Japan still a draw for Chinese shoppers

Chinese tourists outside a department store in Tokyo, Japan. Chinese consumers are starting to buy electronic goods domestically but Japanese cosmetics are hugely popular purchases.
Chinese tourists outside a department store in Tokyo, Japan. Chinese consumers are starting to buy electronic goods domestically but Japanese cosmetics are hugely popular purchases.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO • The spending power of Chinese tourists in Japan is so impressive there's a special word for it: bakugai, or explosive buying.

While the soaring yen this year has threatened to curb their enthusiasm, the latest figures from the Japan National Tourism Organisation show that 731,400 Chinese visitors flocked to the country in July, a monthly record.

What also emerges from a detailed look through tourism data is the growing importance of young women travellers, the popularity of Japanese cosmetics, and waning sales of electronic goods as the quality of Chinese-made products improves. "Chinese consumers are starting to buy electronic goods domestically," said senior consultant Yoko Hayano of JTB Tourism Research & Consulting.

The stronger yen and higher customs levies faced by Chinese tourists when they go home may reinforce this trend.

Also behind this shift in buying patterns is a large number of women travellers in their 20s and 30s, who accounted for over 40 per cent of all Chinese tourists in the second quarter of this year, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

As incomes keep rising in China, Japan can count on its larger neighbour remaining the key to the health of its tourism industry.

More than half of the Chinese tourists take trips of four to six days and travel the so-called golden route that links Tokyo, Mount Fuji, Kyoto and Osaka.

Ms Liu Yi, 36, a housewife from Hubei in China, said: "It used to be the common notion among us Chinese that Japanese electronics are superior, but I think Chinese products are just fine nowadays.

"It's Japanese cosmetics and health-care supplements that are very good to have," she said, standing in line to wait for the Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo's Ginza shopping district to open.

As incomes keep rising in China, Japan can count on its larger neighbour remaining the key to the health of its tourism industry.

Ms Liu, who was on her first visit to Japan, travelled with her daughter and mother-in-law. If statistics are any guide, they may be back.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2016, with the headline 'Japan still a draw for Chinese shoppers'. Print Edition | Subscribe