Japan logs record foreign arrivals, thanks to weak yen, looser visa rules

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan said on Wednesday the number of foreigners visiting the country has already surpassed a previous full-year record thanks to a weak yen, looser visa rules and receding worries over the Fukushima disaster.

About 8.66 million people travelled to Japan through October, already higher than the previous record of 8.61 million in all of 2010, according to figures released by the Japan National Tourism Organisation.

The agency credited a sharp decline in the yen since late last year - boosting visitors' purchasing power - and fading fears over the tsunami-sparked nuclear crisis which began in March 2011. Visitor numbers plummeted after the worst atomic accident in a generation.

A loosening of restrictions on visitors from Southeast Asian nations helped boost the year-to-date figures, the agency said.

Japan also logged a 74 per cent jump in October arrivals from China compared with a year earlier.

Travel between the Asian giants took a big hit last year when a territorial row sparked riots in China and a consumer boycott of Japanese products.

Officials are hoping that Tokyo's hosting of the 2020 Summer Olympics will help Japan's tourism push.