Decline in South Korean tourists takes toll on small Japanese firms
Japan Times -- Oct 04
Head to the winding streets of Tokyo’s trendy Omotesando district on any given day and you’ll see young South Korean women taking selfies in front of popular cafes or snapping photos of their logo-emblazoned coffee cups.

But behind that familiar scene, employees at those cafes have seen a different picture in recent months — dwindling numbers of visitors from Japan’s neighbor amid a spiraling bilateral dispute that has as yet no end in sight.

Operating out of a plain wooden building, the peaceful, rustic ambiance of Shozo Coffee’s Commune 246 store reflects its origins in the rural town of Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture. Along with drip coffee, its specialty is scones.

Koreans have usually accounted for around 40 percent of the store’s customers, said staffer Noriko Kogure, making them the biggest group of foreign visitors.

They started flocking there after Blue Bottle Coffee, a high-end retailer headquartered in California, opened a branch next door, she said. The cafe’s quirky appearance then helped make it an “Instagrammable” spot, with word of mouth spreading digitally among Korean visitors.

In 2018, Koreans made up almost a quarter of all foreign tourists in Japan, spending ¥588 billion ($5.5 billion). They were second only to mainland Chinese, who accounted for 27 percent.

But bilateral relations have deteriorated sharply since the South Korean Supreme Court ordered two Japanese companies last year to pay compensation for wartime labor during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

The row, which developed into a tit-for-tat trade dispute, has led to cancellations or reductions of flights linking cities in both countries, damaging tourism to Japan.

News source: Japan Times
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