TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The estimated number of foreign visitors to Japan from January to April topped 10 million, reaching that level at the fastest pace on record, the Japan Tourism Agency said Thursday.
With the latest data, the annual number of overseas visitors to the country has now reached 10,519,300, up 15.4 percent from a year earlier and exceeding 10 million for the sixth straight year, the agency said. The previous record pace was set from January to May last year.
The agency attributed the trend to a rise in the number of tourists visiting Japan to see cherry blossoms, while many travelers took vacations around Easter Sunday, which fell on April 1 this year.
The agency's commissioner, Akihiko Tamura, told a press conference, he believes spending time in Japan during spring is becoming increasingly attractive for overseas visitors. With that in mind, he said the number is "steadily growing toward the target."
The Japanese government aims to attract 40 million visitors to Japan in 2020, when Tokyo will host the Olympics and Paralympics. If the current pace continues, the number of foreign visitors to the country this year is expected to top 30 million.
By country and region in the four-month period, visitors from South Korea ranked highest, with the number rising 22.1 percent from a year earlier to 2,769,800, followed by China at 2,626,900, up 20.6 percent, and Taiwan at 1,608,700, up 11.2 percent.
The number of flights between Japan and neighboring countries, including South Korea and China, has increased as well, according to the agency.
In April alone, the figure climbed to 2,900,700, up 12.5 percent from a year earlier and breaking the previous single-month record of 2,681,500 set in July 2017, according to the latest data.
In the same month, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, India, France, and Russia set single-month records for visitors to Japan.