TOKYO, April 17 (Xinhua) -- The number of foreign visitors to Japan in fiscal year 2018 was estimated to reach 31.62 million, up 6.2 percent, compared to the previous year, government statistics revealed Wednesday.
The growth rate slowed from a 19.9-percent increase in the previous fiscal year due to natural disasters such as earthquakes and torrential rains that hit Japan last summer, according to the Japan Tourism Agency. But visitors from Asian neighbor countries including China helped lift the number.
The number of tourists from South Korea in particular declined after the natural disasters, said Hiroshi Tabata, commissioner of the agency, at a press conference.
However, the figure for March alone was estimated to reach 2.76 million, up 5.8 percent compared to the previous year, marking a record high for March, according to the agency.
"It's important for us to find new potential tourists, promote visits by them to rural areas and get them to stay longer in Japan. We're planning more efforts with all that in mind," Tabata said.
The Japanese government has set a target of welcoming 40 million foreign visitors annually by 2020, when the country hosts the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
To reach the goal, the government has made efforts such as easing visa rules and expanding airports for budget airlines for tourists.