Tokyo needs to reinvigorate tourism and take centre stage
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The tourist sector is reeling from the havoc caused by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake which unleashed such a potent and destructive tsunami. The events of March 11 were devastating for the people of northeastern Japan and the ongoing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis is casting a dark shadow over Japan.
Images of the stricken nuclear plant in Fukushima are shown daily and fleeing embassy staff from various nations in Tokyo, alongside massive over-reaction in parts of the media, did not help.
Therefore, Governor Ishihara, the central government, tourist agencies, hotel chains, and other areas of interest; should start a major advertisement campaign in order to attract tourists to Tokyo and other parts of Japan.
If images of vibrant Harajuku, Ikebukuro, Shibuya, and Shinjuku, were shown then many people outside of Japan would be shocked. This applies to the return to normality, ladies shopping for exquisite clothes in fashionable shops, people enjoying the cherry blossom season, and showing glimpses of the raw energy of youth in Shibuya.
At the moment Japan faces many problems and obviously many communities and families have been destroyed in Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, and other parts of northeastern Japan, which were hit by the tragic events of March 11.
It is imperative that resources are spent wisely in order to rejuvenate areas which were badly damaged. The same applies to building temporary accommodation, redeveloping the battered infrastructure, and resolving the ongoing nuclear crisis in Fukushima.
However, alongside this and the enormous goodwill being shown towards Japan; is the need to sow the seeds of hope and recovery. Also, it is important that the government of Japan and Governor Ishihara play their part. Neither can afford to remain aloof and it is essential to show the other Japan which is energetic, high tech, and a country which is full of natural beauty.
Tokyo is the main tourist attraction and given the economic resources of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government then a major campaign should be started. It may appear to be insensitive to some individuals because so many people continue to suffer in northeastern Japan; however, if the economy takes a nosedive then this will hinder the economic recovery and the debt burden will continue to mushroom.
Governor Ishihara is calling for self-restraint but this will not help and I am sure he will not focus on self restraint when he supports another Tokyo bid for the Summer Olympics.
Places like Nikko face a torrid time because of the relatively closeness of this major tourist attraction to Fukushima. Yes, it is some way from the stricken nuclear plant in Fukushima but near enough in the eyes of many tourists. Therefore, numbers at Nikko’s Toshogu Shrine are down by 90% and it is impossible to say how much is based on the radiation threat and how much is based on self-restraint; however, the radiation factor will be powerful.
However, Tokyo is far from Fukushima and international tourists should not fear visiting. On the contrary, while international solidarity and tourism are not natural bedfellows it would be a great way to show your love of Japan.
Therefore, Tokyo should take the lead and Ishihara should break free from his self-restraint philosophy because his intentions may be noble; however, the consequences mean more stress for an economy which is in a relative slump after recent events.
Also, if people are worried about certain parts of Japan then this should not put people off from visiting. After all, Himeji, Hiroshima, Kobe, Kyoto, Nagasaki, Nara, Okinawa, Osaka, and a host of other places, have not been hit by the March 11 tragedy.
Given the natural beauty of Japan and the distinct nature of many cities and the changing landscape; then you are spoilt for choice. The majestic beauty of Koyasan in Wakayama and the stunning beaches of Shirahama in the same prefecture are hidden gems.
It is also vital that Japanese people do not show self restraint because tourism is a very important sector and Japan needs to rebuild. Therefore, the tourist issue applies to internal and external tourism.
It may appear to be wrong to relax and enjoy a holiday while so many people are without adequate shelter in parts of northeastern Japan. However, the debt crisis before March 11 was a major issue in Japan and the current “black swan” could really derail the future of Japan.
Therefore, all stresses on the economy needs to be overcome where possible and the tourist sector, irrespective if internal or external, is an important sector and it is essential that self-restraint within Japan is overcome. At the same time, vibrant images of Tokyo and other parts of Japan must be shown to the outside world; and the radiation factor must be challenged by common sense approaches which state reality.
Tokyo must take central stage because of its economic power and pulling power.