Big-spending Chinese tourists buoy Japan's consumption

TOKYO - An increasing number of Chinese visitors are coming to Japan primarily for shopping, and their lavish spending is boosting inbound consumption in the country.

The number of foreign visitors to Japan had been steadily increasing until 2008, when the figure hit 8.35 million. But the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank in 2008 and Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011 substantially pushed down the number in 2009 and 2011.

The situation drastically improved after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power at the end of 2012 and launched economic policies that spurred the yen's depreciation. The government's easing of visa requirements for some Southeast Asian countries and the emergence of budget airline carriers helped Japan receive more visitors from overseas.

Spending sprees

Foreign visitors to Japan spent a total of 813.5 billion yen (S$9 billion) in 2011 and the figure grew to 1.08 trillion yen in 2012, 1.41 trillion yen in 2013 and 2.02 trillion yen in 2014.

This spending surge has come largely from Chinese tourists. In 2014 alone, 2,409,158 Chinese travelled to Japan, the third-largest group of foreigners after Taiwanese and South Koreans.

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