Tourism During Disasters

July floods and landslides have seriously affected many areas in Japan from Kyoto to Kyushu. Climate change has created the worst storms in history, locals report they have never experienced anything as bad. The extreme weather began around the 4th of July. Even now, almost a week later, and major cities are still in emergency evacuation and recovery mode. I’ve been asked by visitors if they should change their travel plans to come to the area, or leave sooner than planned, and I would have to say YES. This is not a good time to travel to this area seeking out great experiences and sightseeing.

If you are staying somewhere and an emergency weather alert is given, or there is an earthquake, head to a high and dry area nearby. JNTO gives general advice here. Most public schools in Japan (elementary to university) are designated evacuation zones. Public halls (kominkan) are also good to seek out if you need to evacuate. In a hotel, follow the advice of local staff; in a rented home (like AirBnB) make sure you sleep on the 2nd floor or higher if possible. Stay as far away from rivers, streams and drains as possible and even the roads are not safe in a flood as they often become waterways.

If you haven’t traveled to the area yet, if possible, please do change your plans and don’t come into an area that has been hit. There are a lot of wonderful areas around Japan that have not been affected by typhoons or extreme weather which would be a much better place to visit now. Leaf through a good Japan travel guide or ask at a travel agency or information center for their recommendations. It really wouldn’t be as fun and rewarding an experience as if you came when the area has in a state of emergency or even recently recovered. Your trip would be so much more rewarding to come when things are running as efficiently as usual.

At the moment, in the Chugoku and Shikoku and Kyushu areas, public trains, buses and trams have many lines stopped and there is more traffic congestion on roads. The roads should be kept clear for volunteer and professional clean-up crews if possible. There are also food shortages. Supermarkets, convenience stores, and even Costco are out of milk, bread, rice balls and the normal conveniences that locals rely on. Adding more people to the area using local resources increases the strain on supply.

If you are keen to come and volunteer to help with the clean-up activities, there are regular get-togethers to dig mud and rocks out of people’s houses and streets in areas badly affected. Volunteers are advised to wear long sleeves and long trousers as well as good sturdy boots (or at least rubber boots). Good work gloves, refillable water bottles, goggles or sunglasses, suncream and bug repellant and a hat are also recommended. It’s possible to use google translate to help find information on volunteering activities and opportunities to lend a hand.

Donations are also being received by PeaceWinds Japan via bank transfer or credit card (in Japanese). The Red Cross and YMCA’s across Japan are also receiving donations to help those in need. It is possible to donate via bank transfer, or to drop by with a donation at one of their branches. Soon there will be collection boxes at convenience stores and other shops around Japan.

Author: ambassador

Long-time Japan resident teacher, writer, consultant and traveler passionate about promoting the three pillars of sustainable tourism in Japan (People-Planet-Profits). Research focused on sustainability-focused innovation in business and how sustainable policy, management and planning strategies can positively influence tourism in Japan.

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