Tourism in Today’s Japan

A great credit to all Assistant Language Teachers I know, we ‘man’ed up. Many of us also found avenues to donate toiletries, stationary, second-hand clothes and the like. Now, there is another way we can all help, and it’s all in the name of fun.

Self restraint (or jishuku) is underway in a big way. As explained in the New York Times, jishuku is voluntary self restraint, which has been seen by the greater Japanese public as the ‘correct code of behaviour’ for Post-Tsunami Japan. While many perished, others are displaced, and will be for some time. Japan called for power conservation to alleviate the struggling power grid, which turned into the sacrifice of all non-essential luxury items and activities. Those who are seen to be living frivolously (especially those in Kantou and Tohoku regions) are inviting social condemnation. Jishuku is also responsible for our most beloved phallus being kept ‘under wraps’ at this year’s Dankon Matsuri in Kawasaki.

That pesky old law that requires dancing establishments to have licensing for events after 1am (a costly and difficult process) that was largely ignored by officials in the past, has now become strictly enforced.  Highways that were notoriously congested during Golden Weeks of the past were comparatively easy to pass this year. Sunday afternoon at Osaka Aquarium has become a stroll in the park, rather than the normal chaotic fight for a good vantage point.

This is what has prompted me to write this article. As a tourism advocate, I feel that it is my duty to spread the word. If you needed an incentive to travel, well, here it is. GET TRAVELLING, THE JAPANESE TOURISM INDUSTRY NEEDS YOU!!

Akasaka district has become eerily deserted. The visitors information centre normally sees 3,000 people per day, but numbers have dropped dramatically to 500-600 people daily. An employee at the visitors centre said that in all her 20 years of working there, they had never before had so few visitors.

Just so you can get idea of what kind of numbers we are looking at, between March 11 and the end of March, accommodation in the Beppu Hot Springs area alone received 33,000 cancellations. Touhoku and Kanto regions suffered 390,000 cancellations, while another 170,000 were reported in other areas of Japan. In March of 2010, 706, 684 international visitors came to Japan, and only 50% of that number (352,800) came this year.  While cancellations in Touhoku and the Kantou regions are understandable and for Touhoku most probably wise (I myself, fly into action at the slight bumping of a desk, let alone level 6 ‘aftershocks’), it’s time people understood the real and current situation.

Misinformation in the media has damaged people’s confidence in tourism in greater Japan, when it is only a small percentage of the country that has been shut down to tourism. All major power outages in the Kantou region stopped well back at the end of March, and the beginning of Golden Week also saw the restoration of the Tohoku Shinkansen Line. On the international front, JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organisation) branches around the globe are scrambling to repair the damage done to Japan’s reputation as a tourism destination.

British and Australian Governments are advising that nationals stay clear of the Fukushima plants at a 60 and 80km radius respectively. Obviously these warnings are on the conservative side, considering the Japanese national warning stands at 30km. The Australian government goes into further detail, advising people ‘not to travel to Ibaraki, Tochigi, Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, unless your presence there is essential, due to limitations on essential services, infrastructure damage, and ongoing concern about the status of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.’ However Aomori, also in the north, is open for business, and its famed Nebuta festival, with its giant hand crafted figures, is just around the corner! (August 2nd to 4th).

Summer holidays are almost upon us, and exam week is even closer. It is not only our duty, but our job to enjoy all our paid leave and inject some money into the tourism industry, and thus Japan. Get people back home on board too. International visitors spend more money and stay longer, injecting further funds into the now flailing industry.

So when you travel around Japan in the coming months, spoil yourself, you’ll only be helping Japan too.

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