Fukushima tourism making strong progress on recovery

[Translated by the Japan Times] Tourism in Fukushima Prefecture approached a milestone in fiscal 2015 after recovering to nearly 90 percent of where it was before the nuclear disaster unfolded in March 2011, the prefectural government said in a recent tourism report. In the year ended March 31, the prefecture saw 50.31 million tourists visit its resorts, sightseeing spots and leisure facilities, data compiled by the Fukushima Prefectural Government showed earlier this month. That’s an increase of 3.42 million on the year before and nearly 90 percent of its tourism tally in fiscal 2010, when 57.17 million tourists visited, the report said. It is also the first time the annual threshold of 50 million has been achieved since 2011, when the Great East Japan Earthquake tipped the Fukushima No. 1 power plant into a triple core meltdown on March 11. Fukushima officials praised their promotion drive, dubbed the “Fukushima Destination Campaign,” for bearing fruit. The campaign allows its municipalities to tap the transport resources of the Japan Railway group across the country. “We will work to draw more tourists by analyzing the effect of the Destination Campaign,” said a Fukushima prefectural official in charge of tourism promotion. In a surprise, the Soma-Futaba region in eastern Fukushima, along the Pacific coast, drew 2.65 million tourists in fiscal 2015, up 59.9 percent from last year, the report said. Officials say the opening of a key part of the Joban Expressway between the Tomioka and Namie interchanges in March 2015 facilitated the surge. Indeed, the number of people who used drive-in facilities was 33.4 percent higher than last year, the report said. The opening of new leisure facilities and the resumption of some onsen (hot spring) spas that suspended business in the wake of the disasters also contributed, the officials said. Tourists were most attracted by the grand nature of Fukushima Prefecture, the data showed. The top spot in fiscal 2015 remained the Bandai Kogen highlands in the north, which drew 2.18 million visitors, up 4.6 percent from the year before.