Chinese visitors to Japan set to surge for holiday

Wed Feb 2, 2011 12:37am EST
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By Hyun Oh

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Japan is expecting a surge in Chinese visitors during the lunar New Year holiday period, with tourists eager to snap up electronics and other goods in a welcome boost for retailers.

A record 9.44 million foreigners visited Japan last year, with inbound Chinese tourists rising over 34 percent to about 1.6 million, surpassing Taiwan to become no. 2 after South Korea, the nation with the most visitors to Japan.

Even before the start of the holiday on February 3, Chinese shoppers were piling off buses in Tokyo's Akihabara electronics shopping mecca, which some 40 percent of inbound Chinese are believed to visit.

"The number of Chinese customers in our store has increased a lot compared to last month because of the Chinese New Year holiday," said Chen Rui, a sales clerk at the Laox electronics shopping center, who is originally from the Chinese city of Xian.

"Most of them buy electronics such as watches, rice cookers, cameras and camcorders."

To deal with the influx of Chinese shoppers, who surged after visa restrictions were eased last year, the shopping center has Mandarin-speaking staff, uses signs written in Chinese, and accepts mainland credit card without additional processing fees.

Many customers said they were attracted by the high reputation of Japanese goods as well as a sense that better quality products might be found within Japan itself.

"Japanese products have good quality, and we don't have to worry about buying imitations because they are all genuine," said 50-year-old Li Tienan, who works for a Shanghai-based electronics company.   Continued...