Travel Volunteers: Around Japan in 100 days
Amid the contradictory headlines, claims and counter-claims about the state of tourism in Japan post-March 11, one thing is clear -- the triple disasters knocked the industry and the people who depend on it to their knees.
Travel bookings were down so badly at one travel agent in Ishikawa Prefecture, the firm moved to take matters into its own hands and invite the world to come see for itself that travel in Japan is as safe and rewarding as ever.
“We couldn’t wait for recovery action or plans conducted by someone,” says Aya Kihara of The Real Japan agency. “After the earthquake, all reservations from overseas were cancelled and we were about to go out of business, so we had to do something ourselves.”
The result was the Travel Volunteer Project, a scheme whereby Kihara and her colleagues received applications from almost 2,000 people in 85 countries to win an all-expenses-paid 100-day trip around Japan. All of it.
More on CNNGo: Tourism flatlines after March 11
The winners, chosen in Ishikawa in September, were British couple Jamie Lafferty and Katy Morrison -- a pair of young professionals who have become the new face of the tourism industry as it attempts to find its feet again.
On their travels from Toyama to Hyogo (so far), Lafferty and Morrison have blogged and photographed everything from clichés like the deer of Nara Park to more contemporary attractions such as whisky sampling in a Suntory distillery.
While the travel blog actually makes for interesting reading, the greater goal of spreading the word that Japan is still a fascinating travel destination is even more compelling.
Whether or not the message gets out before the Travel Volunteer trip ends with gift deliveries to Tohoku at Christmas remains to be seen, we do know for sure that both participants will be footsore after one of the most ambitious trans-Japan trips we’ve ever come across.