Commentary by Hank F. Miller Jr.
We live about 1,200 kilometers from the disaster zone.We haven't been affected at all."
PHOTO: HANK MILLER
We didn't feel the earthquake , not even slightly. We have had no blackouts. We continue to have food,water and daily necessities. But of course this is not all true.
The disaster has everyone in Japan, including the people living here in Kitakyushu. People collect food, batteries for flash lights, clothing blankets and money etc. to send to the devastated area.
"What will happen to Japan?" Laments my neighbors and some of my friend, it's a big question here. Some of my neighbors are involved in international tourism and are concerned that foreign tourist won't come back for a very long time.
I haven't seen any foreign tourist come here since the disaster.
We usually get large cruise ships in the port of Fukouka, but nothing since the disaster. Our theme parks such as Space World and the botanical gardens at Green Park are empty as well as the local businesses like the a kayaking and scuba diving services, it has been strangely vacant here in Kitakyushu where I live. In peril of becoming Japan's next Haikyo or modern ruin. There has been no reservations at hotels or local inns either only cancellations only.
This has been devastating for Japan's economy. There has been many cancellations this year from school groups coming from the Tohoku region.
On the beach proprietors will have to a lean summer without foreign tourist they have to rely on as Japanese tourist have decreased but hopely the foreign tourism will increase year by year.
But it seems that no one is coming to Japan now they seem to have been frightened away.We are far from Tohoku,but the foreign media has exacerbated the nuclear problem a bit .No one will come to Japan this summer,for sure and the foreign media didn't help the matter any either.
The "Visit Japan" campaign is a distant memory for us here now. Tohoku, the northeastern part of Japan hardest hit by the triple disaster, it is not a major destination for foreign tourist.
Most people fly into Tokyo and head southwest or to Western Japan, including Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Hiroshime and Kyushu, we haven't been affected at all .
Let alone the islands of Shikoku,or here in Kitakyushu and all the way to Okinawa.From Tokyo to Kitakyushu we're about 1,000 kilometers from Tokyo.Okinawa is about 1,500 kilometers from Tokyo, just half the total length of the country.But this is hard to know if one does not live in Japan. This is not the first time our Island has experienced a decrease in foreign tourism.There was the SARS and bird flu before this. But Tohoku earthquake is much bigger news. Many say that this event will change Japan forever. We have survived before, But will we survive now ?
Our locals have always welcomed foreign tourist because they infuse variety into an otherwise quiet island life style. People often ask me what country do most of the tourist come from, but my only answer is "Every where !"
Most are just traveling through Japan and choose to spend a day or so in Kitakyushu my home town. Most visitors are just charmed by the relaxed life and want to relax themselves, and experience Japanese culture firsthand and soak up the quiet island life style.
Most have been referred by others. Most people are charmed by the simple life and friendliness of the locals.The islanders sometimes invite them into their homes for karaoke,food and some drinks.
Quite a lot of the local businesses have walls full of postcards and letters form all over the world "thank you"notes from previous visitors who hold their memories dear.So in turn,the islanders are charmed by the tourists who regale with tales of traveling around Japan (and the world),Many of the foreigners bring their talents with them too" Many are singers, dancers, writers or artists.They join the island culture. They jam with us, drink with us, laugh with us and share our sorrows and joys.
I suppose soon people will start referring to " the good old days." "The way things used to be!"
NOTE: I was released from the hospital just for the weekend because most of my testing prior to surgery is done. I must return to the hospital by 8 P.M. today, Sunday. My Open Heart Surgery will begin at 08:20 Wednesday April 6th. The complete operation will take from 6 to 10 hours. I'll be in I.C.U. the intensive care unit for about three days and then be returned to my room. So for those of you that are religious. "Keep me in your prayers." I'll be back about the first week of May and hope to start writing my commentary "WHEN EAST MEETS WEST."
Warm Regards, & Best Wishes from Kitakyushu City Japan
Hank F. Miller Jr.