Travel, Teach, Live in Japan
Xenophobia and restrictive visa requirements had previously prevented Japan from being a sought-out tourist destination. Since 2002, the Japanese tourism ministry has been working to increase the number of visitors welcomed into Japan by relaxing strict visa requirements, offering first-class amenities, and targeting select countries with marketing campaigns. By the year 2010, the Japanese tourism ministry hopes to increase the number of tourists per year by 15 million.
Multilingual Tourist Information
Japan had previously been criticized for a lack of bilingual tourist signage in buses, subways and cabs. Since the tourism ministry formed in 2002, one of its initiatives has been to increase the number of multilingual signs in the public transportation system. A walkabout was staged to inspect these areas and target stations that did not meet multilingual signage requirements. Requirements included easily transferring with public transportation using multilingual signage, continuity of signage, erroneous translation, missing ticket prices and no uniformity. Inspectors also checked to ensure the surrounding decor looked traditionally Japanese. To ensure these qualifications meet standards on an ongoing basis, walkabouts are routinely scheduled.
Encouraging Outbound Travel
By encouraging travel to other countries, the Japanese tourism ministry hopes to build relationships with these countries that will increase tourism in Japan. The ministry believes this will create a cultural awareness and a passion to learn about other cultures for the Japanese citizens. The ministry strives to encourage outbound travel by making it easier for Japanese citizens to travel overseas. By supporting the Japanese Association of Travel Agents' Visit World Campaign, the government hopes to enlighten its citizens of the importance of cultural awareness and creating relationships with other countries.
Creating Tourist Destinations
The ministry hopes to make travel within Japan easier by creating tourism zones. These zones divide the country into regions that promote parks and nature, hot springs, Japanese culture, history, tradition, and sports. Each zone offers sufficient activities to occupy tourists for at least two days. Government subsidized development is in the works to offer luxurious accommodations, refurbished historical buildings, tourist information centers, overnight stays and convenient transfers.
Encouraging Inbound Travel
Japan has suffered for its strict visa requirements and to encourage tourism it has relaxed many policies and waiver visas for visitors traveling from China, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. In countries that Japan does not offer a visa waiver, it offers an expedited service. In addition, Japan has increased programs to improve its tourism recognition in other countries by inviting the media to photograph and film tourist sites.
As of 2009, only Chinese families that met certain income requirements or traveled in larger groups (five to 50) were allowed to travel to Japan. The government has been working on reducing the xenophobia experienced in its culture by encouraging citizens to travel to other countries (especially younger generations) in order to abolish some of the older, antiquated ideas about other cultures.