A drugstore in Osaka's Chuo Ward with signs in Chinese to help Chinese visitors (Kenta Sujino)
Arrivals of Chinese tourists to Japan fell at a faster pace in November due to fallout from the dispute over the Senkaku Islands two months earlier, government figures show.
Figures released by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) on Wednesday show that the number of tourists from the mainland China plummeted 15.9 percent year on year to 68,500 in November.
From Hong Kong, 27,400 tourists arrived, a decline of 14.7 percent from a year earlier.
The figures show that the rate of decline sharply accelerated from October, when it posted a drop of 1.8 percent from the same month in 2009.
From February to September, the number of arrivals from China set a record for each month.
An official with JNTO said the pace of the drop shot up because the fallout from strained bilateral ties spread to wider sectors and many Chinese opted to attend the Guangzhou Asian Games in November instead of traveling overseas.
The Japanese government will kick off a promotion campaign toward the Chinese New Year holidays in February to lure more tourists. The tourism industry is watching closely for signs of a rebound.
Meanwhile, a company in Beijing that canceled planned tours of 10,000 Chinese to Japan in protest over the Senkaku incident decided to favor South Korea next year, sources said.
Baojian, which deals in health foods and cosmetics, planned tours to Japan in early October with staff from sales agencies.
The scheduled tours were considered a huge coup following the relaxation in July of visa requirements for individual Chinese.
Baojian said it canceled them to protest Japan's handling of the Senkaku incident and as a display of its patriotism.
Having passed on an overseas trip this year, the company decided to send a tour group of the same size to South Korea.
South Korea competed with Japan to lure the Chinese group.
While the number of Chinese tourists visiting Japan dwindled, the figure for South Koreans climbed to 197,200 in November, up 51.3 percent from a year ago.
Overall, number of tourists to Japan rose 12.4 percent year on year to 635,000, a year-on-year increase for 13 months in a row.
The expansion of international flights to and from Tokyo's Haneda Airport in late October and growth in other economies apparently helped, analysts said.
Total arrivals from January to November surged 29.2 percent from the same period a year ago to 7,963,300, a record.