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As Fukushima residents return, some see hope in nuclear tourism

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Posters promoting fukushima sightseeing at the Fukushima prefectural government office in Fukushima city
June 21, 2018
FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) – On a cold day in February, Takuto Okamoto guided his first tour group to a sight few outsiders had witnessed in person: the construction cranes looming over Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Seven years after a deadly tsunami ripped through the Tokyo Electric Power (9501.T) plant, Okamoto and other tour organisers are bringing curious sightseers to the region as residents who fled the nuclear catastrophe trickle back.
Many returnees hope tourism will help resuscitate their towns and ease radiation fears.
But some worry about drawing a line under a disaster whose impact will be felt far into the future. The cleanup, including the removal of melted uranium fuel, may take four decades and cost several billion U.S. dollars a year.
“The disaster happened and the issue now is how people rebuild their lives,” Okamoto said after his group stopped in Tomioka, 10 kilometres (6.21 miles) south of the nuclear plant. He wants to bring groups twice a week, compared with only twice a month now.
Electronic signs on the highway to Tomioka showed radiation around 100 times normal background levels, as Okamoto’s passengers peered out tour bus windows at the cranes poking above Fukushima Daiichi.
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Tourists from Philippines and tour guide Takuto Okamoto, Futaba town, May 17 2018
“For me, it’s more for bragging rights, to be perfectly honest,” said Louie Ching, 33, a Filipino programmer. Ching, two other Filipinos and a Japanese man who visited Chernobyl last year each paid 23,000 yen ($208.75) for a day trip from Tokyo.
 
NAMIE
The group had earlier wandered around Namie, a town 4 kilometres north of the plant to which residents began returning last year after authorities lifted restrictions. So far, only about 700 of 21,000 people are back – a ratio similar to that of other ghost towns near the nuclear site.
Former residents Mitsuru Watanabe, 80, and his wife Rumeko, 79, have no plans to return. They were only in town to clear out their shuttered restaurant before it is demolished, and they chatted with tourists while they worked.
“We used to pull in around 100 million yen a year,” Mitsuru said as he invited the tourists inside. A 2011 calendar hung on the wall, and unfilled orders from the evacuation day remained on a whiteboard in the kitchen.
“We want people to come. They can go home and tell other people about us,” Mitsuru said among the dusty tables.
 
Okamoto’s group later visited the nearby coastline, where the tsunami killed hundreds of people. Abandoned rice paddies, a few derelict houses that withstood the wave and the gutted Ukedo elementary school are all that remain.
It’s here, behind a new sea wall at the edge of the restricted radiation zone, that Fukushima Prefecture plans to build a memorial park and 5,200-square-metre (56,000-square-foot) archive centre with video displays and exhibits about the quake, tsunami and nuclear calamity.
LURING TOURISTS
“It will be a starting point for visitors,” Kazuhiro Ono, the prefecture’s deputy director for tourism, said of the centre. The Japan Tourism Agency will fund the project, Ono added.
Ono wants tourists to come to Fukushima, particularly foreigners, who have so far steered clear. Overseas visitors spent more than 70 million days in Japan last year, triple the number in 2011. About 94,000 of those were in Fukushima.
Tokyo Electric will provide material for the archive, although the final budget for the project has yet to be finalised, he said.
“Some people have suggested a barbecue area or a promenade,” said Hidezo Sato, a former seed merchant in Namie who leads a residents’ group. A “1” sticker on the radiation metre around his neck identified him as being the first to return to the town.
Slideshow (21 Images)
“If people come to brag about getting close to the plant, that can’t be helped, but at least they’ll come,” Sato said. The archive will help ease radiation fears, he added.
SPECTACLE
Standing outside a farmhouse as workmen refurbished it so her family could return, Mayumi Matsumoto, 54, said she was uneasy about the park and archive.
“We haven’t gotten to the bottom of what happened at the plant, and now is not the time,” she said.
Matsumoto had come back for a day to host a rice-planting event for about 40 university students. Later they toured Namie on two buses, including a stop at scaffolding near the planned memorial park site to view Fukushima Daiichi’s cranes.
Matsumoto described her feelings toward Tokyo Electric as “complicated,” because it is responsible for the disaster but also helped her family cope its aftermath. One of her sons works for the utility and has faced abuse from angry locals, she added.
“It’s good that people want to come to Namie, but not if they just want to get close to the nuclear plant. I don’t want it to become a spectacle,” Matsumoto said.
Okamoto is not the only guide offering tours in the area, although visits of any kind remain rare. He said he hoped his clients would come away with more than a few photographs.
“If people can see for themselves the damage caused by tsunami and nuclear plant, they will understand that we need to stop it from happening again,” said Okamoto, who attended university in a neighbouring prefecture. “So far, we haven’t come across any opposition from the local people.”
($1 = 110.1800 yen)
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June 22, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima tourism finally rebounds from 2010’s triple disasters

Proving that covering up,  disinformation and censorship are working very well. Those tourists are certainly unaware that they might bring back from Fukushima more than just wrapped souvenirs….wrapped inside their body.
5 March, 2018
Nearly seven years after the triple disasters of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown virtually crippled Fukushima’s tourism industry, the number of foreign overnight travellers has recovered to levels last seen before the disaster.
In the first 10 months of calendar 2017, a total of 78,680 foreign visitors spent at least one night in the prefecture, surpassing the 77,890 visitors in the same period in 2010. Final statistics for the full year are not available, but prefectural authorities expect the 2017 figure to eclipse 2010’s figure of 87,170 foreigners who stayed in the prefecture.
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Tourist visiting Ouchijuku Village, a former post town along the Aizu-Nishi Kaido trade route in Fukushima
 
Visitor numbers collapsed in the months after the March 11 earthquake and a mere 23,990 foreigners stayed in calendar 2011.
“We have been working with the Fukushima government to promote the prefecture at international events, focusing on events in countries where we have already seen visitor numbers recover, such as Taiwan, Thailand and Australia,” said Kazuhiko Yoshioka, director of overseas promotion for the Fukushima Prefecture Tourism and Local Products Association.
Yoshioka shared that the organisation plugs the prefecture’s samurai history, onsen, fruit, scenery and seasonal highlights as part of overseas promotion. Information on the destination is also shared online.
“Getting the message across can be difficult,” he admitted. “We have found that the best way to overcome worries about safety is to ensure that up-to-date and accurate information is accessible and then to share that information as widely as possible.”
Travel operators concur that visitor numbers have bounced back strongly.
Paul Christie, CEO of Walk Japan, said the company’s walking tour in the footsteps of famous poet Basho in Tohoku are “selling very well – so well, in fact, that they are sold out months in advance.”
“We have found that whatever problems happened in Fukushima seven years ago are no longer in the forefront of people’s minds,” he said. “I have been quite surprised, but it is really not an issue for the vast majority of people.”
At Nippon Travel Agency, Kaho Mori, assistant manager of the inbound division, observed: “There is interest in Fukushima Prefecture as part of our tours of the Tohoku region. We are getting a lot of interest in that part of the country from visitors from North America, although less from European countries.”

March 6, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

« Ask anyone who has visited, and they’ll tell you: Tohoku, Northern Japan is easily one of the most stunning places in the world. »

 

Since last weekend, Japan National Tourism Organization is spending big money for this campaign, posting these ads on YouTube, FB and other places, so as to incite tourists to visit Tohoku, conveniently forgetting totally the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster, its ambiant radiation and food contamination.
 
 
Special thanks to Shui Theriver.

February 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Bike Project to Bring Tourists Back to Fukushima

In case you are interested, don’t forget to bring with you a good protective mask to stop you from inhaling radioactive nano particles….
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Can this bike project bring tourists back to Fukushima?
(CNN) — It’s been over six years since the northeast coast of Japan’s Honshu island was hit by a devastating earthquake, leading to a deadly tsunami and nuclear disaster.
The hardest hit of all the affected prefectures, Fukushima is still fighting to lure tourists back to its beautiful natural landscapes.
Among the locals helping revive the local travel industry is Jun Yamadera, founder of bike share company Fukushima Wheel, based in the prefecture’s capital of the same name.
“In the year of 2011, we have almost no people,” says Yamadera. “It really hurt my feelings. That’s my main motivation to start this project.”
Like other bike share systems, Fukushima Wheel encourages citizens and tourists to explore the city on a shared bicycle. But there’s so much more to the project.
It also serves as a cost-effective way to collect big data from the city through citizen science. An environmental sensor has been mounted on each bike, measuring data such as radiation levels, temperature, air pollution and more.
The wheels are equipped with LED displays that can be customized to show advertisements.
The project also comes with a complementing smartphone app that doubles as a city guide, offering points-of-interest and discounts to the venues around you. It also measures how much you’ve exercised and carbon emissions.
Fukushima Wheel is still in development stage but it has already received enthusiastic praises from media and tech fairs around the world.

January 18, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Skiing in Fukushima

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Fukushima mounts winter tourism offensive to draw foreign tourists to its snowy charms

A project will kick off in Fukushima Prefecture this winter to lure more foreign tourists to its snowy hills and mountains to help revitalize depopulated regions.

For starters, the prefecture will invite tourists from Taiwan, Thailand and Australia to Okuaizu, Urabandai and southern areas of the prefecture, and subsidize nearly all of their transportation and accommodation costs. About 200 people are expected to participate.

The purpose of the project is to promote Fukushima’s name overseas, raise occupancy at its hotels and inns, and bolster jobs in its tourism industry.

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The project will run until fiscal 2018. The Fukushima Prefectural Government plans to earmark about ¥17 million from the central government’s local revitalization subsidies to finance the first year.

The prefecture is coordinating with travel agencies so that areas including the towns of Minamiaizu, Kaneyama and Bandai, as well as the villages of Kitashiobara and Tenei, can welcome visitors from Australia, where skiing is very popular, and Taiwan and Thailand, where Fukushima has tourism offices.

The four towns and villages will get three tours each, including an overnight journey, with the prefecture shouldering most of the transport and accommodation fees.

Each tour is designed so participants can ski, snowboard and have snowball fights in Fukushima’s powder snow, as well as enjoy local snow festivals. There are also plans to reserve a ski resort for a whole weekday just for foreign visitors.

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In addition, tourists will be invited to soak in hot springs to interact with local residents after experiencing snow-removal activities. This will be followed by chances to sample the local cuisine and taste sake popular at home and abroad.

Other trips are being planned to famous tourist spots along the Tadami Line, which has gained an overseas following on the internet, and to fishing spots where pond smelt can be caught in Hibara and Hatori lakes.

Once the visitors return home, the project encourages them to spread information on the ski resorts, tourist spots, food and sake they experienced via SNS.

Already, the Fukushima Prefectural Government is looking to create more tours that appeal to a wider range of countries, including China and South Korea.

It intends to set up a study group comprising officials from cities, towns, villages and local tourism associations to analyze the participants’ reactions. Based on the results, the prefecture will set up multiple tourism routes to draw attention ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Amid tepid demand from Japanese skiers, if the prefecture successfully emphasizes the high quality of its snow, it is possible to lure more tourists from abroad,” said a source connected with a ski resort in the Aizu region.

We’d like to design a model tour to make the mountainous areas popular in winter,” an official in the prefecture’s regional development section said.

Even though tourism has rebounded since the Fukushima disaster unfolded in 2011, it has not fully recovered.

Last year, foreign tourists who stayed at lodging facilities with more than 20 employees in Fukushima came to 48,090, more than double the 2011 tally, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

But that’s still far short of the 87,170 who did so in 2010, and the prefecture is hunting for more ways to raise tourism in cooperation with its neighbors in the Tohoku and Kanto regions.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/11/20/national/fukushima-mounts-winter-tourism-offensive-draw-foreigners-snowy-charms/#.WDHn3lzia-c

November 21, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Possibly Turning into Another “Exotic” Tourist Destination

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Just like Chernobyl before it, the radioactive exclusion zone surrounding the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is starting to attract tourists, possibly turning into another of the world’s “exotic” tourist destinations.

Unlike the Chernobyl nuclear disaster which happened over 30 years ago, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant catastrophe is practically a recent event. On March 11, 2011 a tsunami that followed the Tohoku earthquake smashed into the plant, causing several meltdowns and the release of radioactive material resulting in the second nuclear disaster in history to be given the Level 7 event classification of the International Nuclear Event Scale.

Yet even though the scars left by this disaster are still fresh, it seems that there are already people who consider the radioactive zone surrounding the Fukushima nuclear plant a tourist attraction.

The first project aimed at transforming the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into a tourist attraction was presented to the Japanese authorities in 2012, only a year after the disaster, by philosopher Hiroki Azuma, the author of the Chernobyl Dark Tourism Guide, and his group of fellow enthusiasts.

According to Azuma’s vision, people should’ve been allowed to visit the area and see the process of the Fukushima plant’s decontamination with their own eyes; and by 2036 visitors should  be able to approach the plant without the need to wear protective suits

Unfortunately, the prefectural administration torpedoed the idea, arguing that the word ‘tourism’ should never be applied to the catastrophe site.

But even though Azuma’s project was not to be, there are already plenty of companies organizing tours in the disaster area.

Hiroshi Miura, head of one such enterprise called NPO Nomado, told Sputnik that he first started working as a tour guide for people visiting his home city of Minamisoma, located 16 miles north of the Fukushima nuclear plant, back in 2012.

“In October 2012 I established a non-commercial organization Nomada and continued my business by creating a ’20 Kilometers Away From Fukushima-1′ tour. By 2014, just by myself, I had over 5,000 clients. In 2015 other guides and volunteers started working with me, and over 10,000 people participated in our tours,” he said.

Miura also added that the current situation at the nuclear plant is barely discussed by the media, except for the local prefectural outlets, and that the place where he used to live, located only 12 kilometers away from Fukushima Daiichi, remains in the same state as it was right after the tsunami, as no decontamination or recovery operations were conducted there.

Yuta Hirai, another tour guide working in Fukushima, also told Sputnik that there are people from all walks of life interested in visiting the site of the tragedy: scientists, students, former residents, and a considerable number of foreign tourists.

He also believes that tourism could play an important role in helping the Fukushima prefecture to recover from the ordeal of 2011.

“I believe it is important for the prefecture residents to understand that people from without are paying attention to them. They have mixed feelings about the incident, like ‘I want to forget but I don’t want to be forgotten.’ If we learn our lesson from what happened, if we understand that it must not happen again, then it could help the people of Fukushima to believe in themselves. There’s a tendency to pay greater attention to opinions from without rather than to opinions from within. So if more people from other prefectures see the situation with their own eyes, feel it and talk about it, then perhaps the current depressing situation in Fukushima may change for the better,” he said.

https://t.co/sDRHlJ7LpA

September 25, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment

Promoted Fukushima Tourism Booming

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Fukushima Attracts 50 Million Tourists Annually for the First Time Since the Nuclear Disaster

Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture has hit a tourism milestone, drawing in more than 50 million visitors in the past year, according to data released by the Fukushima Prefectural Government.

The prefecture drew in a total of 50.31 million tourists, making it the first time this annual threshold has been achieved since the nuclear disaster of 2011.

According to the The Japan Times, the area has seen a recovery of close to 90 percent since then, which officials in the region contribute to several factors.

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Last year, Fukushima officials launched the “Fukushima Destination Campaign,” tapping into the country’s transportation resources to offering railway deals and promotions.

Officials pointed to the opening of the section between the Tomioka and Namie interchanges on the Jōban Expressway last March as a key player in the surge of visitors in eastern Fukushima last year, which was up 59.9 percent from 2014.

The opening of new leisure facilities and a re-emergence of the area’s famous hot springs is also helping draw in visitors.

Above all, the data found that travelers were most drawn to the prefecture’s natural sights, with destinations like the Bandai-kogen highlands drawing in a total of 2.18 million visitors last year.

http://www.travelandleisure.com/trip-ideas/nature-travel/fukushima-tourism-rebound

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August 20, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima tourism making strong progress on “recovery”

This is an article from the Fukushima Minpo News, the Fukushima local newspaper which is the propaganda organ of the Japanese central government. Therefore everything announced in this article should be taken with a grain of salt. Or maybe those tourists are the ones who enjoy sightseeing the numerous contaminated soil bags dump sites.

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Tourism in Fukushima Prefecture approached a milestone in fiscal 2015 after recovering to nearly 90 percent of where it was before the nuclear disaster unfolded in March 2011, the prefectural government said in a recent tourism report.

In the year ended March 31, the prefecture saw 50.31 million tourists visit its resorts, sightseeing spots and leisure facilities, data compiled by the Fukushima Prefectural Government showed earlier this month.

That’s an increase of 3.42 million on the year before and nearly 90 percent of its tourism tally in fiscal 2010, when 57.17 million tourists visited, the report said.

It is also the first time the annual threshold of 50 million has been achieved since 2011, when the Great East Japan Earthquake tipped the Fukushima No. 1 power plant into a triple core meltdown on March 11.

Fukushima officials praised their promotion drive, dubbed the “Fukushima Destination Campaign,” for bearing fruit. The campaign allows its municipalities to tap the transport resources of the Japan Railway group across the country.

We will work to draw more tourists by analyzing the effect of the Destination Campaign,” said a Fukushima prefectural official in charge of tourism promotion.

In a surprise, the Soma-Futaba region in eastern Fukushima, along the Pacific coast, drew 2.65 million tourists in fiscal 2015, up 59.9 percent from last year, the report said. Officials say the opening of a key part of the Joban Expressway between the Tomioka and Namie interchanges in March 2015 facilitated the surge. Indeed, the number of people who used drive-in facilities was 33.4 percent higher than last year, the report said.

The opening of new leisure facilities and the resumption of some onsen (hot spring) spas that suspended business in the wake of the disasters also contributed, the officials said.

Tourists were most attracted by the grand nature of Fukushima Prefecture, the data showed. The top spot in fiscal 2015 remained the Bandai Kogen highlands in the north, which drew 2.18 million visitors, up 4.6 percent from the year before.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/08/14/national/fukushima-tourism-making-strong-progress-recovery/#.V7D2dzXKO-c

August 15, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment

Pokemon gets hot in Fukushima

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Fukushima to use rare Pokemon to lure tourists back

Japan is planning to use Pokemon Go to lure tourists back to its quake hit regions, including in the radiation affected prefecture of Fukushima.

Officials for four prefectures in Japan have announced they are partnering with the Japanese subsidiary of Niantic, the US company behind the Pokemon Go game.

They hope that creating virtual attractions in the popular location-based game will help draw people back to the natural disaster affected areas.

Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures are located in the north of the country and were heavily impacted by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Kumamoto, located in southern Japan, suffered a series of earthquakes in April this year.

JAPAN EARTHQUAKE TSUNAMI NUCLEAR ACCIDENT AFTERMATH

A handout image made available 16 March 2011 by Japanese Fukushima nuclear plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO)

 

The game is already live in Japan, but players would find extra goodies in the four prefectures under the plan.

Game-makers will add more PokeStops – places where treasured items can be found, and more Pokemon Gyms – locations where people can meet and send their captured monsters into battle.

Officials say they will also place more rare Pokemon in the areas for players to hunt.

Tourism promotions say that less than 10 per cent  of Fukushima is affected by radiation exclusion zones, insisting that other areas are safe to visit.

Officials in Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima have also been planning ‘recovery tours’ in which guides take visitors to sites affected by the disasters.

But there are limits.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, TEPCO, reportedly had to request game developers to prevent Pokemon from spawning in radiation affected areas of Fukushima, to avoid drawing players into hazardous areas.

Nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant suffered meltdowns as a result of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and TEPCO says they recently found Pokemon at the site.

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/08/12/fukushima-use-rare-pokemon-lure-tourists-back

August 14, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment

Does Tohoku’s disaster tourism exploit or educate?

Disaster tourism can be an unsettling descent into voyeurism as visitors ghoulishly gawk at, and photograph, those caught up in catastrophe as if they’re at a petting zoo. The concept has prompted widespread condemnation of insensitive tourists and travel companies exploiting disasters as marketing opportunities.
In the years following the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, opponents of disaster tourism have claimed that its economic benefits are overstated while the ethical shortcomings are legion. Advocates counter that the economic benefits can be significant, crucial to regional recovery, and that there are important lessons to be learned.
There is no longer much to gawk at along the Tohoku region’s tsunami-ravaged coast, however, save for some shattered buildings preserved to memorialize the tragedy. Bus companies and hotel operators pocket profits, but they also generate jobs and expose outsiders to a region that has always been a neglected backwater.
Recently I witnessed large buses from one local tour company disgorging dozens of sightseers for snapshots of the skeletal disaster management center and the derelict Takano Kaikan hall in Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture. These tourists are spending money in local shops and restaurants in a remote place that has poor transport links and is in the middle of a noisy, messy all-encompassing rebuilding phase. What used to be the center of town is now a vast construction site dominated by giant berms of earth that will raise the town by about five meters.
I met a young man from Osaka who came as a volunteer and then decided to remain in the area. He pointed out that for devastated local businesses, disaster tourism is a welcome lifeline. Elsewhere, a big-screen TV in a hotel lobby features a 3-D video of the tsunami that allows guests to don special glasses and watch the unfolding tragedy. I suppose this could be educational, but the prevailing holiday atmosphere dissuaded me.
Denunciation of disaster tourism in Tohoku is grounded in sympathy for the victims and concerns that devastation is an unseemly attraction, but Australia National University’s Simon Avenell, author of “Transnational Japan in the Global Environmental Movement,” says he is not a purist in this regard.
“From a financial perspective, I’m generally supportive of disaster tourism, certainly because it brings people and some money into the region, but also because it offers local people a chance to express their feelings directly (rather than mediated through the press or TV),” he says. “As time goes by, 3/11 becomes less and less of a news item, so tourism can be at least a small communication pipeline for locals.”
However, Avenell also has qualms about the potential for masking serious unresolved issues, because by promoting a sense of normalization “it could actually hamper fundamental change (and) … its political benefits might be limited or even deleterious in the long run.”
The infamous Kyushu port of Minamata, which put mercury poisoning on the global radar in the 1970s, is now perhaps the most visited sight for school excursions by Kyushu students after Nagasaki’s atomic bomb park and museum. Chris McMorran, a senior lecturer in Japanese studies at the National University of Singapore, takes his students there. He says tourism officials from Tohoku visited Minamata to learn about the city’s educational disaster tourism initiatives and the role of kataribe (storytellers) in them.
“Using an itinerary to create an opening for reflection and communication has long fit the learning objectives of overseas field learning experiences,” he says. There are “packages that continue to attract visitors to Tohoku who want to hear from survivors, witness the destruction and (most intriguingly to me) view (and photograph) disaster monuments. In some areas, there are also new shopping areas targeted at tourists, which feature locally handmade products and restaurants. It seems like these places are actively promoted by locals trying to start businesses in the absence of other major economic activity.”
McMorran posits there are phases in Tohoku’s disaster tourism.
“First, through volunteerism, then volunteer tourism (or ‘voluntourism’), then disaster (recovery/support) tourism. It’s a fascinating evolution that has effectively controlled the potential anarchy of large-scale volunteerism and steered it into consumption (via tourism and the purchase of local goods) as the preferred disaster recovery response from citizens.”
The media has played a significant role in this latter phase. Philip Seaton, a professor of modern Japanese studies at Hokkaido University, has studied the role “contents tourism” has played in Tohoku’s recovery. This is where television shows, films and anime promote an area specifically by featuring it.
Producers chose sites “in disaster zones in the hope that the ‘contents tourism’ induced by popular culture would help in the more general economic revitalization efforts of disaster areas,” Seaton says. Prime examples include NHK dramas “Yae no Sakura,” set in Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, and “Amachan,” set in Kuji, Iwate Prefecture. It is estimated that the latter generated ¥30 billion in economic benefits for Tohoku as fans of the series flocked to the gorgeous coastal location to sample local delicacies from the show.
It is also clear that a variety of organizations, ranging from religious and education institutions to NPOs and activist groups, are conducting study tours in the region that are explicitly educational. As I wrote two weeks ago, the ruins of Okawa Elementary School in Miyagi Prefecture are now a site for school tours that aim to improve disaster preparation. Universities are also running study tours in the region.
Hiroko Aihara, a journalist with Japan Perspective News, notes that the Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation has issued guidelines for responsible disaster tourism but remains ambivalent over “dark tourism,” which involves places associated with death and suffering. She is concerned about a lingering radiation risk in Fukushima and worries that if tours don’t involve local residents and the evacuees, visitors might get a skewed impression that downplays the nuclear disaster — which could be “converted to political propaganda by the ‘nuclear village,’” she says, referring to pro-nuclear interests. She also cautions that schools and teachers should disclose information about the dangers of radiation exposure near the stricken nuclear plant and suggests bringing individual measurement devices. If properly led, she agrees that educational tours can be beneficial, but she is not in favor of mere casual observation.
Fukushima Prefecture is sponsoring trips to Namie, an abandoned town just 9 kilometers away from Tepco’s three nuclear meltdowns, that convey a powerful message to visitors about the hubris of nuclear safety — underscored by the continuing ban on overnight stays. Nearby Futaba, however, has taken down the iconic pro-nuclear energy welcome sign that spanned the entryway into that ghost town because it had become a favored photo op for tourists. Some disgruntled locals feel it should have been preserved for posterity to help future generations learn the lessons of Fukushima, but abashed town officials claim the aging sign had become a safety hazard. At least that’s their story, and they’re sticking to it.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2016/02/27/commentary/tohokus-disaster-tourism-exploit-educate/#.VtLKBubzN_l

February 28, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment