JR, 6 Tohoku prefectures to stage joint tourism blitz from April 2021

5 April 2019

The Japan Railways group will join six prefectures in Japan’s northeastern region of Tohoku, including Fukushima, in conducting a major tourism promotion blitz dubbed “Destination Campaign (DC)” from April 2021. The six-month campaign will be the longest in a series of such drives in which the JR group’s six member companies select priority campaign areas to attract tourists from across the country. JR and the relevant prefectural governments are set to jointly devise tour schemes over the next two years ahead of the campaign's launch. Fukushima intends to use the opportunity to draw inbound tourists from abroad and dissipate reputation damage stemming from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, ensuing tsunami and nuclear meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant.

JR officials, the prefectures’ governors and other parties concerned outlined the campaign at a joint press conference on April 4 in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. The drive is aimed at encouraging travelers to visit the Tohoku region, including inbound tourists from abroad who are expected to increase further because of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. It will be the JR group’s first DC covering the entire Tohoku region since its privatization in 1987, according to the Sendai branch office of East Japan Railway Co.

JR and the Tohoku prefectures will set up a preparatory organization by around September this year, kick-starting consultations on a campaign slogan and how to organize the drive, among other issues.

In preparation for the DC campaign, the Fukushima government will cooperate with local municipalities and tourism organizations in sending out information on how the prefecture looks after a decade of progress in reconstruction from the earthquake and nuclear disaster. It will promote a package tour dubbed “Hope Tourism” that allows travelers a first-hand look at the current status of disaster-affected areas as part of efforts to improve preparedness to accept visitors. Preparatory efforts will also include events drawing attention to Fukushima-brewed “sake” rice wine, with its reputation growing at home and abroad, as well as abundant nature and cultural traditions. The prefecture will also map out plans showcasing areas along the disaster-ravaged Joban Line, which JR East is seeking to fully restore in fiscal 2019 ending next March, and the Tadami Line scheduled to fully open in fiscal 2021, in an effort to increase passengers on both lines.

The JR side plans to operate special trains, such as the “FruiTea” train offering “traveling cafe” service, on lines in the Tohoku region while developing box lunches, confectionery and souvenirs featuring local products. It also envisions running special trains across neighboring prefectures to help tourists travel as widely as possible throughout the region. To publicize the campaign, JR will display posters at railway stations across Japan, distribute guidebooks and offer related package tours, among other measures

In Fukushima Prefecture, five DCs have been conducted since JR’s privatization. In the “Fukushima Destination Campaign” in April-June 2015, about 13.62 million tourists visited the prefecture, marking a rise of some 1.51 million from the same period of the previous year and generating spillover economic effects estimated at 29.5 billion yen.

At the joint press conference, the JR side delivered a letter notifying its decision on the campaign to each prefectural leader, including Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori. Also present were his counterparts Takuya Tasso of Iwate, Yoshihiro Murai of Miyagi, Norihisa Satake of Akita and Mieko Yoshimura of Yamagata as well as Yuji Aoyama, vice governor of Aomori.

“Harmful rumors persist,” Uchibori told reporters after the event. “We would like to seize the opportunity offered by the DC to enliven Fukushima and the rest of Tohoku,” he added, indicating his intention to take necessary measures such as improvements in secondary transportation routes linking stations to tourist spots.

【Photo】(From right to left, beginning 2nd person from right) Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori, Yamagata Gov. Mieko Yoshimura, Akita Gov. Norihisa Satake, Miyagi Gov. Yoshihiro Murai and Iwate Gov. Takuya Tasso pose together with Vice Aomori Gov. Yuji Aoyama (extreme right) at a hotel in Sendai on April 4, pledging a successful Tohoku DC.

(Translated by Kyodo News)