[FOUNTAIN]Everyday life is a draw for Japan toursThe word, gwangwang, sightseeing, comes from Chinese classic. In the “Book of Changes,” gwan-gwang referred to the act of “seeing the prosperity of the nation,” not just seeing the sights.
Despite the elevated terrorist threats, tourism remains one of the world’s biggest industries. Developing countries are especially interested in tourism because it brings in foreign currency without big investments or cutting-edge technologies.
As a country’s income increases, citizens’ demand for foreign tourism increases. Japan is making extensive efforts unusual for a developed country to draw more tourists to bring its tourism trade expenditures into balance.
Since last year, the Japanese government has been trying to lure tourists. In 2003, 5.35 million foreigners visited Japan for sightseeing. The incoming volume is about the 30th largest in the world. Japan hopes to double the number of incoming tourists by 2010.
Most notable is making the lifestyle of ordinary Japanese into a tourist attraction. Japan reckons that foreigners might be interested in that.
In Tokyo, Yanaka district is a popular tourist spot because decades-old Japanese-style wooden houses abound. Foreign visitors can see the lifestyle of ordinary Japanese before its rapid economic growth. Takayama in Gifu prefecture is a small town in the mountains with no cultural properties or historical remains, and is not easily accessible. But more than 50,000 foreigners visit Takayama each year to witness the well-preserved streets and the unvarnished lifestyle of the residents. People in Ouchi in Fukushima prefecture and Imai in Nara prefecture also have turned their well-preserved traditional homes into tourist attractions for cultural education.
Instead of boasting of the prosperity of the nation, Japanese attract the eyes of visitors by showing their daily lives.
According to the Korea National Tourism Organization, 51 percent of Koreans who traveled abroad in the first half of 2004 were tourists, the largest proportion to date. While the country is suffering from a slumping economy, people continue to demand overseas trips. That also proves that the domestic tourism industry has lost its competitive edge to foreign destinations. In the meantime, Japan is working to get noticed as a good destination despite its high prices.
by Nahm Yoon-ho
The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.