Tensions aside: Chinese tourists flock to Japan as major military parade is held
China staged a massive military parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in the second world war with great fanfare, but of course not all were glued to the spectacle – there were, for instance, many who opted to visit the neighbouring country at this time and simply have fun.
Japan was one of the most popular overseas destinations for Chinese tourists during a three-day national holiday through Saturday, travel agencies said.
“I chose this time to visit, because the government suddenly announced [in May] this special holiday,” Yu Yong, a 40-year-old employee of an information-technology company, said. “I heard that Japan is a very good place and recently it’s a hot tourist destination.”
According to Ctrip.com, 2,013 people across China booked trips to Japan through the company with departure dates between Tuesday and yesterday, up from 1,164 a year ago.
During the same period, the Chinese leading online travel agency said those departing from Beijing, where the parade was held, stood at 616, compared with 153 from a year earlier.
A 34-year-old public official, who gave only her surname, Zhou, said she would leave for Japan’s southwestern Kyushu region for four days from Wednesday with a tour package.
“This is the third time for me to go. Japan is one of my favourite places,” she said, adding that though the time is limited for the “unexpected holiday”, Japan is near and convenient.
The tourism industry has attributed the strong popularity to a favourable exchange rate and relaxed visa rules for Chinese tourists, and Japan’s geographical closeness, hospitality and safety.
The Chinese government announced the special celebration as part of a push to encourage more citizens to participate in a host of nationwide activities commemorating what it calls its victory in the 1937-45 war of resistance against Japanese aggression.
In the run-up to the parade in the heart of the capital, Chinese newspapers and television channels were dominated by stories about Japan’s wartime brutality.
Many of them also shed a spotlight on Chinese people’s heroic acts in the war, if not playing up the Communist Party’s role in the conflict, even though the then ruling party, Kuomintang, controlled most of the military power in the country at that time.
Senior Chinese officials have repeatedly said the parade, held for the first time to mark the victory, does not target the Japanese public at large.
Still, right up to the end, there was no convincing explanation from the officials as to why China had decided to hold the parade and other large-scale commemorative activities only for the 70th anniversary, not at the time of the 50th or 60th anniversary.
Almost all signboards and banners for the anniversary seen everywhere in Beijing reminded people that it was to be celebrated for China’s victory over Japan in the war.
Chinese people’s avid interest in today’s Japan is, nonetheless, another reality of the long history of inseparable relations between the two Asian countries.
The number of Chinese travellers to Japan in the first seven months of 2015 more than doubled from a year earlier to a record 2.76 million, according to the latest data from the Japan National Tourism Organisation.
As demand for family trips to Japan was burgeoning during this summer vacation, Chinese visitors, who now account for the largest proportion of the total arrivals, stood at 576,900 in July alone, the organisation said.
To cater for the surge, cruise ship calls at Japanese ports and flight connections between the two countries have been increasing, at a time when political relations between the two countries are also gradually improving.
“There is a holiday so I will go and have fun. I think the commemoration of the 70th anniversary and travelling to Japan are unrelated,” Zhou said.
“Certainly, it would be better than staying in Beijing as many places in and around the city have restrictions and going anywhere will not be easy.”