TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The estimated number of foreign visitors to Japan in April was down 95.2 percent from the same month in the prepandemic year of 2019 to 139,500 people, government data showed Wednesday, as the country moves toward accepting small-scale tours next week at the earliest.
The figure, though far short of the pandemic level, was more than 10 times that from a year earlier and exceeded 100,000 people for the first time since March 2020, thanks to the easing of border controls in phases due to the improved COVID-19 situation, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.
Japan raised its daily cap on overseas arrivals to around 10,000 from early April this year, and this has led to an increase in the entries of businesspeople, international students and technical interns.
Tourism may pick up in the coming months, with Japan's decision to gradually open its borders to tourists.
The Japan Tourism Agency said Wednesday small groups of tourists totaling around 50 people from the United States, Australia, Thailand and Singapore will be allowed into Japan on a trial basis from next week.
Following such tours for vaccinated tourists, Japan plans to further open its borders to foreign visitors in June at the earliest with the government set to allow 20,000 people a day to enter Japan, double the current daily cap.
In April, the largest number of arrivals came from Vietnam at 29,800 people, followed by China at 22,400, Indonesia at 11,700 and the Philippines at 8,500.
Japan effectively banned the entry of nonresident foreign nationals in late November in response to the emergence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Foreign tourists have been banned since the early stage of the pandemic in 2020.
The number of Japanese citizens going overseas in April was nearly four times higher from a year earlier at 129,200, but this was down 92.2 percent from April 2019, according to the data.