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Fukushima takes camping to a whole new level of luxury with ‘glamping’

15 October 2017

[Translated by the Japan Times]“Glamping” - i.e., camping but with the comforts of modern amenities - has been growing in popularity in Fukushima Prefecture as more people look to bring a new level of luxury to the great outdoors.

Koriyama-based Magonote Travel hosted a one-day tour in mid-September to introduce cushy ways to take in the splendors of Shidahama Beach on Lake Inawashiro.

Around 40 people from and around the city of Koriyama took part in the tour, co-organized by Fukushima University associate professor Akiko Endo’s laboratory.

The participants gathered in Koriyama before heading to the beach by bus. Those who live in the city were also provided with taxi services between their homes and the gathering spot.

The glamping excursion itself took place at a private beach located next to a local hotel, Lakeside Banko, in Shidahama Beach. Wooden sofas, tables and beds were placed at the campsite by the lake near the beach, giving the area a tropical feel.

The glampers enjoyed beer, wine, highballs and soft drinks at a bar while they waited for marshmallows to roast by a campfire.

The tour also included 3½ hours of special activities, including stand-up paddle boarding, yacht cruising, hands and feet aroma massage and hot spring bathing at the Lakeside Banko hotel.

Those who joined the yacht cruise, conducted in cooperation with the Koriyama Yacht Club, were excited to sail under the gaze of Mount Bandai, with many saying it was their first time on such a vessel.

Aroma massage was also popular among women, who made up 80 percent of the participants, as it afforded them a way to unwind amid nature.

After the glampers worked up at appetite during their chosen activities, it was then time for the much-awaited sunset dinner.

Hot meals were prepared in a kitchen car and served buffet style. Basking in the warm glow of the sunset, the guests enjoyed the dishes that featured seasonal vegetables from Koriyama.

“We don’t have to bother about preparing our own meals. So we can all relax and enjoy the outdoors,” said Yukiko Takita, a 72-year-old company executive who participated in the event. “It’s also nice to be able to enjoy freshly baked food prepared in a kitchen car.”

Using the monitoring tour as a stepping stone, Magonote Travel is planning to introduce similar tours across Fukushima.

“We are planning take the kitchen car not only to glamping sites but also to farms and orchards to host food camps,” said Shonoshin Yamaguchi, 47, president of Magonote. “We want to spread the appeal of Fukushima in new styles.”

For inquiries, call Magonote Travel: 024-945-1313.

13 October 2017

Fukushima to subsidize 14 groups for plans to draw foreign tourists

The Fukushima prefectural government is set to assist private-sector organizations in hot-spring resorts, tourist spots and other places seeking to attract visitors from abroad. On Oct. 12, it adopted "inbound travel acceleration package projects" for integrated subsidization of tourist-attracting programs in the software and hardware segments drawn up by 14 groups, including local tourism associations.

The local government will bear all expenses of software projects, such as the development of a hands-on experience program for foreign travelers, the preparation of a map for sightseeing tours and the dissemination of information abroad, regarding them as undertakings commissioned by the prefecture. It will cover up to half the cost of hardware projects, including the establishment of Wi-Fi facilities aimed at making Internet searches during trips easy and the display of signboards in multiple languages.

Among the groups selected for subsidization is the Higashiyama Onsen Tourism Association in Aizuwakamatsu city, which plans to develop "samurai" warrior experience programs and conduct an overseas promotion campaign featuring the traditional culture of "geigi" (the local term for geisha). Another example is the Tsuchiyu Onsen Tourism Association for Regional Development Promotion in Fukushima city, which is to foster guides for a shrimp-fishing experience program. Most of the 14 groups are seeking to draw tourists mainly from Thailand and Taiwan. The prefecture will produce a promotional video to publicize local attractions such as beautiful scenery, hot spas, culture and food.

While the number of foreign travelers to Japan is rising as a whole, Fukushima faces the challenge of improving its environment for accommodating visitors from abroad and boosting its allure as a tourist destination. Against that background, the local government has set aside about 110 million yen for tourism promotion in its general account budget for fiscal 2017 ending next March.

According to a Japan Tourism Agency survey covering lodging establishments having 10 or more employees each, the number of foreigners who stayed overnight in Fukushima Prefecture was 71,260 in 2016, a level short of 87,170 logged in 2010, the year before the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

8 October 2017

Rakuten, Lawson to use drones for goods delivery in disaster-hit Fukushima city

Leading e-commerce operator Rakuten Inc. and major convenience store chain Lawson Inc. are set to begin jointly delivering goods using unmanned aerial drones on Oct. 31 in the Odaka district of Minamisoma city, Fukushima Prefecture. A Lawson moving sales vehicle will make the rounds of the district, take orders from local residents and, if a given product is not available, will arrange for it to be airlifted to the mobile shop by a Rakuten-developed drone from a Lawson store. An increasing number of evacuees are returning to the Odaka district for permanent residency following the lifting of an evacuation order issued after the 2011 nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. But the local community faces the challenging issue of a graying population. The project is intended to assist elderly people with limited access to shopping facilities by the use of state-of-the-art technology.

Based at Lawson’s Minamisoma-Odaka store, the mobile shop will travel to the Oya Community Center about 2.7 kilometers away for sale once a week. When goods ordered by shoppers are found to be unavailable from the sales vehicle, an employee will contact the store for delivery to the center by a drone.

Drone delivery takes about 7 minutes for goods weighing up to about 2 kilograms. Among products to be covered by the airlifting service are daily sundry goods such as nail clippers and funeral envelopes for condolence money as well as deep-fried food that cannot be prepared on the mobile shop, including popular “Kara-age Kun” chicken nuggets. The drone will shuttle on a fixed route along the Mae River, a tributary of the Odaka River, avoiding flight over private homes.

The mobile shop will operate in the Koyagi area on Wednesdays and in the Oya and Hansaki areas on Thursdays. Covered by the drone operation will only be the Oya Community Center on Thursdays. After verifying its effects during a six-month demonstration test, the Rakuten-Lawson team plans to expand it across Japan.

Minamisoma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai, Rakuten Chairman/President Hiroshi Mikitani and Lawson President Sadanobu Takemasu held a joint press conference in Tokyo on Oct. 6 to announce the drone project. “It will improve convenience of citizens, possibly offering an occasion where residents get together,” Sakurai said. “We would like to support it in an aggressive manner.”

(Translated by Kyodo News)

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