The Straits Times
Published on Oct 23, 2012

Japan hopes medical tourists immune to China row


TOKYO (AFP) - As relations between Tokyo and Beijing appear increasingly in need of major surgery, officials in the far north of Japan are hoping the infant industry of medical tourism can thrive unscathed.

They are quietly confident that a spat over disputed islands will not seriously impact the growing number of relatively wealthy Chinese visiting Japan for its high quality treatment, therefore keeping the lifeblood pumping in an industry that analysts say could one day be worth US$7.0 billion (S$8.5 billion) a year.

And for a tourism industry that was battered by the tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster of last year - visitor numbers were down by around a quarter - that might be just what the doctor ordered.

"I came here because Japanese medicine has a very good reputation in China," 30-year-old Zhang Lan told AFP, two translators in tow, as staff welcomed her to a well-equipped hospital in Asahikawa in Hokkaido.