Parisian sophisticates, Chinese tourists have acquired a reputation [in Southeast Asia] as loud, pushy bumpkins with table manners that leave much to be desired.”

Most Recent Beyond The Headlines