Fewer Hong Kong young people are opting for a working holiday in Japan, with forms received in the first round of application this year dropping to a three-year low, according to the Japanese consulate. As competition appeared to dwindle, almost all applicants won approval. In pictures: cats act as stress beaters at offices in Japan, home of the workaholic In the year’s first round of working holiday applications, held in April, 352 people applied. Only five were rejected. However, the number of applications was the lowest since April 2014, when only 279 applied. The consulate did not comment on the decline in applications. But in a statement it expressed hope “an even larger number” of young Hongkongers would “grasp the precious opportunity to apply for working holiday visas” in the second round of applications this year. It stressed that the scheme could promote exchanges between young people in the two places and “deepen understanding of each other’s culture and society and ultimately further develop the relationship between Japan and Hong Kong.” Open for application twice a year, in April and October, the working holiday scheme between Japan and Hong Kong was launched in 2010, with an annual quota of 250 places. A new deal was struck last year; from last October, the quota was lifted to 1,500 a year. The quota for the whole of last year was 875, and a total of 917 forms were received in the two rounds of applications. Competition was the sharpest in October 2015 and April 2016, when less than one third of applicants were successful. Japan embarks on work-hour reform after suicide of woman who did 105 overtime hours a month The scheme is open to Hong Kong residents aged between 18 and 30. Successful applicants can stay in Japan for up to a year and take up short-term employment or engage in short study courses while visiting the country. Results of this year’s first round of applications were to be posted on the consulate’s website on Tuesday. Visas can be collected at the Japan Visa Application Centre in North Point from Wednesday until August 31. The next round of applications this year is to be held from October 3 to 31. Those results are expected to be announced in December. Japan has been a popular destination for Hong Kong tourists. Last year, Japan received some 1.84 million tourists from the city – a record high. The total accounted for roughly 10 per cent of all Asian tourists that Japan received for the year. In 2015, Hong Kong tourists in Japan numbered about 1.52 million. 1,600 Hongkongers stranded in Japan by severe weather flown home Since 2001, Hong Kong has established bilateral working holiday schemes with 11 countries. The city’s latest such deal, struck with Hungary, commences on July 1. By the end of last year, more than 75,000 Hongkongers had benefited from the schemes.