Though signs of recovery are manifest, the hollowing out of regional communities and economies by economic stagnation continues to raise concerns. The rapid aging of the population, declining birthrate, and population decrease are all compounding the trend, as well as rising international competition in a globalizing world. The challenges confronting Japan’s regional communities demand brisk and effective actions in response to the many changes in today’s social environment.
To adapt to social changes and ensure sustainable regional development in future years, Japan’s regions must attract more visitors from home and abroad, build new pathways for prosperity in their cities, and maintain and grow their own brands of vitality to activate their rural areas.
In March 2016 the Japanese government announced its "Tourist Vision Supporting the Future Japan," a Vision toward achieving two newly set goals: attracting 40 million tourists from the rest of the world and selling them 8 trillion yen in domestic goods and services in the year 2020. The Vision is premised on the belief that "Tourism is the true pillar of the development strategy for the regional activation of our country." The Vision is designed to take advantage of four resources essential for promoting tourism: Japan’s rich nature, culture, weather, and food.
The number of tourists visiting Japan in 2017 exceeded 28 million, the highest on record since 1964 (when the JNTO, the Japan National Tourism Organization, first started recording statistics). The numbers show that inbound tourism has steadily grown for decades.
Breaking down the number of overseas lodgers by prefecture, the destinations have always been concentrated along the golden routes such as Tokyo or Osaka, though visits to regional areas are increasing.
Niigata City, Tsuruga City, Maizuru City, Toyooka City, WILLER Inc., Sado City, and Kaga City are working together to refine the charms of their coastline communities along the Japan Sea. Together they have launched the "Japan Sea Travel Tourist Route Project," a plan to develop new forms of tourist transport that visitors can enjoy as they travel to and from their destinations. Various business operators are collaborating in the project to grow the numbers of inbound tourists and activate the local economies by developing a new tourism route along the Japan Sea coastline based on three platforms: "Human Resource Development," "Tourism Transportation," and "Information."