Japan Travel Update
Since the huge magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of the north eastern coast of Japan in March, we have had many clients contacting us concerned about the state of affairs in the country. Several members of our team have family members living in different regions of Japan and so together with our local partners and the Japan National Tourist Board, we have been assessing the situation and hope to share our considerations with you here.
Firstly, Japan is a very long country when compared to the UK and most other European countries, about 1900 miles from Okinawa to northern Hokkaido. The distances between badly hit regions and where our trips visit is large. The quake was hardly felt in the western cities of Kyoto and Hiroshima and these areas are entirely unscathed. Tokyo, 240 miles southwest of the epicentre, is the closest that our trips go, and although badly was rocked, the city sustained minimal damage. Short of some panic buying and electricity conservation strategies, the city was up and running as normal within days.
For very obvious reasons, the damage to the Fukushima nuclear power station (about 150 miles northeast of Tokyo) raised concerns for whole world. After the power plant’s failure, radiation levels spiked briefly but have since steadily been returning to normal. For the last month, Tokyo background radiation levels have averaged around 0.06-0.07 microsieverts per hour, a little higher than normal - about one quarter of the average level of background radiation experienced in the UK (about 0.25 microsieverts per hour, according to the UK Health Protection Agency). The damaged reactors will likely still need many months work before they can be considered completely benign, but their effect on radiation levels outside of their immediate locale is small.
Travellers to the country are finding that now is a great time to visit and a good chance to show support. Many international visitors have cancelled their trips and this has resulted in far fewer crowds at key attractions. The famously welcoming Japanese are even more so at the present, as they truly appreciate not only the financial support that tourism brings, but the more important moral support too. To encourage visitors, our local partners have offered us a discount for our next Ancient & Modern Japan itinerary in September.
None of this message is meant to detract from true calamity that hit the Northeast Coast of Japan on March 11th, but to reassure and encourage support for this stoic nation. Our thoughts are with those many, many families whose lives were devastated that terrible day in March.
For more information on the status of the transport and tourism infrastructure in Tokyo, please visit the following link to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s latest enewsletter.