Many inbound foreign tourists were seen shopping and sightseeing in Akihabara, a famous electronics district in Tokyo, and other areas as Japan reached the final day of the Golden Week holidays on May 7.
Store owners and others voiced their hopes for further recovery of the tourism industry as the country aims to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic. Though Akihabara saw heavy rain at times, the area remained crowded and people swarmed in front of stores such as electronic retailers and businesses selling video game and anime merchandise.
A 26-year-old woman from China, Li Jing, visited the shopping district with a friend living in Japan. They showed each other their purchases at JR Akihabara Station. "I was finally able to buy something I've always wanted," she said, while holding up a figure of a popular anime character with a smile on her face.
A 55-year-old man from Canada, who bought a suitcase to carry souvenirs, came to Japan for the first time in five years with his family. He climbed Mount Takao, a famous sightseeing spot in the suburban Tokyo city of Hachioji, on May 3. He described Japan as one of his favorite countries and a place where one can enjoy both the nature and shopping.
A female employee of a maid cafe in her 20s said the number of foreigners who come up and speak to her on the streets has been on the increase since the beginning of the year, and she feels that inbound tourism in Japan is recovering. "They often ask me to take a picture with them, which makes me very excited," she told the Mainichi Shimbun.
A male owner of a ramen shop in front of Akihabara Station commented, "Compared to last year, I think we have three times as many customers (this year)." The man in his 30s added, "It's been a long time since we've been this busy, but I hope for even more (customers) when the coronavirus pandemic ends. We're also planning to prepare a new dish."
Kazushi Ono, president of Akihabara-based electronics retail store Onoden, said, "The number of inbound customers has returned to around 60 to 70% of that before the coronavirus pandemic." He predicts that figures will surpass pre-pandemic levels if customers from China fully return due to the easing of border measures. Sales of souvenirs and character merchandise are apparently doing well. Ono remarked, "The store is getting busier, which is very gratifying."
According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, the number of foreign visitors to Japan in March climbed to around 1.81 million, 65.8% of the figure registered in the same month in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Foreign tourists with suitcases and souvenirs formed a line at the international departure lobby of Kansai International Airport awaiting embarkation procedures on May 7.
A 26-year-old office worker who visited from South Korea with three friends enjoyed sightseeing shrines and temples in the city of Kyoto and going on an eating tour in Osaka's Dotonbori entertainment district, excitedly said, "I was worried about the coronavirus, but I came to Japan out of my love for anime. The Kinkaku-ji temple was very beautiful and very Japanese, and I was very impressed."
(Japanese original by Kouki Matsumoto, Lifestyle, Science & Environment News Department; Tomoe Saito, Izumisano Resident Bureau; and Koji Endo, Tokyo City News Department)