Godzilla road, a famous place in Shinjuku, Tokyo Japan. (Shutterstock/aon168)
Businesses in Tokyo are looking to get foreign visitors spending their time and cash on the city's wide-ranging nightlife options.
Travel agencies are arranging special events for foreign tourists such as Japanese taiko drum performances, while hotels are extending their business hours to allow guests to socialize into the early hours.
But while efforts are being made to boost the after-dark economy, the lack of late-night public transport remains a major obstacle to tourists getting a taste of what Tokyo has to offer -- especially when the only option after 1 a.m. is waiting for the first train four hours later, or taking an expensive taxi to their hotel.
Since last year, travel agency JTB Corp. has joined with "Drum Tao," a world-famous Japanese taiko percussion and dance troupe, to entertain foreign visitors.
Performances of the traditional Japanese drumming were held in September and October 2017. Due to their popularity, the shows are being held from May through November this year, a fourfold increase in the number of performances from the year before.
According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, foreign tourists visiting Japan last year spent about 150,000 yen ($1,370) per person. This is well below the 200,000 yen amount required to hit the 8 trillion yen the government wants to be injected into the economy by tourists.
Designating tourism as a key growth area, the Japanese government aims to attract 40 million overseas visitors annually to the country by 2020, and 60 million by 2030.
In January, the Tokyo metropolitan government said it planned to survey foreign tourists on what they enjoy about the city's nightlife, including restaurants, theaters and sporting events, to better cater to their interests while encouraging them to part with their cash.
The central government is joining Tokyo's efforts to increase spending by tourists at night. Despite the rapid increase in tourism, the average amount spent per traveler has declined in recent years.
"The night is a big opportunity for consumption," said JTB President Hiroyuki Takahashi, while stressing the need to improve Tokyo's entertainment options after dark.
The Shinagawa Prince Hotel's 39th-story restaurant was refurbished in December, and the business hours extended for the bar area two hours until 4 a.m. Customers now can look at spectacular night views of Tokyo Bay and famous landmarks while listening to music from a DJ.
"We keep in mind that we want visitors to Japan to enjoy themselves during the nighttime," said the hotel's public relations department. The number of customers using the bar area since renovations started until the end of March has risen 30 percent compared with the same period last year.
Since April last year, the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno has extended its opening times by one hour on Fridays and Saturdays, to 9 p.m. It is not only trying to accommodate people who finish work earlier as part of Japan's labor reforms but is also attempting to draw more foreign tourists.
But the problem of a lack of public transport remains, as well as concerns about noise and security issues in some districts.
Unlike places such as New York City, which has a 24-hour subway service, Japan's transport network shuts down for the night to allow for maintenance and equipment checks.
In December, a group of Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers proposed an experiment that would have allowed trains and buses to operate past midnight and into the early hours of the morning as a way of making life for late-night revelers more convenient.
But the Tokyo metropolitan government-run subway operator pushed back, saying it would be difficult to operate subways around the clock.