Update On JAPAN -April 20, 2011

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Lake view JapanWe received this most recent update from Japan via our contact at the Hoshino Resort, Yuki Olsen.  We are always happy to share the “on the ground” perspective that our contacts worldwide offer outside of the conventional media representation of events!
Always feel free to contact us if you have questions about the part of the world where you are planning to travel.  Ange Wallace

First of all, on behalf of 100 million Japanese people, I would like to thank you for your support for Japan.  I hope this will be the last Japan Update about the earthquake, tsunami and other related disasters because I have some good news to share and it’s time to move on!

1) Travel To Japan Now;
The US State Department replaced the travel “warning” to travel “alert” on April 14, saying that “…….health and safety risks to areas beyond the 50 mile evacuation zone, and particularly to tokyo, Nagoya, Yokohama, …….. which are outside a 50 mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are low and do not pose significant risks to U.S. citizens.”  Full content =>  http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/pa/pa_5437.html
Canada had already reduced the travel advisory.

2) Transportation Now:
Most trains except for the lines in the tsunami affected areas are mostly operating normally.  Narita Express runs less than usual for now.
Great news is the brutally destroyed Sendai Airport  (Remember the airport that was recovered by the US Military’s help?) reopened for commercial flights on April 13.  The writing on the JAL’s fuselage in the photo says “Gambaro Nippon” (Hang on, Japan).

3) Life in Japan Now:
-In Tokyo, the planned blackouts are postponed until June, however, stations, public areas, and stores voluntarily dim the lights to save more energy .  According to my correspondence, stations in Tokyo are darker than usual but similar to Metro stations in Paris.
People now can drink tap water.  Foods are back on the shelves.  The milk from Fukushima Prefecture is on the shelves, too, because no dangerous level of radiation was found.

-Tokyo Disneyland reopened on April 15.  To save the energy, the hours are from 8 AM to 6 PM without the popular electrical parade.  Even so there were many people waiting for the gate to open in the early morning.

-Many festivals and events once withheld as a gesture of sympathy for the survivors and victims will come back to boost the economy, raise people’s spirit, and eventually help affected people.

-Town of Karuizawa, Nagano (where HOSHINOYA Karuizawa is in)has declared “Safety on Tourism” on April 11.
Excerpt: …. utilities including electricity and gas are secured in karuizawa and we can serve safe food, water and air because Karuizawa fortunately has had no direct damage from these earthquakes and the accident at Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.  Aiming to prevent harmful rumors against our tourism and economy, we would like to issue a declaration today ensuring the safety and security of travelers in our town……

4) Radiation: (Media induced) Misconceptions versus FACTS!
I have noticed many media reports and stories regarding Japan’s disasters are giving wrong impressions and misleading people.  The situation of the nuclear plant and the conditions of evacuated people’s living are still dire.  But I would like to ask you not to be fooled by the stories that are giving you no or wrong information but just fear.

  1. Mis-: Tokyo is close by to Fukushima thus contaminated by radiation:   FACT:  Tokyo is about 136 miles (NY-Albany is about 134 miles) from the Fukushima Plant. It’s radiation level on April 15 was 0.078 micro sievert/hour while NY City’s average radiation level from March 25 to 31 was 0.095 micro sievert/hr.  Here’s very good map and chart.
    Oh, by the way, Ms. Mieko Nagaishi, our new team member who handles HOSHINOYA’s reservation and concierge in North & South America, lives in Denver, CO. She is exposed to much more natural radiation than people in Tokyo now.  (The discovery was a little shocking to her.) For more information or sympathy, contact at mieko@hoshinoresort.com
  2. Mis-:  Flying in to Tokyo means exposure of radiation in the atmosphere.  FACT:  Yes, because flying high altitude means higher exposure of radiation from space, no matter where you go.  And No, because of the fact explained under number 1.  ICAO (International Commercial Aviation Organization) clearly stated in its travel advice that radioactive material from the damaged plant has been gradually spreading into the atmosphere but at extremely low concentrations that do not present health or transportation safety hazards. Check it Here and Here.
  3. Mis-: Fukushima Diichi Plant’s incident is as bad as Chernobyl.  FACT: Although the incident was categorized as severe as Chernobyl, both the amount and form of radio active materials released from Fukushima is nothing like Chernobyl (1/10 in amount). Chernobyl exploded in full operation; Fukushima was closed down.  And this is a “reassessment” of what has already happened and the amount of released every day has generally been decreasing.
    -Chernobyl = The reactor itself exploded and spewed radioactive materials into atmosphere; former Soviet government didn’t respond well and let the people drink contaminated milk.
    -Fukushima = Reactors are intact- A part of outer buildings and containment system exploded and leaked the radioactive materials, Government evacuated people and has been monitoring air, food and water closely.
  4. Mis-: People wear surgical masks to avoid radiation.  FACT: Japanese are very keen to public health.  In the affected areas, people are forced to live in congested evacuation places among debris. They wear masks to avoid dust and spreading or contracting germs through coughing, etc. In urban areas like Tokyo, people have been wearing masks for decades, long before this incident, mainly to avoid spring time pollens that cause some people bad allergic reactions.

5)  Cherry Blossoms in 2011! Take a look!
I am attaching my first Youtube short slideshow of cherry blossoms and HOSHINOYA Kyoto in 2011 here.  It really makes me realize “life goes on” no matter what.  I hope you will enjoy it.

Thank you, my HOSHINOYA friends, for your cooperation.

6)  HOSHINOYA Now:
We are donating 1,000 yen (US$12)/room/night from both HOSHINOYA Kyoto and HOSHINOYA Karuizawa to Save the Children Japan to help those children who live in a harsh condition in the northeastern Japan without enough clothes, foods, books, and toys.  We will continue to do so until March 31, 2012. For Virtuoso clients, we now offer a new Virtuoso amenity, 2,500 yen (US$31.25) of donation to the same organization if the guests wish.

Ange Wallace

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