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A Letter To Japan

Date: July 14, 2022 | By: Ashish Sanghrajka | Category: Travel Blog

Dear Advisor Partners,

Back in the summer of 2020, a colleague and I spoke together on a podcast about mental health and the unknown effects the pandemic period would have on us, our children, and on people worldwide. You see events unfolding in areas you expected them to happen, and then you witness them in areas you least expected them to, whether that be in Washington, D.C. around election time, in London a few weeks ago, or in Japan, where last week, the former prime minister Shinzo Abe, was assassinated while delivering remarks in Nara.  This is certainly not the norm in Japan and there are many questions that remain unanswered. That being said, we cannot lose sight of the bigger picture.

This is not the first time Japan has needed to find a path forward. Think back to the Fukushima disaster in 2011. Japan seemingly could not escape the cycle of bad news at that point. I was reminded in 2011, why I loved Japan when I saw the country forge a path forward through tourism. Here’s a great example of that recovery:

-In 2010, 8.6 million tourists visited Japan.

-In 2011, the year of the Fukushima incident, the number of tourists dropped below 4 million.

-By 2015, Japan had 19 million tourists, after heroic efforts by the Japan National Tourist Office (JNTO).

-Then, in 2019, 31 million tourists chose Japan.

In fact, more visitors entered Japan than Japanese visiting abroad for the first time during this period. For a country that imports almost everything, tourism was a major export, and it was amazing to see Japan mobilize and move forward. That window is open now. Japan has had the strictest Covid protocols in the world, and for the right reasons based on their geography and resources. I say without any political motive, now is the time that Japan, as the third largest economy in the world, should relax covid entry protocol and allow the rebuilding of tourism. With the help of JTNO engaging visitors, let the 70% of citizens who work in the services sector return to doing what they love.

Thomas Friedman authored a book I love, called “The World is Flat.” In his book, he argued in detail that countries with a multinational presence are more likely to have stability. Many, including myself, have argued that tourism has the same effect, and to be specific, when responsible tourism makes up 10% of a country’s GDP, the same stability exists. The proof exists all over the globe from Rwanda to Colombia, and yes, Japan as well. In the years after Fukushima, look at how tourism took center stage, showcasing everything from street food tours in Osaka, to the Nakasendo Trail. It is this vision that drew me to Japan 20 years ago, and the same belief that keeps me longing to return.

Japan’s future in tourism remains bright and while saddened by this tragic event, I for one am eager to see the country return with a flourish. I end this with a personal story of prime minister Shinzo Abe as told by Caroline Kennedy.

“Prime Minister Abe was a very formal leader, but in our case, he also had a deep affinity for the United States and a great admiration for our democracy. He and his wife showed me great kindness on multiple occasions that went beyond the official. One of the most thoughtful things he did was to show up at my son’s birthday party, as a surprise. My son had a great admiration for Prime Minister Abe as a leader. He came to the restaurant—I hadn’t told my son and all of a sudden, he saw the Prime Minister walking down through the restaurant and the look on Jack’s face was priceless. The Prime Minister went well out of his way to do that, and it was an incredibly meaningful gesture to me and to our family—a way of him showing how much he valued our personal friendship as well as the relationship between our two countries.”

  • Caroline Kennedy – US Ambassador to Japan 2013 – 2017

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