Disaster areas, tourism and reconstruction
“I would like to visit disaster areas but there is nothing I can do now. Is it alright to go there just for sightseeing?” asked one of the supporters living in Tokyo the other day.
More than two years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred on March 11, 2011. In the disaster areas, some say that it is hard to think about Tourism because there still are many serious problems to be solved, such as group relocation from the areas devastated by earthquake and tsunami, reconstruction of buildings and infrastructure, construction of coastal levees and windbreaks, preservation of architectural remains from the disaster, disposal of disaster waste and so on.
Many of the disaster areas were not tourist spots but residential areas or fishing villages, so the local residents are still puzzled to see many people from other areas visiting there.
On the other hand, one of the remarkable challenges for reconstruction is to prevent depopulation of the area, which had been progressing even before the disaster, by rediscovering the fascination of the area and attracting as many people as possible from inside and outside of the area. For this purpose, a far-sighted tourism revitalization plan is being developed and implemented now, so that the vitality of the local communities can be maintained into the future; 5 years, 10 years and beyond. The plan is a joint effort between public and private sectors and combines various resources such as the beautiful scenery and delicacies that are peculiar to the Sanriku region, geographical connection with famous tourist sites, and relationship with volunteers, which started after the disaster.
Many shops and restaurants that were lost in the tsunami are already reopening in temporary shopping malls one after another, and towns are becoming busy again. Moreover, various efforts are being made, which include attempts to keep the memories of the disaster from fading, such as volunteer-guided tours and Kataribe Taxi, and development and sales of products using local produces and materials. [Kataribe taxi drivers take tourists to places where the scars of disaster still remain and describe what actually happened there.]
These attempts represent the feelings of the people, such as: “Please don’t forget the memories of the disaster” and “Let’s reconstruct our beautiful town once again.
Whether or not you have visited the disaster areas before, please come and feel the air of reconstruction in progress.
In this monthly report, we will report the outcome of the Kesennuma City Strategic Meeting for Tourism, which was launched in March 2012, and the activities of Civic Force, which have been supporting the management of meetings and formulation of the strategies. [Kesennuma City in Miyagi prefecture was severely damaged by the earthquake disaster.]
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