All that’s missing is the foreigners in this five-star Shibuya landmark that normally hosts tens of thousands of overseas visitors every year.
A lone American couple says they nearly cancelled their trip. “Our daughter is teaching here -- it if wasn’t for that, we wouldn’t have come,” explains John Heddens, who waits in the lobby with his wife, Mindy, for the airport shuttle .
“My concern is that the government doesn’t seem to be forthcoming about the radiation.”
More than eight weeks since the March 11 mega-quake sparked Japan’s worst crisis since World War II, tourism is still on its knees. The number of foreign guests staying at the Tokyu is down by half, according to its marketing manager Takayuki Yamano -- a pattern repeated throughout Japan.
“I’ve been here for 10 years and we’ve been through 9/11 and SARS and this is by far the worst,” he explains.
Just three months ago, the Japan Tourist Agency was predicting a bumper crop, with over 9 million people forecast to visit the country in 2011 -- up from 8.6 million in 2010.Statistics from March, the latest available, suggest that figure is not remotely attainable. Year-on-year figures for the month were down by 50.3 percent, with the number of foreign travelers plummeting from 679,500 to 352,800.
Visitors from South Korea, Japan’s biggest source of tourists, were down by 47 percent, while fully two-thirds fewer Germans came in March. (read more)