Radiation contamination still afflicts large swaths of Japanese land and water nearly three years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Energy shortages mean less air-conditioning in summer and heat in the winter in major cities like Tokyo and Osaka.
And a dispute between Japan and China over a clutch of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea has escalated from a war of words last year into an aerial showdown between fighter jets of the two Asian giants.
But Japan’s recent political and economic woes seem to have done little to dissuade foreign tourists from visiting the country, as a record 10 million are expected to have arrived by the end of this year.
At a Tokyo news conference Wednesday, the head of the national tourism agency attributed the welcome growth in the industry to a weaker yen, allowing visitors to get more for their dollars, euros and yuan.
Japan’s currency has fallen about 20% against the U.S. dollar over the last year, Bloomberg reported in its article on the tourism milestone.
Chinese visitors accounted for a big part of the boost this year over last, almost doubling to 101,900 last month, Japan Tourism Agency chief Shigeto Kubo told journalists.
The 10 millionth foreign visitor to Japan this year is expected to enter the country sometime in the next few days, Kubo said. That means the 2013 total will far surpass the previous record year, 2010, when 8.6 million foreigners visited.
“The correction of the strong yen makes Japanese goods comparatively cheap,” Kubo said, adding that easing of visa applications has also encouraged more visitors.
A Japanese government initiative to more than double foreign tourism to 25 million visitors a year by 2020 is considered vital to the country’s economic health because of the shrinking Japanese population and downsizing of heavy industry.