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Foreign visitors to Japan hit 20 mil. at record pace

This photo taken in October 2017 shows Chinese tourists at a duty-free shop in Tokyo's Akihabara district. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The number of foreign visitors to Japan has reached an estimated 20 million at a record-fast pace in 2018, particularly helped by Chinese tourists, the government said Monday.

The figure topped the 20 million mark last Wednesday, one month earlier than the previous record set in 2017, which saw 28.7 million visitors annually, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Hokkaido.

If the current pace of increase is maintained, this year's figure will top 30 million for the first time, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

The government has aimed to attract 40 million visitors in 2020 when Tokyo hosts the Olympic and Paralympic Games and taken measures such as easing visa rules and promoting airport expansion for budget airlines.

Individual tourists and cruise passengers from China have contributed to the record pace of increase in foreign visitors, the agency said. Visitors from South Korea and other Asian countries have also helped lift the overall figure.

But Japan, prone to natural disasters, also marked slower growth in the number of foreign visitors in July due to earthquakes and torrential rain in western areas, the agency said, adding it is sending out information that those areas are recovering.

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