Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries are now subject to a large-scale relaxed visa program issued by the Japanese government in a bid to increase the number of tourists from these nations to the East Asian country.

Visa exemptions are granted to Thai and Malaysian nationals, while Filipino and Vietnamese tourists will be offered a multiple-entry visa to Japan, Thanh Nien daily cited sources from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

In the meantime, the length of stay for Indonesian holders of multiple entry visas for a short-term stay will be extended from 15 days to a maximum of 30 days.

The program is intended to celebrate the 40th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan said.

As of July 1, the Japanese government will issue multiple entry visas for short-term stays to Vietnamese nationals (ordinary passport holders) who reside in their home country, the ministry said.

Recipients of the incentive are Vietnamese nationals who have fulfilled certain conditions and who have an ordinary Machine-Readable passport (MRP) meeting International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards, according to the ministry.

The allowed period of stay is 15 days, while the program has a term of validity of up to three years.

This means Vietnamese travelers are allowed to visit Japan several times within a period of three years, with the maximum stay per visit no longer than 15 days.

Some 8.37 million foreign tourists visited Japan in 2012, 9.3 percent, or 780,000, of whom were from Southeast Asia, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

The Japanese government has set a goal to increase the number of visitors from that region to 2 million by 2016.-VNA