The lady above is Sachiko Sato, the mother from Fukushima who organized the protest that I wrote about yesterday. Saw her today marching in a left wing and anti-nuclear protest in Tokyo. Just thought I’d put a face to the name.
Busy day, more later.
Koinobori, carp flags flying over Kitahara yesterday. Today is Tango no Sekku or children’s day in Japan when the young ones are celebrated, particularly the boys and these flags are meant to symbolize the hope that they grow up strong. These icon streamers are what drew us to the town, sad to think that many children in the town died in the tsunami of March 11th.
Good to see that some people make the effort to honour and remember them.
Another earthquake hits as I write this.
The power cuts are almost all over by now, but some energy saving measures are still in place. Trains run with lights outs and many escalators in stations and stores are not running at all. Good for saving electricity and not bad for the waistlines of the commuters that plod up the stairs.
Still too many lights on in other places though and the vending machines are everywhere still shining out into the night unused and unneeded most of the time.
Predictions for the summer are harsh; the hot weather will mean cranking-up the air-con and that could lead to more shortages of power again.
But let’s worry about that when it happens. Meanwhile have a good Golden Week everyone.
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.
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.
The man above is Susume Kaidou. He runs one of the Takatabune, or old fashion house boat cruise companies that ply the Sumida River from Asakusa and business is not good at the moment. Spring is usually one of the busiest times of the year but he is not making any money today. The effects of the earthquake and tsunami of March 11th, not least the fear of nuclear contamination reaching Tokyo from the stricken Fukushima Daichi powerplant, are keeping tourists away from Japan.
Tourism is a new and still relatively small part of the economy here but the drop in tourism numbers, especially from China and Korea, is hurting the business. In an attempt to counter this; to raise some interest and some money for the more directly affected areas of Tohoko, this weekend Kaidou was providing people with free cruises along the Sumida River for thirty minutes, giving his passengers a chance to take in the views of the cherry blossom trees lining the banks and the new Sky Tree tower. All the passengers had to do in return was make a donation to the Red Cross to help with the relief effort and everyone was happy.
Well almost everyone, the line for the free cruises was long, the boats sailing in and out regularly with their requisite sixty passengers. Nearly all those passengers were Japanese however. Domestic tourism is down of course as people voluntarily limit their spending and enjoyment of this busy season out of a shared sense of suffering with the north east, but the lack of foreigners in the line was a more worrying sign of the difficulties Japan may experience this year.
Last year was a good year for tourism, despite the problems in the global economy, 8.61 million visitors arrived on these shores. This year Japan predicted that it could further increase tourism numbers, raising the tourist Dollar to as much as 7% of the country’s GDP with expected earnings of 33 trillion Yen.
Nowadays, with overseas tourism numbers in free-fall it is anyone’s guess how the industry will survive. Even though Japan’s overall economy will not be too adversely affected by a drop in the tourist revenues, for many small businesses that have developed to cater for the increase in tourism over the last decade or two the future looks very uncertain.