The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Tourists

Sorry for the silence, been very busy trying to work out a return to Iwate sometime soon, had a few ends to chase and images to send out; and have also been using my spare time to make my new archive work better for me. You can see some of my images at my photoshelter site here, not much at the moment but am adding to it when I can.

Also been caught up in researching the whole Japan tourism thing since last Sunday’s visit to Asakusa. for an article I’m writing.

The developing tourism industry in Japan has always had a passing interest for me, which is why I took the image above of some tourists at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Still a relatively new business here it had been growing and was becoming a more important part of the economy with massive government investment and expectations.

Equally important, in my opinion, was the slowly developing detente that was happening between Japan and its Asian neighbours. There is some troubled history in these relationships but with more than six million Asian tourists arrived in Japan in 2010, most from Korea and China, it was becoming increasing difficult for animosity to exist on all sides.

Indeed Asian tourism is now essential to the industry in Japan and with Asia leading the way out of the global recession, particularly the unexpectedly fast recovery of the tourism business, Japan would be foolish to be anything other than welcoming. Its traditional openness to westerners is not going to help it much as only 798,304 people arrived from Europe and 727,200 from the United States in 2010.

Yet due to the earthquake and tsunami on March 11th and even more so the dangers of radio-active contamination from the troubles at Fukushima Daichi Power station tourism numbers this year are in free fall and the business faces an uncertain future.

Fascinating stuff but so much information it has been difficult to fit it all into what I want to write.

Later

Damon

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3 responses

  1. Andy

    I was always amazed at how low the tourism visitor numbers were and with so much to offer this could really help Japan.
    Sadly though I’m unlikely to come back soon as I don’t visit any countries that insist on fingerprinting visitors; in the same way I don’t frequent bars that insist on checking your shoes before letting you in!
    We arrived just before they brought this in

    April 17, 2011 at 1:36 am

  2. Agreed Andy, the tourism attractions here are an unsung gem globally yet the attitudes to tourists leave something to be desired. To be fair I think the fingerprinting, though easy to jump on and berate as part of Japan’s, oft looked for, racism is more a case of playing catch up with Dubya’s America in the war on terror that Japan just so badly wished it was part of, under the right wing governments before.
    There is of course racism here, particularly directed at other Asians, which is why the influx of tourists from the region was a good thing in the education of Japanese people and the eventual nullification of those prejudices. Granted the Chinese tourists are doing nothing to disconfirm stereotypes at the moment, then again tourism is a new phenomena there too, and their country cousins, nouveau riche attics are exactly what we used to accuse Japanese tourists of when they first started heading out into the world. In fact the tourism of the Japan has not matured and developed that much since. Though some travel independently many still go on tours and prefer to be shown rather than find things. The buying of souvenirs is still a compulsion.

    This attitude to tourism wants and needs is one of the reasons Japan remains off the radar for many independent, adventurous travellers because as much money as the government throw at promoting this country overseas, the simple truth is that many who control the industry here do not understand why such tourists come here. The visitors is expected to do what Japanese tourist do/did and basically spend money like a maniac, visit the usual places at the usual times and do what their told. Independent traveller, backpackers don’t do that and Japanese tourism authorities really doesn’t know what to do when people act that way. Look at the mess in Tsukiji with its sudden popularity, the lack of infrastructure and assistance and the less than ideal reaction to the problem just because the Japanese tourism office thought people went there because they had jet lag and nothing else to do!
    In this light Chinese tourists at this moment are the ideal thing for Japan. They return on the money invested in attracting them. But attitudes will take a while to change on both sides. The World Economic Forum on Travel and Tourism at the beginning of this year ranked Japan 22nd in its global competitiveness index. Ahead even of countries like Italy and Thailand. Quite an achievement for Japan in its short tourism agenda. But the report also ranked the country third from bottom for its affinity to tourism so there is still some way to go in getting them used to us and this disaster will unfortunately delay that.
    Damon

    April 17, 2011 at 6:28 am

  3. Andy

    Agreed that the fingerprinting was done as a part of Dubya’s war on terror despite the fact most (all?) terrorism in Japan has been homegrown
    Your 2nd paragraph neatly sums up everything we found with regards to independent travel. We didn’t follow the “rules” of typical japanese tourists like booking accommodation in advance and that caused much consternation until we got people to phone ahead for us. That all made it part of the experience for us though.
    Looked at the numbers again – more people visit Stonehenge than Japan (from Europe of the US)!

    April 18, 2011 at 6:31 am

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