April 01, 2012

Counting down....

It's April, which means that I can now start saying that next month I will be in Japan!

Small things make me easily happy :)

But, seriously, I am ridiculously excited about going back to Japan in May after almost 7 full years of not being there. The trip is part seeing friends and just being in Japan again visiting the places I lived in and basically picking up memories along the way. But it's also a trip to see the changes, to see the new and to discover unknown parts of Japan.

Seven years is a long time and a lot has happened which I am anxious to discover. I am especially looking forward to travelling around the Tohoku region, the northern part of the main island Honshu. I've always wanted to go there, have heard it's beautiful but also a little unknown.

And then just over a year ago the coast of Tohoku was hit by an earthquake, then a tsunami and then a nuclear disaster in one particular place. It has made me even more determined to visit. The region deserves more attention, and I have no doubt that tourism can be part of rebuilding the economy. And I hope to contribute to that at least a little.

Despite that, my regular choice of travel guides Lonely Planet doesn't seem to believe so. It's latest Japan publication dates from August 2011, so only a few months after the disaster. However, the prefectures that were hit by the earthquake and tsunami are deliberately NOT included in the book. I'm disappointed and shocked.

Leaving out three prefectures means leaving out valuable information about areas and towns in those prefectures that were not harmed by the earthquake/tsunami as that damage was mostly on the coast. But even if the choice would have been made to leave out the coastal areas this would be unfair to those areas: yes, it is impossible to be accurate on transport etc in these towns in a printed publication but using good referrals should make it much easier for travellers to find up to date information. The railcompany JR is working hard on getting their railways up and running again and the coast is becoming more and more accessible as this blogpost of a friend in Tokyo shows as well.

Hopefully Lonely Planet will improve the information on their website at least, so that other tourists will find their way to this region as well.

And in any case, I will surely be sharing my stories and pictures online.