Despite an assertively nationalistic parade on Thursday, and a new “Victory” long weekend to commemorate the end of what it calls the “War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression”—also known as WWII—not all Chinese citizens have spent this latest holiday expressing their patriotism.
In fact, in an almost direct, if not deliberate, defiance of the Victory weekend’s intention, the number of Chinese people that opted to travel to Japan on this time off nearly doubled from the same period a year ago. A recent Japan Today article cites Ctrip.com—China’s top travel website—as saying that 2013 people booked flights to Japan for the Victory weekend, much more than last year’s total of 1164. It also cites tourism industry insiders who attribute that increase in visitors to a favorable currency exchange rate in Japan for Chinese travelers, eased visa rules, the short flight compared to other Asian tourist destinations, and Japan’s much-vaunted hospitality and safety.
Those attributes stand in stark contrast to the Victory weekend parade held in Beijing on Thursday, which featured an array of military vehicles and marching soldiers, along with spectators holding up banners with slogans about the invading Japanese army’s defeat. Chinese television networks have also played a steady stream of documentaries about the war, and a lavish opera depicting its soldiers’ service.
The increased tourism also appears to be the sole reason for optimism in regards to the two Asian nation’s strained relations. On Thursday Quartz reported on a new poll that showed only 12 percent of Chinese have favorable views of Japan, the lowest of any nation in the region. Japanese citizens’ had an even more dismal view of China, with only nine percent of its citizens holding a postive view of its rival. But that article also noted tourism is a bright spot in the two countries’ otherwise dismal relations, citing the Ctrip data for the increase in Chinese travelers to Japan over the Victory weekend as well as a total number of 2.76 million Chinese visitors to Japan in the first six months of 2015, a record breaking total that more than doubles last year’s figure.
Image of the first group of independent Chinese tourists arrives at Narita International Airport near Tokyo, Japan, July 8, 2009 via China Daily