2004 1. A Study on the Better Circumstances for Tourism, 2004.8.19 International Forum for NE Asea Tourism in Dalian, China

A Study on the Better Circumstances for Tourism

Hirohide Konami (PhD.)


Tokyo Jogakkan University

(This paper was presented in the International Forum on Tourism 

in North-East Asia, held on August 19-20, 2004 in Dalian City, China) 

1. Introduction

It is well known that the tourism is the biggest farm in the world economy and the most important industry for under developing countries to get job opportunities and foreign money. Japan is loosing about 30 billion US dollars annually in the world tourism account and contributing to the redelivery of foreign money to under developing countries by 3 times larger scale than the ODA budget. Unfortunately, tourism expenditure would be mostly in developed countries like USA and European Countries and may not be so much in Asian countries. 

Tourism contributes not only for the economy development but also the better understanding among various nations. There were about 70 or more political regions in Japan from 14th to 16th centuries and battling each other. But Japan does not experienced such inside battle since 17th century when Shogun Tokugawa established the central government except the Meiji Boshin Battle in the end of 19th century when three steam ships from USA came to Japan and requested to open the country to the world. This was the battle between Shogun Tokugawa side and the people who expected the better governance by the Japanese Emperor. Except this case, Japan could have enjoyed peace for 400 years with good transportation systems and tourism. This was supported by trunk roads, feeder roads, lodging towns, horse stations, ferry boats or shoulders, letter carriers, and so on. This suggests that the regions with good transportation system and communication would never battle because they could understand better and know that it would be much cleverer to help each other than the battling. This way of thinking would bring the large impact for the world peace if everybody notices and agrees to this fact. 

This report tries to realize the past and future circumstances for oversea tourism in Japan.

2. Governmental Control before the Boom of Oversea Trips

Since the beginning of 17th century, Japan had closed the county to the world and just opened the window at Nagasaki Port under the strict governmental control. This window was mainly opened for the information exchange between Japan and Netherlands. Therefore, Japanese people were almost innocent for the world change and just the high ranked politicians and academians were able to get foreign information through the small window and their official oversea trips. 

In 1968, Japanese new government named Meiji Government presided by Meiji Emperor was established and started the exchange of diplomats with USA, Russia, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Netherlands and some other advanced countries. The first Japanese passport was issued in 1866 for diplomatic purpose and many passports for immigrants to Hawaii and other countries were issues in late 19th century. At the same time, modern tourism by the nationwide railway system had been started to develop. But the oversea tourism was strictly under the governmental control until 1960s. 

3. The Boom of Oversea Trips and the Change of Circumstances 

In 1964, the upper carry-out limit of US dollars from Japan was 500 and not easy for Japanese people to travel abroad. But this was eased gradually and became 3000 US$ in 1971 and no limit in 1978. Then the oversea tourism of Japanese people boomed. The number of Japanese embarkation grew 10 times from 1 million in 1970 to 10 million in 1990. It is about 16 million in 2003. The worldwide popularization of discounted tickets propellered this tendency and pre-set group tours are going to be replaced by personal tours. This tendency was also promoted by the information exchange through Internet. Then it can be said that almost all of average Japanese people have no barrier to visit foreign countries except language problem. On the other hand, there are a lot of barriers for foreigners to visit Japan. They are as follows.

(1) Visa clearance

Japanese can enter almost all countries without visa except Australia (ETAS will be issued by airline companies), India, Vietnam, Russia, Brazil and some others. But Japan requires visa clearance for many countries except 59 countries with mutual visa exemption treaty. Almost all Asian people except from Brunei, Singapore, Hong Kong and Korea (just for school excursion trip only) are required to take visa to enter Japan. Visa requirement would be the biggest barrier for visitors especially for those people who plan to visit Japan. 

(2) Language problem

Japanese language consists of Kanji, Hiragana, Katakana and numbers. These are quite different from alphabet and difficult for foreigners to understand. It is also true that Japanese people are one of the poorest groups to understand English because there maybe no need for them to know English as far as they stay inside of the country. Every service can be done through Japanese language supported by the huge translation industries or persons to introduce foreign cultures and literatures. There maybe some dialects not understandable for average Japanese, but all Japanese people can understand Japanese of Tokyo version and they do not need the other common languages. This means that some foreigners may feel great inconvenience to communicate with Japanese people and feel difficult to come again.

(3) Expensive cost

Everything in Japan is expensive. For example, one ride of railway is one US dollar or more, a cup of beer costs 3 dollars, a cup of coffee costs 2 dollars, average dinner in restaurants would be 10 to 20 dollars, one night lodging in city hotels would be at least 50 dollars per person, if it is five star hotels, it would be 200 dollars per person, one ride of taxi for 1.5 kilometers is 6 dollars, gentlemen’s haircut would be 20 to 30 dollars, toll for expressways for 100 km would be 25 dollars, and so on. 

These would be extremely tall barrier for visitors and should be improved at least in the field of transportation and lodging for foreigners.

(4) Poor advertisement

Poor advertisement may be caused by the poor language capability of Japanese people. There are so many tour courses designed for Japanese in famous tour spots in the world but there are almost no tour courses in Japan designed for some target groups of some foreign countries. Therefore, it is necessary to prepare some limited tour route for some target groups such as Americans, Chinese, Koreans, French, English, Germany, Russians, Arabians and some Asia-Pacific groups. Of course, language, food and course management should be prepared carefully to fit their choice respectively.

It may be a good idea that the Japanese government is trying to get the school excursion groups from Asian countries such as China and Korea. This will contribute to deepen the mutual understanding and bring world peace in coming generation. 

4. What should be done?

The first thing we need would be the communication tool. What we should do at first would be the development of multi-language Japanese people to support advertisement, tours and trouble shooting. Especially, as English would be the most common language in the world, it is necessary to educate children in English. But there are still stupid discussions such as if we start English education in too young age, children may lose their identification of the country. Even in France we can now travel by using English.

The second would be the easement of visa clearance and other regulations. We must carefully analyze that which is more effective for the world peace, to close the country or open the country? The majority in Japan feel that the increase of foreign visitors will be the cause of crimes. It is true that some big scale robberies using a power shovel, a crane or big trucks may not be popular in traditional Japanese society. Even in Tokyo, we did not need door locks until 1950s. Important point is the fact that the number of foreigners in Japan is increasing quickly especially from China, Brazil and the Philippines and the increase of foreigner’s crime is comparatively not so big. Therefore, some conflicts during the transformation should be endured and it is necessary to analyze carefully on this matter.

The third would be the development of sound tourism agencies and programs together with the deep consideration for the daily life of the people living in tour spots. Everybody likes to get more money but does not like to have the sudden change of his daily life. 

The fourth would be the improvement of facilities such as airports, marine ports, highways, hotels and restaurants, and so on. There are two meanings in this improvement. One is of course physical improvement like the expansion of Tokyo International Airport and another is the improvement of their management such as charge, serving time, multi-language guide, and etc. The latter is going to be more important than the former.

The fifth would be the human development with the education in language and hospitality spirit. If there were no good leader in the region, most of the people would look for the larger benefit only and forget hospitality spirit. As a result, the number of repeaters would decrease and tourism would become deteriorated.

There maybe more kinds of recommendations but we must overcome the difficulties one by one carefully. Above five items would be the first step to develop the tourism in North-East Asian countries especially in Japan.

[Bio-data of Author]

Konami, Hirohide (Ph.D.): Born in Tokyo in 1942, graduated from the University of Tokyo, Department of Urban Engineering, and studied at Harvard University, Graduate School of Design from 1971 to 1972 as a Fulbrighter. After the governmental duty for 31 years as an urban engineer, worked for the Graduate School of Regional Development Studies, Toyo University for 7years as a professor and the president of the Institute of Regional Vitalization Studies and became the professor of Tokyo Jogakkan University, Faculty of Liberal Arts in 2004. URL: http://konamike.net/hiro/   Mail: hiro@konamike.net