Tourism in Japan

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Tourism in Japan attracted 8.3 million foreign visitors in 2008, slightly more than Singapore and Ireland.[1] Japan has 14 World Heritage Sites, including Himeji Castle and Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities). Kyoto receives over 30 million tourists annually.[2] Foreigners also visit Tokyo and Nara, Mount Fuji, ski resorts such as Niseko in Hokkaidō, Okinawa, ride the shinkansen and take advantage of Japan's hotel and hotspring network.


History of Tourism

The origins of early traditions of visits to picturesque sites are unclear, but early sight-seeing excursions was Matsuo Basho's 1689 trip to the then "far north" of Japan, which occurred not long after Hayashi Razan categorized the Three Views of Japan in 1643. During the feudal era of Japan, from around 1600 to the Meiji Restoration in 1867, travel was regulated within the country through the use of shukuba or post stations, towns in which travelers had to present appropriate documentation. Despite these restrictions, porter stations and horse stables, as well as places for lodging and food were available on well-traveled routes. During this time, Japan was a closed country to foreigners, so no foreign tourism existed in Japan. Following the Meiji Restoration and the building of a national railroad network across Japan, tourism became more of an affordable prospect for domestic citizens and visitors from foreign countries could enter Japan legally. As early as 1887, government officials recognized the need for an organized system of attracting foreign tourists; the Kihinkai (貴賓会?), which aimed to coordinate the various players in tourism, was established that year with Prime Minister Ito Hirobumi's blessing. Its early leaders included Shibusawa Eiichi and Ekida Takashi. Another major milestone in the development of the tourism industry in Japan was the 1907 passage of the Hotel Development Law, as a result of which the Railways Ministry began to construct publicly-owned hotels all throughout Japan.[3]

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