With the number of foreign visitors finally returning to predisaster levels, the Japan Tourism Agency unveiled Friday its new promotion strategy to draw 10 million travelers this year.
“I would like to declare that the era of 10 million inbound visitors has arrived,” JTA Vice Commissioner Tadashi Shimura told a press event held at a rather unusual venue — the (Tokyo) Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel, a huge underground facility built in Saitama to divert floodwaters.
While Japan’s soured ties with China and South Korea continue, Shimura still pointed to chances to attract more foreign tourists this year, such as the weakening yen, the open skies deal at Narita airport and further recovery from the March 2011 disasters and nuclear crisis.
Although the calamities saw foreign visitor numbers plunge that year, around 8.36 million traveled to Japan in 2012, a year-on-year surge of 34.6 percent. The total was the second-highest on record, after the 8.61 million in 2010.
To promote Japan as a tourism destination, the JTA launched a new website — www.visitjapan.jp — featuring more than 160 videos about various areas. One of the main promotional videos, titled “Discover the Spirit of Japan,” showcases the Awaodori traditional dance in Tokushima Prefecture.
The video’s production was overseen by an 11-member committee, eight of whom were foreign nationals.
The promotional footage is presented in 17 languages.
Also Friday, the agency launched a video contest for overseas participants to promote tourism in Japan that runs through April 25.
Meanwhile, it honored seven foreigners for photos they entered in the Share Your Wow Japan Photo Contest event. The contest asked for pictures taken in Japan under six categories — Cool, Beautiful, Happy, Delicious Funny and Miracle — to promote Japan’s appeal. Some 38,817 photos were posted between last September and February, and can be viewed at japanphotocontest.jp/eng/
The vast site of Friday’s news conference is aimed at preventing major waterways and rivers from overflowing in the metropolitan area and its vicinity during the rainy and typhoon seasons. The subterranean event was thus touted as a rare opportunity for participants to take a peek at Japan’s cutting-edge flood-control expertise that lies unseen, below ground. ___