Tourism and retailing industry officials are desperate to get the following message across: Come back to Japan, it's safe.
An all-out effort is under way to lure Chinese travelers.
Hato Bus Co. restarted a Tokyo tour with a Chinese-speaking guide on Oct. 2 after a six-month hiatus. The resumption of services was timed to coincide with weeklong holidays in China from Oct. 1, the country's National Day.
The tour had been suspended since April following the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake.
“You can see the Tokyo Sky Tree over there. It is the world's tallest broadcasting tower, surpassing China's Guangzhou Tower,” a Chinese guide said at a dock in Tokyo's Asakusa district for a sightseeing boat on the Sumidagawa river.
Thirty travelers from Dalian, Shenzhen and other Chinese cities snapped pictures.
The bus tour brought them to the Imperial Palace, Asakusa and the Tokyo Tower.
Liu Yinghua, a 31-year-old employee of a Japanese-affiliated transportation company in Shanghai, said she was worried about radiation until she was reassured by her colleague in Japan that there is no cause for concern.
“If the notion that Japan is all right spreads by word of mouth after travelers on the current tour return, that will provide a spark for recovery (in Chinese tourists),” said Ma Jun, a 32-year-old bus guide.
Hato Bus will continue to organize the tour with a Chinese-speaking guide four times a week for the time being.
“The tour will be forgotten if it remains to be suspended,” a company spokesperson said.
On Oct. 2, Asakusa's Nakamise shopping street was far less crowded than it was before the March 11 earthquake.
“The strong yen came after the earthquake,” said Ichiro Morita, 52, who operates a souvenir shop. “Business is still far from what it once was, although it has picked up from April.”
At electronics retailer Laox Co.'s main store in Tokyo's Akihabara district, 31 buses dropped off Chinese tourists on Oct. 2.
It was the largest number of buses since the earthquake. Eighteen came the previous day.
Fifty Chinese-speaking clerks are at hand during the National Day holidays.
“We want to regain the lost business as much as possible before we close books in December,” said store manager Tomohiko Okano.
Pan Qi, a 29-year-old employee of a securities house in Jiangsu province, spent 50,000 yen ($650) on a hair iron, a rice cooker and other products on Oct. 1.
Pan said she had been wondering whether it was the right time to visit, given the earthquake, but decided to come anyway because she had wanted to see Japan for a long time.
“When I arrived in Tokyo, I found that streets are clean and calm. I am glad I came,” Pan said.
Tour buses began returning to the Laox main store in July, and at least 10 buses came daily through September. Still, many seats were vacant.
The store expects 6,000 Chinese tourists during the National Day holidays, compared with 10,000 during the same period last year.
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