Japan saw a slight decline in visitors in May from the previous month, when a rush of tourists came to see the nation's famous cherry blossoms without Covid-19 restrictions, official data showed on Wednesday.
The number of foreign visitors for business and leisure came in just below 1.9 million last month from a post-pandemic high of 1.95 million in April, the Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) said.
Arrivals were down 31.5% from the level in May 2019, before the coronavirus outbreak.
Travellers from China, previously Japan's biggest tourist segment and the lifeblood of many retailers, grew 24% to 134,400 in June, though still far below 2019 levels.
Tourism to Japan all but halted for more than two years during the pandemic, but the numbers have risen steadily since the government resumed visa-free travel for many countries in October. It scrapped remaining infection controls on May 8.
Meanwhile, the yen has weakened sharply against other major currencies, making trips to Japan the cheapest in many years. Consumer-focused businesses are starting to feel the benefits.
Mid-June sales figures at major department stores indicated strong demand from Chinese visitors, particularly in the western tourist destinations of Osaka and Kyoto, according to Jefferies analyst Mitsuko Miyasako.
Cosmetics sales at Takashimaya and J Front Retailing rebounded to just under 70% of 2019 levels, she wrote in a report.
Occupancy for Air Canada's flights to Japan was 95% in May, even higher than in pre-Covid times, said Kiyo Weiss, senior director of sales for the Asia-Pacific region.
"Japan has been viewed for a long time as a bucket list country by North American leisure travellers," she said. "Now that Japan has reopened to tourists and the current exchange rate makes leisure trips less expensive, we think this trend will continue to grow."