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Thursday, March 25, 2004

Japan gets mixed grade in survey

Staff writer

Japan is crowded, expensive and advanced, but it has friendly, efficient and proud people.

These are the impressions of non-Japanese who participated in a recent survey conducted by The Japan Times and the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry's Kanto District Transport Bureau.

The survey, held in conjunction with The Japan Times Photo Contest, asked questions about impressions of Japan, inconveniences when traveling around, its attractiveness, and hindrances in choosing Japan as a travel destination. It also asked about the Kanto region.

A total of 884 people responded to the survey by March 22.

The survey indicates that movies and TV programs depicting traditional and high-tech society have a big impact on foreigners' images of Japan.

"I thought of Japan like the movie 'Blade Runner.' However, there's so much more," said one respondent, while another said, "The media always show Japan as a very technological and artificial country. But I was happily surprised to find out that there are many places where tradition and nature can be enjoyed."

"I thought all Japanese people ate sushi on a daily basis or at least three times a week," a respondent said. "Living here has proven to me that sushi is like eating pizza, once a month or now and then."

On the question of inconvenience in traveling around Japan, the language barrier seems to be the most common problem people encounter, due to the dearth of English signs and people who speak English. Many respondents also cited expensive and crowded transportation systems as well as the lack of ATMs compatible with international cards.

"Changing dollars. There are only a couple of exchange money places. During a holiday, forget about changing money in Japan," a respondent noted.

But many of the respondents praised Japan for being a very safe country with beautiful nature such as mountains and cherry blossoms, and helpful people.

"I love the people, food, love of nature, efficiency of trains and 100 yen stores," said one.

On the question of hindrances to coming to Japan, many cited expensive air fares, as well as high daily prices.

And for some travelers, Japan is still a difficult country to enter.

"Visa is always a big problem for people from the Third World countries," said one respondent. "Even though a person is well off and can finance his travel in Japan, it is very difficult to obtain a visa for Japan for the applicants from the developing countries."

Asked about the Kanto region, many responded that they know the area and named Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, and Mount Fuji as its most well-known spots.

Winners in the category of photos taken in the Kanto region
GOLD PRIZE: Empress' New Clothes SILVER PRIZE: Fuji in the Clouds
BRONZE PRIZE: The Way of the Horse and Bow SPECIAL PRIZE: Sports Shoe Princess at Meiji Shrine
Winners in the category of photos taken outside the Kanto region
GOLD PRIZE: A Maiko During the Gion Festival SILVER PRIZE: Awa Odori in August

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