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Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012

47 prefectures in 100 days to woo back tourists

Kyodo

KANAZAWA, Ishikawa Pref. — While tourism in Japan has been sluggish since the March 11 calamity, a British couple recently completed a 100-day tour of all 47 prefectures to help bring foreign travelers back to the country.

News photo
Tourist attraction: Jamie Lafferty and Katy Morrison visit the Koyasan area in Wakayama Prefecture in November during their trip around Japan under the Travel Volunteer Project. MAGELLAN RESORTS & TRUST/KYODO

Their journey blogs have been accessed more than 50,000 times in the last four months.

Jamie Lafferty, a 28-year-old writer, and Katy Morrison, a 29-year-old photographer, made the journey as part of the Travel Volunteer Project initiated by a travel agency in central Japan.

Lafferty and Morrison were selected as "travel volunteers" from among 1,897 applicants from 85 countries.

Magellan Resorts & Trust Inc. in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, launched the initiative to show the world through foreigners' eyes that Japan remains a safe and attractive destination. The agency had to do something: All of its reservations from overseas were canceled following the March catastrophes.

Kicking off the journey Sept. 15 in Toyama Prefecture, Lafferty and Morrison visited many historic sites while posting photos and accounts in both English and Japanese on their blog as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

Fukushima Prefecture, home to the crippled nuclear plant, was part of their itinerary.

The couple also visited Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture, in November, and dined on Sanuki "udon" noodles, a local specialty.

"If anyone is planning a second trip to Japan, or perhaps doesn't fancy the crowds that fill Tokyo, Kyoto et al., then we recommend simply coming here . . . there's some of its most visited shrines and temples, and the excellent noodles, of course," the couple wrote on their blog. "Basically it's all of Japan, in miniature."

Magellan Resorts will compile a digital book out of their blog posts and distribute it for free to individuals and travel agencies worldwide in March.

"Japan still remains as an attractive and safe country. The number of reservations has been increasing since last August and we hope to contribute to the recovery of tourism," said 37-year-old Aya Kihara, project leader at the company.

The website for the project is at travelvolunteer.net.



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