More tourists coming by way of the waves

More tourists coming by way of the waves
Yokohama's Osanbashi Pier serves as a gateway to Japan for cruise passengers from China and the West.

TOKYO - Japan is gaining popularity as a cruise destination.

A total of 416,000 foreign visitors came to Japanese shores on cruise ships and high-speed ferries last year. The government, apparently recognising passengers' proclivity for dropping large sums of money at the country's ports of call, aims to raise the figure to 1 million by 2020.

Canal City Hakata, a shopping and entertainment complex in the southwestern city of Fukuoka, was packed with Chinese tourists one afternoon in mid-April. They had disembarked from a cruise ship that sailed from Shanghai via Jeju, South Korea.

When the cruise docked, roughly 2,300 passengers -- most of them Chinese -- climbed into about 60 buses and set off for a tour of the Fukuoka area. Stops included Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine and Fukuoka Tower. With sightseeing out of the way, many wrapped up their visit with a shopping spree at Canal City.

One 45-year-old man who owns a company in Shanghai said he spent at least 500,000 yen (S$5,540) on a watch and women's cosmetics. He showed the box of a Seiko Astron wrapped in a duty-free store's plastic bag.

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