Tohoku Travel Report
In most of Tohoku, the northeastern part of Japan worst hit by the March 11 tsunami and earthquake, little evidence of disaster remains. At the region’s biggest city, Sendai, department shops are open, bullet trains run and the annual Christmas light-up was back in force in December 2012.
Tourists, however, are not. International visitor arrivals are barely half of what they were before the twin tragedies, according to the national tourism agency.
And it is not just the immediate area surrounding the Fukushima nuclear plant that tourists are staying away from. More than 100 km north in Yamagata prefecture, a region famed for its soba noodles, ski resorts and summertime festivals, arrivals stood at just 40 per cent of their former strength. (according to figures from end 2012)
Yamagata tourism official Tomohiro Moriya worries that the minor earthquake and tsunami earlier this month did not help matters.
The prefecture was looking forward to hosting a Korean tour group this season, but they cancelled after the quake and are not coming back, he says via a translator.
Korean arrivals for the whole of Tohoku in the third quarter of 2012 were only 22 per cent of their 2010 levels, while Singapore had 38 per cent and Hong Kong just 16 per cent.
In contrast, American, Russian, Thai and Malaysian arrivals were above 90 per cent of their 2010 levels for the third quarter. Australia and China were above 70 per cent while Taiwan had 51 per cent.