In light of recent events, it’s understandable that many people who’ve made plans to visit Japan this year are either sitting on the fence or backing out completely. The sensationalist blather of the (often) untrustworthy media notwithstanding, there are certainly more than a few very real causes for concern that don’t involve meltdowns or aftershocks.
As with all decisions potentially involving threats to life or limb or convenience (the last point often being a critical element where leisure travel is concerned), it certainly pays to be cautious — and to be kept well informed. News sites remain a key source but, as I noted earlier, cannot be trusted completely; one should cast the net a little wider and haul in advice from other corners. For anyone seeking information captured and relayed from a foreign visitor’s perspective, the advice of fellow travellers (whether prospective or on-the-ground) is probably more valuable than most.
Small wonder, then, that I’ve spent the last couple of days following, with great interest, an active forum thread on the Japan Guide website. It revolves around a simple question:
The original poster included a response template that other users have eagerly picked up for their responses.
Are you still planning on going:
Original travel dates:
Have you had to reschedule & to when:
Concerns you have/had:
Benefits of still going:
Other key decision factors:
If you’re undecided, when will you decide:
Where will you be updating us of your time, if at all:
I haven’t posted a reply directly on that thread, but here’s what I have to say (using the points in the template provided):
Are you still planning on going: Yes, for the moment. I am prepared to adjust my plans depending on any major developments in the course of the next few months.
Original travel dates: Mid-late November 2011.
Have you had to reschedule & to when: No.
What areas: From the north, moving roughly south (not in exact geographical order): Hirosaki, Aomori (maybe), Tokyo, Matsumoto, Okayama, Kurashiki, Tsuwano, Yamaguchi (maybe), Matsuyama, Uchiko (maybe), Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Nagasaki.
Concerns you have/had: Transportation (or lack thereof) to/from the places I intend to visit, particularly Hirosaki and Aomori. The availability of basic supplies. The rolling blackouts. The possibility of my mere presence adding (in an infinitesimally small way perhaps but adding nonetheless) to the strain on public services in Tokyo and parts north. The threat of radiation reducing me to an amorphous heap of cinders. I’m optimistic that some or all of these issues will be sorted out in the several months between today and my planned visit, but one can’t tell for certain. In any case, if conditions in the north don’t improve, I shall probably press ahead with western/southern Japan, where the impact of recent events has been small to none.
Benefits of still going: I may need to quit my job next year to make room for six months or so of full-time studies, and will need the year after to look for another job and replenish what will by then be a badly depleted personal piggy bank. In other words, no pricey foreign holidays until 2014 or thereabouts. It’s now or never (or, to be precise, “now or not for a few years hence”). Also, as others have pointed out on the forum, my tourist cash probably counts in some way as a form of assistance to those who depend on foreign visitors for their livelihoods, and in the time they need it most (i.e. 2011 rather than later).
Other key decision factors: Any developments in the next few months that may affect the safety of foreign travellers in Japan.
If you’re undecided, when will you decide: I’m fairly dead-set on going for now, but I’ve got more than half a year to change my mind depending on what happens in the near future. Final decision by August or thereabouts, by which time I should start firming up arrangements.
Where will you be updating us of your time, if at all: Here on this blog.