Some 213,000 Japanese tourists visited Korea in April, up 29 percent from the same month last year, the Korea Tourism Organization said Thursday.
The increase heralds a return of Japanese visitors as a force to reckon with in the Korean tourism industry, which not long ago weaned itself of dependence on them to throw everything at the Chinese market.
About 167,000 Japanese tourists came in March, up eight percent on-year.
"The Japanese seem to feel less anxious amid a thaw in relations between the two Koreas, which apparently led to the rise," a KTO spokesman speculated.
Numbers dropped sharply in April last year, when the Japanese Foreign Ministry issued a travel advisory as tensions ran high on the Korean Peninsula.
If the trend continues, visitors from Japan will total 2.7 million by year's end, and if it keeps rising the number could surpass 3 million.
Numbers peaked at 3.52 million in 2012, but then relations soured and the weakening yen made Korea less attractive as a destination. The lowest figure was 1.83 million in 2015.
The KTO will hold a Korea tourism festival at Tokyo Dome on June 12-13, which includes an exhibition and a K-pop concert featuring acts like boy band Supernova.
Tourists wait outside a duty-free store in Seoul. /Yonhap