Japan saw a record 8.61 million foreign tourists last year due to economic recovery overseas and the resumption of international flights to Tokyo's Haneda airport, a tourist body said Wednesday.

The rise marked a 26.8 percent increase on 2009 levels, the Japan National Tourist Organisation said, despite the growing strength of the yen.At the same time, the increased purchasing power of the currency contributed to the first increase for four years in the number of Japanese tourists going abroad.

It was the second biggest year-on-year gain in foreign tourists in five decades, following a record 40.4 percent jump in 1970 when the Osaka World Expo was held.