What’s driving tourists in Japan?

Sakura Season in Japan

It’s true: We (travelers) are very visual people and this theory proves it. Source: Shutterstock.

JAPAN is one of Asia’s top 10 countries in terms of international tourist arrivals in 2017 and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.

At least not for the next five years or so, with Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympics. Japan will continue enjoying a surge in inbound travelers for sure.

In 2016, there were about 40 million departures from Japan, including 17 million by Japanese nationals.

In 2017, the country attracted a record 28.68 million tourists, reflecting the sixth consecutive yearly increase. As for departures, Japan saw around 45.2 million leaving its shores in the same year.

On top of strong promotional pushes by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), the East Asian country already welcomes a steady stream of travelers ready to check out its dark tourism, sakura seasonfood tourism, heritage tourismnight tourism, fall foliage, and a whole lot more.

But what’s really driving the tourists in Japan these days? It’s not just tourism campaigns and guidebooks for sure.

Source: Shutterstock.

Destinations that are more off the beaten track like Nagano, the capital city of Nagano Prefecture in the Chūbu region of Japan for example, saw more than one million visitors last year.

Which is every bit impressive for the landlocked area as it marks a 36-fold increase in just three years.

How did this happen? First, CNN described Nagano as one of Japan’s most beautiful places, which spurred an influx of postings featuring Nagano’s sights flooding Instagram.

Since then, Instagram’s numbers have seen a steep increase, with Nagano becoming one of the most active markets on the platform.

Source: Shutterstock.

As of June 20, 2018, Instagram has reached one billion monthly active users.

And a majority of these users turn to the Facebook-owned photo-sharing app to match #ootd coordinations, decide where to eat, get suggestions on things to do, and add things to their travel bucket list.

“Instagram is different from other social media because users are the ones taking the initiative to post and spread pictures, not the local municipalities,” Travel And Tour World quoted marketing firm Full Speed Inc.’s Kazukiyo Yonemura as saying.

Tourist in Japan using her handphone

Source: Shutterstock.

For Nagano alone, there are more than a handful of Instagram hashtags chalking up thousands of posts such as:

City officials expressed their sheer surprise to see people of all ages visiting the mountains to get a shot of its shrine, with the mass crowds leading to four-hour-long traffic jams.

“We widened roads, built toilets and increased parking from 24 to more than 100 spaces this April,” Nagano city tourism division’s Erika Watanabe said.

The multiple foreign currencies, 27 to be exact, found in the shrine’s offertory box proved that many of the visitors were from overseas.

Last year, Instagram joined hands with the JNTO to introduce a new hashtag, #UnknownJapan, which led to more than five million foreign visitors sharing posts.