American tourism to Japan hit a new record in 2015, with more than 1 million American visitors traveling there. This marked the first time that number of Americans traveled to Japan in a single calendar year. Excluding countries in the Asia Pacific region, the US was also the top source of tourists traveling to Japan. The high rates of American tourism are noteworthy especially because they were achieved so soon after the March 2011 earthquake and Fukushima incident, which caused a huge decrease in American travelers. With concerns that caused the major dip in tourism in 2011 now largely dissipated, Americans are again traveling to Japan mostly for holiday or vacation purposes, or to visit friends and family.
Experts have suggested that the depreciation of the yen against the US dollar and cheaper transportation costs are both driving factors behind the increase. As a result, 2015 saw the largest amount of tourism to Japan since 1970s when Osaka held the Asia World Fair. Interest ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo may also be responsible for some of the increase. Prime Minister Abe had stated a goal to have 20 million tourists annually before 2020, but because of the high rates of tourism already he has pushed the target to 30 million.
The upcoming Olympics have also created an opportunity for US-Japan collaboration, as both countries are interested in seeing baseball and softball reinstated to the summer competition. While the Olympics will draw large crowds to Tokyo, Americans traveling to Japan in the meantime often choose destinations within Japan that are not as commonly visited by tourists from other Asian countries. This is leading to investment opportunities for American luxury hotel chains in cities such as Kyoto.
Lian Eytinge is research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a student at the University of Southern California.