Business / Industries

Chinese tourism to Japan strong despite political spats

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-03-19 16:38

BEIJING -- Despite the political face-off between China and Japan over territorial and historical issues, Chinese tourists' interest in the neighboring country appears unshaken.

The Consulate-General of Japan in Shanghai last week issued a statement that it will provisionally issue visas on white paper instead of its usual visa forms to group visitors from China due to "a sky-rocket surge in tourists".

According to media reports, the consulate has been forced to make the change because enthusiastic Chinese visitors are depleting its visa paper stock.

The country approved visas for 250,000 travelers from the Chinese mainland in January, a year-on-year spike of 70 percent, according to official statistics from Japan.

A Chinese online travel agency said that the number of people signing up for Japan tours during last month's Spring Festival holiday doubled that in the previous year.

In addition to sightseeing, the weakening Japanese currency is also stimulating Chinese travelers' appetite for shopping.

In February, Chinese tourists' consumption in Japan through UnionPay cards reached 60 billion yen ($495 million), a year-on-year rise of 250 percent.

Sales at Ginza Mitsukoshi, a Japanese department store, doubled during this year's Chinese Lunar New Year holiday period compared to last year. Sales at another major department store, Daimaru Matsuzakaya, tripled year on year.

Shopping crazes for specific Japanese products -- from expensive electric cookers to luxury toilet seats -- among Chinese tourists in Japan dominated Chinese media coverage during the holiday season.

However, right-wing Japanese politicians' repeated denial of Japan's wartime aggression and provocative moves challenging China's sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands have led to mixed views about travel to the country among ordinary citizens.

"Chinese people should voluntarily boycott traveling to Japan and buying Japanese-branded products, such as Japanese cars," wrote netizen "Linyuefang" on microblog service Sina Weibo.

"Chinese must always remember the historical pain. Remember that your consumption in Japan may help the country develop its military power," wrote another Weibo user posting under the name "Kebilong."

Others disagreed. "Traveling or buying in Japan does not mean that we have forgotten the nation's trauma. It is simply because Chinese people have grown wealthier and want a better life," wrote Internet user "SimonRock."

Many took an ambivalent attitude.

"Pardon me, for I am going to visit Japan with my husband and some friends in a month, and I feel a little bit excited about the tour. I love my country and I hate the Japanese when thinking about their past aggression," said a post by "Ayingdeblog."

"It is now difficult to divide the market between China and Japan, to separate the Chinese and Japanese economies or to cut off the interests and cultural bonds between the two countries. However, it is also no easy job for the two countries to understand each other and reach political trust. That may be a realist fact both China and Japan have to face up to," said "Binhaixuyu."

At a press conference on Sunday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said that Sino-Japanese relations are now facing both "a test and an opportunity" during an important moment, as this year marks the 70th anniversary of the victory in the World Anti-Fascist War.

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