45 groups apply for “Hope Tourism” in Fukushima, double FY2017 level

17 December 2018

A total of 45 groups adding up to some 1,400 people applied in fiscal 2018 for participation in a package tour dubbed “Hope Tourism,” designed to have visitors learn the status of recovery in Fukushima Prefecture from the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant as well as the realities of areas ravaged by the disaster, according to prefectural government data. The number of applicant groups almost doubled from 23 (about 600 people) in fiscal 2017 ended in March 2018.

The local government traced the uptrend to increased numbers of high schools and other institutions joining the tour for educational travel. It plans to ramp up efforts to attract more visitors by making the rounds of schools across Japan in publicity campaigns.

The Hope Tourism project was launched in fiscal 2016 under the sponsorship of the prefectural government, with the Fukushima Tourism & Local Products Association undertaking planning and management. In the first year, a group of 35 students (from two high schools outside the prefecture) visited Fukushima in the form of a monitoring trip, touring the Ukedo area of Namie town, the Fukushima Prefectural Center for Environmental Creation in Miharu town and other places. They listened to “storytellers,” who are actually engaged in agriculture and reactor decommissioning work and acting as guides, speak of their experience in the disaster and exchanged views. In fiscal 2018, 24 groups visited Fukushima and 21 others are scheduled to come as of Dec. 3.

According to the prefecture, high schools and others that have visited Fukushima continue to do so while other high schools and universities increasingly join the tour for the first time after learning of it by word of mouth. The school side appears to think that a tour of affected areas and subsequent deeper understanding of their present situations help boost awareness of disaster prevention and nurture human resources associated with such consciousness.

The prefecture plans to boost the number of storytellers from about 30 at present to 50-100 in line with increasing group visitors. It will also undertake a nationwide publicity blitz focused on preparatory schools, among other targets.

“This is a good opportunity for students themselves to consider disaster prevention, the effects of the nuclear accident, etc.,” said Asahi Katada Son, a teacher at Nada Junior and Senior High School in Hyogo Prefecture, which applied for participation in the Fukushima tour for the third straight year. “We would like to participate as a school in the future as well.”

(Translated by Kyodo News)