Tourism in Japan: gradual pick-up in numbers to stunning Japan
James Jomo and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The devastating events of the earthquake and tsunami on March 11 followed by the nuclear crisis which resulted because of this in Fukushima meant that tourism suffered badly. In April you had a 62% decrease in numbers and by May this had come down to 50% below 2010 figures. However, recent data for June and July stipulates a decline of 36% from the year before and clearly a recovery is emerging in the tourist sector in Japan.
It is also worth remembering that the high yen and world economy isn’t helping, therefore, in a normal year you may have a margin of a decrease of 5% to 10% because of these factors. If this is taken into account, then the real number of the decrease in tourist numbers when related solely to the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear crisis, is likely to be 26% to 31%.
This figure, when all things are considered, is a clear sign that the message of Japan’s recovery is clearly on its way. Also, when viewed in the context of the longevity of the nuclear crisis in Fukushima and certain hysteria in some quarters of the media, then the Japanese tourist board can be relatively pleased with the numbers because it could be a lot worse.
Like previously mentioned, the high yen and global economic downturn is a real issue for Japan because it must be off-putting for many individuals. However, despite all the negatives it is clear that the appeal of Japan is very strong because tourism wise this country provides such a unique blend of history, culture, and ultra-modernity. Alongside this is the stunning natural beauty of Japan and this applies to many amazing places to visit. Therefore, for this reason the rebound is emerging much stronger than some people had anticipated.
Of course you will have other factors, for example the government of Japan continuously reassures the international community that the country is back on track. Also, more important, it is also factual that despite all the carnage and the nuclear crisis in Fukushima, that the vast majority of Japan was not directly involved in this crisis.
Therefore, by the end of April scenes were turning to normality in Tokyo which felt the power of the earthquake on March 11. Individuals, organizations and embassies which had panicked about radiation after March 11 to the end of April, began to realize that much of the panic was based on misguided comments and fear.
Also, while the whole of Japan was hit by shock and grief on March 11 because of the utter devastation of areas hit by the earthquake and tsunami, the same did not apply to events on the ground. Therefore, for citizens and tourists in Hiroshima, Kobe, Koyasan, Kyoto, Himeji, Hokkaido, Nagoya, Nagasaki, Nara, Okinawa, Osaka, and other popular destinations, you had no fears or worry by events which emerged on March 11.
In time, Tokyo would gradually pick up and media campaigns, the fashion sector, positive images of Japan and a host of other factors, would witness a gradual realization that Japan is truly alive and kicking powerfully.
In a much earlier article by Modern Tokyo Times which was published on April 16 called Tokyo needs to reinvigorate tourism and take centre stage it was commented that “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.”
It must be remembered that the above quotes were made when you still had serious doubts and issues about the crisis in Fukushima. Also, the crisis was in the full glare of the mass media and this clearly impacted on the tourist sector.
All in all, the recent figures show that people are visiting Japan in increasing numbers and tourism is rebounding. Therefore, while more needs to be done in order to attract people to Japan, it is clear that the positive message is being heard by the international general public.