Photo/Illutration Passengers arriving at Narita Airport in November 2021 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The number of foreigners who entered Japan last year plummeted by 91.8 percent from a year earlier to 353,000, the lowest since 1966, because of stricter border controls imposed against the novel coronavirus.

The figure, released by the Immigration Services Agency on Jan. 28, was the second straight annual drop since pre-pandemic 2019, when a record 31.187 million foreigners were admitted to the country.

In 2020, the number was 4.307 million. 

Agency officials noted that the government further tightened its border controls in 2021 by banning, in principle, new entries of foreign nationals, excluding re-entries of those with residency status, on Jan. 21 that year.

That month, 37,000 foreigners newly entered Japan.

The figure was a combined 64,000 for July and August, when Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics and Paralympics.

But the monthly figure hovered around 10,000 for other periods.

Of the 353,000 who entered Japan in 2021, 152,000 were new entrants, including 72,000 on short-term visas, followed by 23,000 technical intern trainees and 12,000 foreign students.

Vietnam sent the largest number of new entrants to Japan, at 25,000, followed by 19,000 from China and 14,000 from the United States.