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
TEXT SIZE - +

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, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid