Japan to Offer 10,000 Free Trips to Foreign Visitors in a Bid to Bump Its Moribund Tourist Trade, But It May Not Help How Japanese Really Feel About Nuclear Power and Their Government

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I was revising the page at right regarding news of the aftermath of the Tohoku Earthquake from the Soka Gakkai and its members, and particularly from Gakkai leaders like President Ikeda, when I came across this news.  Frankly, I’m a bit revolted.  Ya know, this seems a lot like Grey Line and other tourist concerns conducting trips into the Ninth Ward of New Orleans for people to see the destruction wrought by the levee breaks for themselves.  Because I can see many of us here in the United States readying their passports to glom onto this opportunity.  The Japanese Tourism Agency will ask where visitors would like to go, and I have no doubt that many will attempt to go to those stricken areas around Sendai, preferably not too near the nation’s version of Chernobyl

Japan will offer 10,000 foreigners free airfares to visit the country next year, in an attempt to boost the tourism industry which has been hit by the ongoing nuclear disaster, a report said Monday.

The Japan Tourism Agency plans to ask would-be travellers to submit online applications for the free flights, detailing which areas of the country they would like to visit, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said.

The agency will select the successful entrants and ask them to write a report about their trip which will be published on the Internet.

Tourism authorities hope that positive reports from travellers about their experiences in Japan will help ease international worries about visiting the country, the newspaper said.

The programme, which will require travellers to cover other costs such as accommodation, is expected to start from next April, subject to government budgetary approval.

The number of foreign tourists to Japan fell more than 50 percent year-on-year during the three months after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that triggered meltdowns and explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

I have no idea whether the tourist trade revived in the Crescent City because of these nosey, disrespectful forays into other people’s misery, degradation and backyards (there were withering bodies that were still inside shattered homes for months and months).  Those who stuck it out even when most were sent on the Katrina Diaspora or gradually made their way back home from other closer locales were at the mercy not only of Nature‘s rage, but from the results of inaction by government–city, state, Federal–to protect their own citizens.

New Orleans, however, is not a small country.  For the first time ever, Japanese anger from all classes is being focused on their own government–and also at the entire structure of political power in their country–for lying to them.  And it hasn’t yet let up.  The radiation poisoning of their food stuffs, their soil, their fish, their people is something that they had not anticipated.  And for them, their country is practically sacred.  Imagine the outrage when it was revealed that 67,000 schoolchildren were fed potentially radioactive beef  by their schools.   Thousands of people are still homeless or displaced.  This is not like the aftermath of World War II.  Or of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  There is a lot of Japan still standing to see and appreciate, but the damage continues to be felt in ripples.

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And receiving compensation from Tepco, which runs the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, is proving to be long, arduous, and nearly impossible to get, thus stoking the  frustration many former residents feel.  Tepco recently asked the Japanese government for funds to payout compensation to the tune of $9.1 billion dollars or they will go under, but this bailout is coming with some conditions.  Other Japanese feel that it is a foregone conclusion that the government and the utility companies (and even the media) are in cahoots to exonerate themselves, while the citizens are hung out to dry.  And I repeat, it is not just people on the left that are saying this.

Seven months after the triple meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, Tepco owes around ¥3.6 trillion (or $28.8 billion dollars) in compensation to the tens of thousands who lived close to the plant.

The payments could send the utility into bankruptcy, a government panel recently said. At minimum, they will handcuff the firm for years, forcing it to cut jobs, sell its assets and perhaps raise electricity rates for its 29 million customers.

But [Masato] Muto, 40, views the payments as a way for Tepco to finally help, rather than antagonize, evacuees. The power company began sending evacuees their first compensation checks Oct. 5.

“The people who come here are furious — furious — about what happened,” Muto said. “They have a thorn stuck in their heart. A lot of people tell me: ‘I want to go home as soon as possible. I want my life back.’ What can I do? Well, the best way to help is to let them vent their anger.”

So Muto bows to the evacuees, dropping to his knees and apologizing. “This is the first step for us, to then have a conversation about compensation.”

The compensation process has drawn ridicule. Beginning last month, Tepco distributed to evacuees not only the meaty application pamphlet but also a 156-page instruction manual. Lawmakers criticized the application form as needlessly complicated; even Muto acknowledges it’s too long.

Most evacuees, Muto said, cannot finish the application by themselves. They often need at least two hours of consultation at one of the four Tepco assistance centers in Fukushima Prefecture.

The application for compensation itself is 60 pages long.  Imagine how it is for many elderly people, some without younger family to support them, to spend hours poring over this thing.

In the second instance, another utility, the Kyushu Electric Power Company was found recently to have manipulated public hearings by using employees to masquerade as ordinary citizens to drum up support for nuclear power and new nuclear power plants.  The company even shrugged off an independent report that revealed their duplicity.

Hey, who am I?  I’d love to go to Japan myself.  But folks oughta know what they are really getting into.  For starters, you’re going to have to eat their food for a week or so, and as much as I love sushi, the idea of hot tuna does not exactly fill me with confidence.  And let me tell you another fact: tourism usually lies.  It’s an exercise in some duplicity itself, despite the openness suggested by the word, sightseeing.   Your eyes may be lying to you right there.  Real disclosure about the importance and meaning of certain sites is dressed up for tourists who usually fail to read up.  Visitors accept information at face value.   This is why I admire the likes of  Rick Steves, who’d rather know the people rather than just the places he visits, encouraging people to get off of the regular tourist roads, and even the roads that he has blazed.

Not a few Japanese nationals residing here and Japanese Americans who are bilingual have been going “home” to Japan to help with humanitarian efforts.  I know of one such couple who are doing this for a specific length of time.  If anything, if you do decide to participate in this program or to go to Japan on your own, don’t just go to gawk at people’s misery and at the destruction.  Go and help, and also go to learn more about them and their history and culture.  Don’t contribute further to the disrespect.  And have a good time.

~ by blksista on October 31, 2011.

2 Responses to “Japan to Offer 10,000 Free Trips to Foreign Visitors in a Bid to Bump Its Moribund Tourist Trade, But It May Not Help How Japanese Really Feel About Nuclear Power and Their Government”

  1. Arigato for the commentary and a very interesting connection to the plight of many that found themselves destitute due to natural disasters. It will be interesting to see how Japan “fixes” the damage to its nation, image and people.

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  2. airin anata reblogged this on airin anata.

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