Japanese Tourism Gets Real
Tuesday, December 5, 2006 Posted: 09:32 PM JST
Kansai is getting serious about so-called 'real-experience' tourism, which is helping to revive farming and fishing villages. Wakayama Prefecture, a pioneer in this field, now attracts more than 200,000 visitors annually. Many are attracted by real-experience tourism. The real-experience boom is partly thanks to the 'Wakayama Real Experience Club,' a non-profit organization headed by Hiroshi Tone. Tone believes that the era of package tours that rush you through tourist attractions and monuments, and tourism business that touts convenience and creature comfort is over.
With its unspoiled nature and many farm and fishing villages, Wakayama is perfectly placed to take advantage of this new trend. Wakayama now offers activities like logging and charcoal making, which are very popular among young people. Other activities that are replacing the traditional package tours are tuna-fish farming and angling, rice sapling planting and rice harvesting, as well as such back breaking activities as bagging of peaches and persimmons. Tone says that the secret of success lies in the feeling of achievement that people feel, and their emotional involvement.
Tone's club now consists of 400 members, including individual producers as well as groups such as the Japan Agricultural Cooperative Association (JA), forestry cooperatives, and municipal tourism associations. It instructs would-be hosts how to pass the skills of professionals on to visitors, while engaging in heart-to-heart exchanges with them. For school excursions it requires the preparation of teaching materials, thus building a foundation for educational tourism.
Four years since the launch of the club, there are approximately 300 programs, including outdoor sports, and historical and cultural experiences. This year, the programs have attracted some 40,000 visitors, of which 6,000 were students from 20 junior or senior high schools. Logging, charcoal making and fishery rank at the top in terms of popularity.
The activities of Tone and his group, however, do not aim to create a tourist destination. Their principal aim is to aid the visitor in re-discovering the charm and value of one's own work, while at the same time making them fans of the area, so they may eventually work or settle there.
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