Japan’s new practice of fingerprinting and photographing foreigners has not discouraged tourism, with last year seeing a record number of visitors, a government survey.
Japan started the new security measures at airports and other points of entry despite concerns by rights groups and business leaders.
Japan modelled the tighter immigration controls on the controversial US-Visit system launched in the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks, which keeps biometric data of foreign visitors.
However, the number of foreigners entering Japan between November 20, the day the new controls were introduced, and December 31, rose 13.4 per cent from the same period of 2006 to 980,000, the justice ministry said.
The total number of foreigners who visited Japan last year hit a record 9.15 million, up 12.9 per cent from the previous year, the ministry said in a preliminary survey.
“One factor is thought to be the effects of government policies to promote tourism in Japan,” it said, noting a particular growth in visitors from other Asian countries.
Japan has been promoting a “Visit Japan” campaign to double the annual total of visitors to 10 million by 2010 from 5.21 million in 2003.
The campaign includes advertisements overseas and more foreign-language assistance in Japan.
A separate survey by Japan’s largest travel agency said last month that a record nine million foreigners are expected to visit Japan next year, drawn both by the country’s culture and the upcoming Group of Eight summit.
Tourism to Japan has also been boosted by the recent weakness of the yen, particularly in comparison to the soaring South Korean won and euro.