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Government travel packages tailored toward medical tourists will aid regions

TOKYO >> The government plans to offer tourism packages that combine advanced medical services with sightseeing, aimed at foreign visitors who go to Japan for medical purposes.

Targeting wealthy people in Asia, the packages are intended to draw not just patients, but their families as well. The Japan Tourism Agency and the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will jointly launch the project this year with the aim of boosting regional economies.

The number of inbound travelers who visit Japan to receive medical treatment or health examinations has been increasing each year. The new project will target countries including China, Russia and Southeast Asian nations, where medical tourism to Japan has gained popularity in recent years. Travel packages will be compiled in cooperation with medical institutions, among others, in the target countries.

Advanced medical institutions are established in many of Japan’s regional areas, and packages will spotlight neighboring tourist spots that are relatively unknown to foreigners.

One travel plan involving a rehabilitation hospital, for instance, will include a hot-spring visit for family members while the patient is checked into the facility. In another plan, patients with orthopedic issues can take therapeutic walks in the forest with their families when not in treatment. There is even a plan for diabetic patients to enjoy Japanese cuisine featuring local ingredients.

The Japan Tourism Agency will work closely with local governments and other organizations to create seamless services for foreign travelers, focusing on practical issues such as interpreters, including those who are able to translate medical terms, and such conveniences as cashless payments.

The agency has earmarked 500 million yen for this year’s efforts. Along with the ministry, it has already selected medical institutions to participate in the project and plans to begin early this fall at five locations outside major urban areas.

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