Mainichi Editorial: Cultivating ‘Japan fans’ key to attracting repeat foreign visitors. Good luck with that without an anti racial discrimination law


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JK:  Hi Debito:  The GOJ wants foreign visitors spend a couple trillion yen the year the Olympics comes to town, so why not strike while the iron is hot and use this as leverage against xenophobic establishments by calling them out on their behavior (i.e. “there’s this shop down the way that excludes anyone foreign-looking — surely that reflects poorly on Japan and hurts the government’s numbers.”)?

Debito:  Agreed.  And that’s the big blind spot in this editorial.  It talks about the shortcomings of tourism policy focusing only on infrastructure and profit, but neglects to mention the issues of how a police force dedicated to racial profiling (especially at hotels), or how being refused service somewhere just because the proprietor has a “thing” about foreigners (and can get away with it because Japan has no law against racial discrimination), can really ruin a visit.  “Cultivating Japan fans” is one way of putting it, “stopping xenophobes” is another.  And that should be part of formal GOJ policy as well.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Editorial: Cultivating ‘Japan fans’ key to attracting repeat foreign visitors
November 1, 2016 (Mainichi Japan)

In just 10 months, the number of foreign visitors to Japan has already smashed through the 20 million mark for the year, surpassing the previous annual record of about 19.74 million arrivals set in 2015.

The first time foreign visitors topped 10 million was in 2013. At the time, the government set a target of “20 million people by 2020,” but visitor numbers expanded far faster than expected. Now the government is shooting for 40 million in 2020, the year of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

The wave of people coming to see Japan is a welcome development on many fronts, especially as our country’s population ages and begins to decline, particularly in the countryside. There are, of course, direct and obvious economic benefits from so many visitors shopping, eating and filling Japan’s hotel rooms. However, the tourism boom has also made companies and regional communities more outward-looking in their thinking, and that’s deeply significant.

However, while 20 million visitors is nothing to sneeze at, it doesn’t come anywhere close to the world champion of foreign tourism, France, which attracted more than 80 million visitors in 2014. And France isn’t the only country beating Japan by a wide margin. To put it another way, Japan has a lot of tourism growth potential.

What’s important is to avoid viewing visitors to our shores as mere consumers.

The government has declared it wants to see foreign visitors drop 8 trillion yen in Japan in 2020. There’s nothing wrong with setting a numerical target in and of itself, but focusing solely on visitor spending could lead to a nasty trip-up.

This is, simply put, because conditions can change. A rising yen may make Japan a less attractive destination, while economic events abroad could also bring down visitor numbers. And those considering visiting Japan to shop for Japanese products may think twice if they find they can buy the same stuff online.

If a small town in regional Japan brought in a big-box retail outlet to attract foreign shoppers, it may see a short-term rise in visitors from abroad. However, most of the benefits might end up in the pockets of the retailer and the companies supplying it … and not the host community.

The conclusion that sparkly tourist-oriented facilities are needed to bring in visitors is wrong. There are attractions and ways to welcome foreign tourists that are close to hand and just waiting to be uncovered. Take farm stays, for example. Visitors don’t just stay the night and chow down on fresh produce; they help harvest it as well. Then there are tours of recycling centers that get visitors to think about how to tackle environmental issues. These sorts of “hands-on” experiences are likely to have a good chance of attracting more people back to Japan for repeat visits.

Also, while earthquakes are a major risk in Japan, disaster prevention can also become a resource for attracting visitors. For example, the Tokyo Fire Department has facilities called Life Safety Learning centers where visitors can feel what it’s like to be in an earthquake, among other hands-on activities. These centers have never been marketed outside Japan, and yet they are seeing more foreign visitors.

If Japan spends all its time chasing visitor numbers and tourist spending figures, it will eventually hit a wall. It should instead introduce people to the many faces of Japan, give them the chance to actually do things with Japanese people, and generally provide a diverse and substantive experience, looking to cultivate long-term “Japan fans.”

Original Japanese
訪日客2千万人 息の長いファン作りを
毎日新聞2016年11月1日 東京朝刊














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7 comments on “Mainichi Editorial: Cultivating ‘Japan fans’ key to attracting repeat foreign visitors. Good luck with that without an anti racial discrimination law

  • I want to put Japan’s tourist numbers into some kind of perspective, after all, the headlines only boast about ‘record numbers’ and all the problems that this huge influx of NJ tourists is having on local people, as well as the ‘huge’ spending of tourists now being a major part of Abe’s economic policy;

    Japan now has a record 20 million annual visitors. It sounds like a lot until you realize that the tiny lagoon city of Venice has been having that number annually for many years;

    So Japan is really setting the bar very low, and considering Japan’s geographical size and population relative to Venice, is freaking out over a relatively very small number of visitors. The attention, both positive and negative these small tourist numbers are attracting (don’t forget the ‘wasabi terror’ and racist train announcements) really shows how parochial and insular the worlds 3rd largest economy is.

  • I don’t think that comparing Japan’s tourism numbers with Venice’s tourism numbers is particularly meaningful.

    Venice is one of the tourism highlights of all of Europe. Its economy is almost totally dedicated to tourism. Anyone already in the EU (whether resident or tourist) can get there without a passport. And many of those people can travel there without a plane.

  • @ A #3

    I disagree, it’s an entirely helpful comparison that more than illustrates Japan’s inability to reconcile itself as ‘international’, and as a ‘tourist destination’, whilst being totally unprepared for what that means, and controlling its racist urges accordingly.

    The numbers;
    Tiny island city Venice has had 20,000,000 visitors a year for many years.
    Japan (1.5 times the landmass of the U.K.) has 20,000,000 visitors for the first time, and suddenly anti-tourist racism news is hitting international media (BBC etc).

    This demonstrates how woefully prepared as a society Japan is for moderate numbers of NJ tourism, and how Japanese lawmakers parochial nationalism has painted themselves into the corner of not being able to legislate effectively against it.

    Sure, Venice sells itself as a tourist destination, but isn’t that what Japan is trying to do? Abe announced a goal to double tourist numbers to 40,000,000. How do you think that’s going to work out, and who takes the blame for that?

    Until (unfortunately) a white Anglophone tourist is killed by disgruntled and ‘put out by tourists’ Japanese pumped up on ‘we Japanese’ mumbo-jumbo, the Japanese government will get a free pass.

  • Crappy Nikkei article sidesteps this issue, doesnt mention the anti discrimination law (or lack of), instead claims that just the “lifestyle” definiciencies in Japan making highly skilled professionals shying away from the alleged benefits of permanent residence, and that “foreigners with permanent residence “are said” to gain higher standing in Japanese society”. Said? by who? And just how higher a standing is it?

    As its only a “narrow group of elite foreigners” its hardly earth shattering. “2,688 foreigners deemed highly skilled as of the end of June this year. Chinese nationals make up 65% of that group.”

    Oh the irony.

    Oh, and the J govt likes it if you pay to stay. “The government is also looking at giving extra points to those who make large investments in Japan”


    Nikkei Asian Review
    November 15, 2016 6:20 am JST
    Japan to offer 1-year path to permanent residency
    New rules could shorten the pathway for highly-skilled foreign technicians to gain permanent residency in Japan.

    TOKYO — A narrow class of foreign-born professionals working in Japan will be able to obtain permanent-resident status after just one year as the government seeks to inject fresh blood into the economy and boost productivity.

    The government rolled out an economic growth strategy in June that calls for Japan to issue green cards to top-level personnel at time frames on a par with the speediest issuing nations. The ruling bloc will help formulate new ordinances and guidelines that will be put in place by the end of March 2017.

    The changes will affect foreign workers designated as highly skilled professionals. Academic history, work experience and annual income must add up to 70 or more under a points-based system used by the immigration bureau. This yardstick has been in place since April 2015, with 2,688 foreigners deemed highly skilled as of the end of June this year. Chinese nationals make up 65% of that group.

    Currently, highly skilled foreign professionals must stay in Japan for five years to qualify for permanent residency. That time frame will be shortened to three years across the board. Talent judged to possess top-flight management or technical skills can apply to have the residency requirement shortened to one year. Conditions have yet to be settled, but one proposal sets the bar at 80 points for consideration.

    Foreigners who become permanent residents are said to gain a higher standing in Japanese society. It opens doors to wider employment options, makes it possible to qualify for home loans, and generally reduces obstacles to living in Japan as a foreigner. The government is also looking at giving extra points to those who make large investments in Japan and to those who graduated from world-class universities.

    A welcome mat for global talent

    The U.K. generally requires foreigners to stay for five years before applying for permanent residency, though the timespan shrinks to three years for certain entrepreneurs. Five years is the normal waiting period in South Korea as well, though it falls to three years for college graduates and one year for experts with advanced degrees in cutting-edge technology.

    Japan is looking to make itself more attractive to highly trained professionals by shortening the residency requirement. However, the language barrier remains a handicap. Many are calling for the government to provide tax-based support for international schools that educate children of foreign professionals.

    The labor reforms being championed by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are also geared toward smoothing the ground for foreign talent. Western nations put a much higher premium on work-life balance, meaning potential hires may steer clear of Japan if the country fails to deal with issues such as long working hours or few females in the workforce.

    Critics also point to quality-of-life issues such as hospitals and banks unable to handle clients who don’t speak Japanese. The government plans to increase the number of foreigner-friendly medical centers to 100 by 2020. (Nikkei)

  • @ Baudrillard #5,

    That article is just a load of self-serving fantasy. NJ with permanent residency having higher ‘social status’? Really? Amongst who? Because ALL non-Japanese are placed lower that Japanese in the social hierarchy – we don’t even get our human rights protected by the constitution precisely because we are NJ!
    And how do people actually know which NJ have PR? Do they go round telling every stranger they meet in order to receive their elevated social status? Is the an ‘I have PR!’ T-shirt that I don’t know about? Maybe the Japanese can tell just by looking at us, the same way they can tell by just looking at Dr. Debito that he isn’t Japanese? Oh, wait…

  • @Jim, Japan’s postmodern propaganda and denial machine hasnt changed since the 80s, its all so smug and Safety Country myth spinning.
    And once again they presume to know what expert NJs want…without asking them!

    Another massive fail, but with 65% of the potential applicants being Chinese, I get the feeling it was meant to fail.


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