First-time travelers to Japan also reached an all-time high of 7,919,678, up 29.4 percent from 2009, the Immigration Bureau of the Justice Ministry said in a preliminary report.
The number of foreign visitors topped 9 million for the first time in 2007 at about 9.15 million, but dived to around 7.58 million in 2009 amid the global economic downturn triggered by the financial crisis from autumn 2008.
Among the 2010 total, South Korean visitors accounted for the highest number at around 2.69 million, up 46.4 percent, followed by Chinese at 1.66 million, up 34.4 percent, visitors from Taiwan at 1.31 million, up 22.9 percent, and Americans at 760,000, up 4.0 percent.
The monthly breakdown showed, however, that visitors from China and Hong Kong declined to between 110,000 to 160,000 in the final quarter of the year from about 190,000 in September, apparently reflecting political tension between Japan and China following collisions in early September involving a Chinese trawler and Japanese patrol vessels near the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
The number of Japanese traveling abroad increased 7.7 percent to 16,636,999 last year, the first rise in four years.
Japanese travelers departing from Haneda airport for foreign destinations exceeded 190,000 in both November and December, up from around 90,000 in October, as the airport resumed full-fledged international flight services in late October.