Japan Yesterday and Today: A Tourism Promo
February 28, 2017 3:21 PM   Subscribe

I think it's intended to get more tourists to visit the region just to the northeast of Tokyo, which includes Fukushima, but also the lesser-known prefecture of Ibaraki (I lived in Hitachi for a while in the 90's). The only thing I know about Tochigi is Nikko. Fukushima sounds like an interesting place to go to (great booze and Aizu Wakamatsu has some interesting history from the Bonin Wars), although Ibaraki is sorta suburban/industrial.

Japan is undergoing a massive, massive tourism boom right now, with plans to increase inbound visitors even more.

It's bananas, really. We'll be in Japan for three months this summer, and we're planning a few long weekend trips. It was impossible to find a hotel room for June or July in Matsue (near Izumo Taisha), so we gave up and planned another trip to Nagasaki instead. Although we found some lodgings, Nagasaki is also already sold out, basically. That's not surprising, since it's next to Taiwan and Korea, but, still... no vacancy five months in advance?

If you're planning a trip to Japan be sure to book early.
posted by My Dad at 3:40 PM on February 28, 2017 [7 favorites]

This reminds me of Soko ga Shiritai, which was almost always playing on KIKU when my Okinawan grandfather took me to his house after picking me up from school.

Which I mention mostly to say that Soko ga Shiritai is awesome, even though I'm sure most of the attractions they show off haven't existed for years, if not decades.
posted by tobascodagama at 4:02 PM on February 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Weird that most of the content is just links to google.co.jp. Guess the section videos devoured their budget.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:07 PM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Deep within the mountains of Japan, an administrative and tax collecting class, obsessed with poetry, drinking, an especially nihilistic version of Zen Buddhism, sneaking into kabuki shows, and pointless dueling STILL EXISTS.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:10 PM on February 28, 2017 [9 favorites]

I'm sold.
posted by Liquidwolf at 5:11 PM on February 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't know how to pause or stop it but I didn't want to.

If you change your mind, you can click on the "View on YouTube" thing in the corner, and use the player controls over there (it's all embedded YouTube videos).
posted by effbot at 5:37 PM on February 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

These prefectures slipped off of the tourist map after the nuclear disaster in 2011, and I commend their local tourist boards for drumming up interest. They're exquisitely beautiful, culturally rich areas. But snow country tourist board dudes, turn down the volume nob on the chanbara (samurai swordplay), please. Japan has enough problems right now with a prime minister whose administration sold land on the cheap to a militaristic kindergarden, during a period when his wife, Akie (BFF of Melania) served as the school's honorary principal. Like the rest of the world (it seems), Japan is going through a wave of nationalism, and--as we remember from WWII--in the eyes of many militant nationalists, samurais are its most potent symbol.
posted by Gordion Knott at 1:24 AM on March 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

Japan has stuff like this tuned for other countries in S. Asia to come visit Japan. Here's one for Thailand.
posted by lagomorphius at 10:27 AM on March 1, 2017

But snow country tourist board dudes, turn down the volume nob on the chanbara (samurai swordplay), please. [snip] Like the rest of the world (it seems), Japan is going through a wave of nationalism, and--as we remember from WWII--in the eyes of many militant nationalists, samurais are its most potent symbol.

So, I have mixed feelings about this comment. The video is kind of martial-arts-heavy. I presume this is because the snow-country tourist board dudes thought it would appeal to Americans. And so perhaps it's reasonable to argue that it might be more appealing if they pushed something other than martial arts as a reason to come visit.

But I still get a little of a bad taste from your comment and some others. In case it wasn't clear, the stuff shown in the video is not chambara (horseplay-ish swordplay). It switches back and forth between kendo, iaido, and kyuudo.* Those are all widely practiced in Japan, and are certainly not limited to "deep in the mountains", or to militaristic kindergartens. It's quite normal to see girls lugging their giant bows on the train in Tokyo, many elementary schools have a kendo club, and community dojos are certainly not all enclaves of right-wing nationalists. Sure, it's "pointless dueling", but only in the sense that baseball, hockey, and soccer are equally pointless duels.

The community dojo is actually pretty nice: People of multiple ability levels practice together, moms, dads, kids, grandpas; people who are more advanced help teach those who aren't. It's community physical activity; it does have more of a "spiritual" component than Western sports, but without the creepy-woo sort of baggage that comes along with the word "spiritual". Then, of course, there are more elite dojos, and police dojos (but again, this is part of police fitness, and not 'I'm a wanna-be samurai'). Kendo practice is certainly eye-catching; we get plenty of people who stop and stare through the windows at our practices in suburban Chicago and are clearly wondering wtf those nutcases with the masks and swords are doing. But it's not gross or brainwash-y or militant nationalistic.

None of this is to say that Japan doesn't have a problem with militant nationalists right now. It's just not fair to conflate that with the role martial arts play in the culture.

*Kendo is the fighting with the bamboo swords and blue armor, iaido is the swinging around a metal sword, kyuudo is the archery
posted by telepanda at 11:31 AM on March 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

The best advertising might be if TBS (meaning Turner not Tokyo) started broadcasting endless episodes of Abarenbō Shōgun late at night without any explanation just to see what happens.
posted by lagomorphius at 12:58 PM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

None of this is to say that Japan doesn't have a problem with militant nationalists right now.

I do wonder how much influence militant nationalists have on actual government policy in Japan. I think Abe is a pragmatist who throws red meat to the extreme right-wing rump he depends on, but it's entirely symbolic (and such symbolism is biting Abe in the ass right now).

If you compared Japan with other G7 countries and evaluated the country on liberalism, it would come in right in the middle of the pack, behind Germany and Canada, but ahead of the US, the UK and France.

In terms of the Iado schtick, it's sort of needed to market Japan to the outside world. Japan has just started to develop inbound tourism over the past five years. Most visitors only want what they know: Mount Fuji, Tokyo, Kyoto, samurai swords, all that stuff. It will take a while to educate the market about more original and unique aspects of Japan.
posted by My Dad at 9:06 PM on March 1, 2017

FWIW, I thought the video and the site were pretty good and better than many Japan tourism PR efforts. Japan is still trying to get its act together re inbound tourism, so some of the stuff is pretty crap. I think the generic Google Links to the destinations may be an attempt to not directly benefit any one business / site etc over another--there are a lot of competing stakeholders.

This is part of a general trend to try to draw all the inbound tourists away from the usual same-old, same-old itineraries. I just arrived at Haneda and they were promoting Iwate (also in the northeast) as a destination. There just aren't enough hotel rooms in Tokyo, Kyoto, and a few other popular spots. This can only be good for Japan in the long run. People return to France, Italy, the US, and such year after year because there are so many places to visit. Getting off the beaten track here used to be more difficult but it's getting easier all the time. And, anything that brings visitors and their ¥¥¥ to Fukushima is an unadulterated good thing as far as I am concerned. The whole prefecture has been painted with a very broad, toxic brush and people are still hurting economically.

Disclaimer: Mrs Gotanda just got back from leading a tour group to Niigata for 5 days. They had a blast.
posted by Gotanda at 9:13 PM on March 5, 2017

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