Japanese city struggles as its World Heritage sheen fades
Japan Times -- Jul 15
Five years ago, residents of Tomioka, Gunma Prefecture, believed that the registration of a local historical landmark as a World Heritage site would reinvigorate the typical Japanese regional city facing a constant decline in population.

But such optimism has now waned, with the site’s popularity as a tourist destination now fading.

In June 2014, when the UNESCO World Heritage Committee added the Tomioka Silk Mill and related sites on the World Heritage list, crowds of people in the city shouted “Banzai! Banzai!” and paraded on streets around the former silk yarn-reeling factory, which was originally established by the Meiji government in 1872.

The number of visitors to the landmark site of Japan’s industrialization in the final quarter of the 19th century peaked at 1,337,720 in fiscal 2014, thanks to the World Heritage designation. Since then, however, the city has seen the visitor count dropping by more than 100,000 each year. In fiscal 2018, the figure stood at 519,070, well under half of the peak level.

“After the World Heritage designation, outsiders rushed to open shops near the silk mill complex to attract tourists,” a local coffee shop waiter recalls. “But many of them have already been shuttered.”

Though the number of visitors still meets the Tomioka government’s target, Masae Okano of the city’s world heritage tourism division says that a further fall to around 400,000 would not be good from a conservation viewpoint, noting that maintaining a World Heritage site is also costly.

Following the heritage listing, the city started to work on repairing the buildings and facilities at the site. The project is expected to take around 30 years, costing more than ¥1 billion each year —a cost that has to be covered solely by admission fees. Expecting many people to come by car, the municipal government also spent funds to expand parking space.

News source: Japan Times
Aug 19
Police in Japan have arrested a man on a national wanted list who is suspected of forcibly stopping a car and beating the driver on a highway. (NHK)
Aug 19
Anime fans from around the world continue to visit Kyoto to mourn the victims of the arson attack on a famous animation studio one month ago. (NHK)
Aug 19
More than 2,000 people tested their skills at scooping up goldfish at an annual event in Nara Prefecture, western Japan, on Sunday. (NHK)
Aug 19
Japan's government is promoting private lodgings for tourists who will visit during the Olympic and Paralympic games next summer. (NHK)
Aug 18
Japan will tighten control over foreign investments in domestic companies involved in semiconductors and other high-tech industries by focusing on the purchase of shares that carry voting rights, Nikkei learned Saturday. (Nikkei)
Aug 16
A powerful typhoon ripped through western Japan on Thursday, leaving one man dead and about 50 people injured, while greatly disrupting summer holiday traffic. (Kyodo)
Aug 16
Japan's new emperor spoke Thursday (Aug 15) of "deep remorse" over the country's wartime past, in his first speech to commemorate the end of World War II since his enthronement in May. (channelnewsasia.com)
Aug 16
An estimated 12,751 people were rushed to hospitals due to heat-related conditions across Japan over the week from Aug 5, of whom 23 died, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said Wednesday. (Japan Today)
Aug 16
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has skipped a visit to the controversial Yasukuni shrine for war dead, but sent a ritual offering on the 74th anniversary of Japan's World War II surrender, a gesture likely to be criticised by Asian neighbours. (aljazeera.com)
Aug 16
People in Japan hoping to predict the next big earthquake should ignore mysterious deep-sea fish after experts said rare sightings of the creatures on the country's beaches did not, as some had believed, foretell a seismic calamity. (theguardian.com)