Opinion: InsideJapan's James Mundy talks Japan after the tsunami
A lot has been written about Japan over the last six months, but I want to put the record straight.
It is fair to say that Japan has had a very tough 2011. After its biggest earthquake and tsunami in history on March 11 and the Fukushima crisis that followed, Japan saw an incredible amount of coverage across the media with images of destruction and tales of catastrophe with a nuclear meltdown on a scale likened only to Chernobyl.
What has been less prevalent in the papers is the good news. We have battled to provide a more balanced account of the situation in Japan during and after this terrible sequence of events and are keen to make people aware of the beauty and rich cultural experience that can be had travelling around this rather large country.
Contrary to sensationalised reports in the western media, Japan is very safe. The country is huge, made up of more than 6000 islands and is comparable in land mass to Germany with the vast majority completely unaffected by the events earlier this year.
The tsunami affected region and Fukushima power plant are in the far north east of Japan, many miles from the countries more classic destinations such as Tokyo (170 miles), Kyoto (495 miles), Miyajima Island (690 miles) and the tropical Okinawa Islands (1200 miles).
Tourists are trickling back to Japan and returning to the west full of praise, enthusiasm and amazing travelling tales from this truly unique country.
Travellers talk of fantastic cultural experiences, a stunning country and super-friendly people literally going out of their way to welcome foreign visitors. Japan wants you to visit and there are more reasons to do it now rather than later.
Japan is currently looking forward to the pleasant autumn months when the maple leaves turn mountainsides and temple gardens red and gold from late October to late November.
The ‘Koyo’ (autumn leaf peeping) season is a highlight of the year to rival the famous cherry blossom of early spring.
The winter months are cold but guarantee perfect powder snow in the northern island of Hokkaido for some of world’s best skiing and beautiful images across the country.
Although tourism to Japan is back on the increase due to some good flight deals and accommodation prices, the tourist spots are still relatively empty meaning cultural experiences are richer than ever and the welcome is very warm indeed.
This is all coupled with a variety of amazing locations, such as the cultural capital of Kyoto, national parks such as Hakone in the foothills of Mt. Fuji and Okinawan sub tropical islands, the co-existence of the traditional and ultra modern in the Metropolis of Tokyo and countless ‘hidden gems’ en-route. Travelling on the sleek bullet train is a pleasure, the Japanese food is delightful, the service is second-to-none and everyday brings a new and enjoyable experience.
I urge anyone looking for an inspiring cultural experience to look no further than Japan and now is definitely the time to see it at its best.
We have seen an increase in people wanting to travel on their organised small group tours with sales for August at 104% of 2010 and although self guided adventures and FIT sales are at approximately 85% of the same time last year, they have seen steady increases each month since spring 2011 and expect to hit ‘normal’ levels by the end of November.
The peak spring cherry blossom season looks set to be a bumper year for 2012 with those that missed out after the tsunami keen to witness the beauty for themselves. Autumn 2011 and beyond provide numerous reasons to enjoy a cultural adventure like no other and now is definitely the time to travel and experience Japan.
There is only one Japan, it is completely safe and the Land of the Rising Sun is shining again.