Fukushima to draw up cuisine-focused tour courses for travelers from abroad

6 May 2019

The Fukushima prefectural government plans to draw up within this fiscal year, ending next March, model wide-area tour courses focused on "sake" rice wine, local dishes and other "cuisine" matching the palates of travelers from abroad, with those from Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and Australia deemed as priority targets. With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in sight, the local government hopes to call attention to Fukushima's easy access from the capital region to encourage foreign tourists to extend their travel plans to the prefecture in a bid to accelerate inbound travelers.

The prefecture invited travel agency representatives and other parties concerned from abroad to visit Fukushima on monitoring tours for foreign travelers for three years from fiscal 2016. Invited were a total of 657 people from Taiwan, Thailand, China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Australia. It analyzed their preferences for meals, natural landscapes and tourist spots.

The local government found that travelers from Taiwan tend to favor the "Kitakata" brand of "ramen" noodles, scenic landscapes along the Tadami Line of the Japan Railways group and cherry blossoms, among other local tourism resources. Popular among visitors from Vietnam are fruit, cherry blossoms and tourist spots such as Shimogo town's Ouchi-juku that used to be a post town in Edo period. Travelers from Australia are interested in sake, "soba" noodles and snow (skiing). Given these trends, Fukushima will draft model tour courses combining cuisine and tourist spots favored by inbound travelers.

Fukushima is set to map out tour plans focused on a two-day trip, including travel time, on the strength of easy access from the Tokyo metropolitan region requiring only about 80 minutes to visit Fukushima on bullet trains on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line. It will assist tourist facilities around popular sightseeing spots in developing fast food-like local specialties readily available. Increasing opportunities for foreign visitors to try Fukushima food is expected to lead to dissipating bad reputation of local food ingredients stemming from the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Based on model tour courses drawn up, Fukushima will put muscle into efforts to draw attention to the local allures by opening booths at travel fairs to be held in the Tokyo metropolitan region and sending out information through social networking services. It will also ask the Tokyo region's regional governments, travel agencies and other parties to include information on tourism in Fukushima in leaflets they publish.

Travelers from abroad once concentrated in the Tokyo metropolitan region but are beginning to spread to other regional areas of Japan in recent years, according to an organization known as "Tokyo & Around Tokyo" set up by Tokyo and 10 nearby prefectures, including Fukushima, together with travel agencies and other concerned parties to promote tourism in the wider Kanto region centering on Tokyo. An official of the group says that "inbound travelers will increase and also become repeaters as regional entities promote the attractiveness of their new tourism resources."

According to the Japan Travel Agency's final data on the cumulative number of travelers from abroad who stayed one or more nights at accommodation facilities, including small ones, Fukushima accepted 130,300 such visitors in 2017. Tokyo had 19,775,890 such foreign visitors that year, the largest number among Japan’s 47 prefectures, while Chiba saw 3,675,180, Kanagawa 2,336,510 and Saitama 219,440.

(Translated by Kyodo News)