News / Asia

Disasters, Strong Yen Dissuade Tourists from Visiting Japan

Visitors to Senso-ji in Asakusa tourism district, Tokyo
Visitors to Senso-ji in Asakusa tourism district, Tokyo

Multimedia

Audio

Japan's tourism industry has been knocked into a deep recession. Foreign tourists, who normally contribute about $16 billion annually to the economy, canceled planned visits after the March 11 earthquake and subsequent nuclear disaster devastated the northeastern part of the country.  The yen's surge this year against many other major currencies, including the U.S. dollar, has done further damage.



The buzz of cicadas outdoes the voices of subdued vendors on a hot August day at Sensoji Temple, one of Tokyo's top tourist attractions. The lane leading to the temple contains dozens of stalls selling souvenirs, snacks and cold drinks.

July and August are normally the peak months for foreign visitors to Sensoji and the rest of Japan. But this summer their numbers are noticeably fewer.

A soft drink seller makes a transaction with a Japanese tourist: 100 yen, that is $1.30, for a half-liter bottle of oolong tea.

The vendor, who did not want to reveal his name, laments such sales are not as frequent as they should be.

He says the season is not as bad as he might have feared. He explains that he has seen worse times in his 20 years on the job, but there is a noticeable drop this summer in the number of foreigners.

Standing along the curb in the Asakusa district in the 34 degree heat is rickshaw driver Ryuta Nishio. He charges tourists 3,000 yen for a ten-minute ride. At the current exchange rate that has soared to about $40.

Nishio says the number of riders has dropped about 30 percent this August compared to the same month last year. It is not only the number of foreigners that has declined, he says, but domestic tourists as well.

Slideshow: Tokyo tourism district

But some foreigners are overcoming concerns about lingering radiation, seismic aftershocks and a worsening exchange rate. The yen has gained about 8.5 percent on the U.S. dollar in the past six months.

Blaine Deitch, a retiree from southern California, says the trip has turned out to be worth every devalued dollar he has spent.  

"That does take a dip in your pocket. That's going to stop a lot of people from coming. It almost stopped me," notes Deitch. "But my wife wanted to come back, so here we are."

Taiwan college student Teng Changcheng is on a five-day visit to Japan with family. She says the situation seems to have improved in the country since the calamity five months ago.

Teng says her family did not worry about making the trip because the Japanese government now seems to have the nuclear crisis under control.

U.S. Marine Clayton Simpson is visiting from the U.S. state of North Carolina.

"Despite the disaster, I've always wanted to come, so we decided this year was the year," Simpson says. "All the sites have been great but the people they've been extremely helpful. We don't speak a lot of Japanese ourselves. They've been very nice and helpful and it's been a great experience."

Japan's major tourism organizations are running publicity campaigns to reassure visitors. One promotion says Tokyo's radiation levels are lower than those in New York, Hong Kong and other major destinations.

Some hotels are slashing room rates amid a continuing dip in bookings by foreign tourists, although business travelers are trickling back in.

Many in the travel industry believe, however, it could be another year before overseas leisure travel bookings return to previous levels. They warn the industry could suffer further setbacks if another damaging earthquake hits, or the strong yen continues to reach new record highs.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Kurdish service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs