Judging from the record levels of international travelers visiting Japan in recent years, it is easy to see that Japan is experiencing a boom in tourism. Amid this rise, the number of tourists from the United States has reached record levels every month for over two years and running. In 2015, the annual number of annual visitors from the U.S. exceeded 1 million for the first time. This trend shows little sign of abating, with nearly 1 million people traveling from the U.S. to Japan between January and September this year, an over 20% increase over same period last year.
Tokyo at Night
According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism, as of October 30th the total number of foreign tourists who traveled to Japan in 2016 exceeded 20 million, a new annual record. 20 million was the original target number set by the government of Japan for international visitors in 2020. This goal has now been revised up to 40 million by 2020 and 60 million by 2030, reflecting the growing popularity of Japan as a destination. The largest percentage of visitors are coming from other Asian nations, with Chinese tourists making up the largest portion, followed travelers from Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the United States.
Japan’s metropolitan areas have received the greatest benefits from this travel boom. Attesting to their allure, Tokyo and Kyoto were named the number one and two cities respectively in Condé Nast’s Readers' Choice Awards 2016, and in 2014 and 2015 Travel & Leisure ranked Kyoto as the world’s top city to visit. These magazines cited the delicious food, Tokyo has more Michelin stars than any other city in the world, and the mix of ultramodern and traditional buildings among the many attractions each city has to offer.
Ninen-zaka Slope, Kyoto
© JTA / JNTO
Tokyo and Kyoto also benefit from their proximity to and direct connections to international airports. Tokyo is easily accessed from Narita International Airport in neighboring Chiba Prefecture, and from Tokyo International Airport, which is commonly known as Haneda Airport. Kansai International Airport outside of Osaka is often the airport of choice for travelers visiting Kyoto. A number of Japanese and American airlines fly routes to and from New York City all three of these airports, including nonstop routes with both Tokyo airports. For many years Haneda Airport was primarily a domestic hub; however, in recent years the number of international flights accessing this airport has been increasing. This means that a flight to Tokyo from New York City has become even more straightforward due to its convenient location near the center of Tokyo.
The transportation networks that connect these airports to Japan’s cities can also take travelers across the country. There are many wonderful places all around Japan that may not make it on a typical travel itinerary. See our spring 2016 articles “Off the Beaten Track” for some examples and “Highway Rest Areas: Just Places to Stop?” to learn about what you can see while on the road. Japan is also a country filled with resplendent natural beauty, which is best represented by its 32 national parks, including the host of the 2016 G7 Summit: Ise-Shima National Park. If you have never been to Japan before, you may also enjoy reading our spring 2015 article “A Beginner's Guide to Visiting Japan” for some helpful tips.