We have created this page to give you some information about the current situation in Japan. On 11th March the north-east of Japan experienced a serious earthquake and tsunami. Subsequently there was a crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
See the map below for the locations.
Life is back to normal in Tokyo. Trains are running as normal, although there are still some measures in place to save energy due to the reduced ability to generate power in eastern Japan. In western Japan due to a separate electrical grid there are no power issues.
Oxalis tours are running normally and are unaffected by the earthquake, tsunami or nuclear crisis.
The Hamaoka Nuclear Power plant has been suspended since it is thought to be vulnerable to earthquakes, and a power shortage is being expected at the peak of summer (late July to August). Anticipating this many companies have toned down lighting and changing their work hours and work days schedules to consume less electricity. Stores are closing a few hours earlier. Escalotors and elevators have been stopped at stations in Tokyo. At home people are asked to use avoid using air conditioning and unplug any gadgets.
24 May 2011
The prefectures of Fukushima, Miyagi, and Iwate were directly affected by the earthquake. There has been damage to buildings in all these areas, though this damage is not widespread. One of the country inns we use, located in Tono which is one of the closest parts of the mainland to the earthquake epicentre, has not sustained any damage.
The coastal areas of Ibaraki, Fukushima, MIyagi, Iwate, and to a lesser extened, Akita, have suffered catastrophic damage from the tsunami. There are large amounts of displaced people in neighbouring prefectures living in emergency shelters.
The coastal region of Fukushima prefecture has also been affected by the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ni reactor, with an exclusion zone. Levels of radioactivtivity harmful to human health have been detected in an area around the power plant, and to its north and west.
Levels of radioactivity in Tokyo are normal.
Radiation network (Japan)
Radiation network (USA)
You can see that the radiation in Tokyo is lower than New York.
Japan-guide.com A very good soure of information, with detailed maps and frequent updates.
A MESSAGE FROM THE GUIDES
Kana Hattori (based in Kansai area near Kyoto and Nara)
"I am looking forward to welcoming you in Japan. Kyoto and all western Japan is absolutely unaffected and as peaceful and beautiful as usual. I am sure you will have a wonderful, memorable time in Japan!"
Yumiko Arai (based in Kanto area near Tokyo)
"We are living as usual. Why don't you come and join us? You are missing one of the best seasons in Japan. Visiting Japan is the best way to encourage us. We'd like to guide you!! See you soon!! Your guide, Yumiko Arai"
Satomi Nagai (based in Tokyo)
"I am so grateful to the encouraging messages sent to me from all over the world by my tour guests. Now I want to share my guiding with visitors to Japan since I am getting a bit bored of walking in the nice backstreets of Tokyo just alone by myself."
Yumiko Sugai (based in Kanto area near Tokyo)
"Now is the time to travel across Japan safely without any crowds!. More and more people are coming back here to enjoy this privilege." Yumiko Sugai"
A MESSAGE FROM THE ACCOMMODATIONS
Tajimaya Minshuku in Magome, on the Nakasendo trail
"The Nakasendo Trail between Magome and Tsumago is rich in nature and full of green. It continues to be a safe and secure trail for anyone to enjoy. The historical Nakasendo trail awaits your visit"
Iseya Minshuku in Narai-juku, on the Nakasendo trail
"Foreigner customers are slowly returning to Japan. However, compared to last year there is a definite decrease. The earthquake has not affected our area and tourism can be enjoyed. Coming to Japan will greatly contribute to helping Japan recover. Please come! We are all waiting for you to visit."
Matsushiroya in Tsumago-juku, on the Nakasendo trail
"The Tsumago area has not been effected by the earthquake. There are no after shocks here and we can assure a safe trip. We are all waiting for your arrival."
Yoshinoya in Yunomine Onsen, on the Kumano Kodo trail
"Isn't Japan a small island? Looking at the disastrous effects of the earthquake on the news, should we still travel to Japan? I am sure these questions have crossed your mind. The Kumano Kodo is located in the Kansai region and, looking at the large picture, the earthquake has no immediate effect on us. Many customers have continued staying here and the numbers are increasing. There is nothing that makes us happier than seeing our customers leave with a smile as they say, “Thank you.” Please come and enjoy the beautiful nature and wonderful hot springs of Kumano."
A MESSAGE FROM THE CUSTOMERS
Overall I found all Japanese people very friendly. As you know the country feels very safe to wander around on your own and that has not changed.
I do not know if the massive number of cancellations affected the hotels but they were all extremely happy to see us. The service could not be faulted in the minshuku and ryokans and the hotels were what you would expect from international cities...
All the tourist spots were extremely short of foreign visitors and they looked grateful that we had turned up. I think the general Japanese people realise that lots of countries around the world are helping with the earthquake recoveries and it may have actually improved what they think of others. On the whole I would say it is possibly the best time ever to visit as a tourist. They really need the business and the best way to help the country is to visit and spend your money there."
Mike Stephens, Land of Fire, April 2011
"I did thoroughly enjoy this tour, and the post-tsunami period made the trip even more meaningful. If anything, the Japanese people were more welcoming than ever, greatly appreciative of our support by visiting their country. This happened time and time again, especially in Kyoto, where it was least expected. In Kyushu and the more rural areas, the phrases of greeting taught to us by our guide made all the difference in our encounters with people we met on our walks or on the trails. Uncomfortable looks turned into smiles every time. Other than than, I loved the focus of the tour, traveling by public transportation, staying and eating at traditional inns, and walking and hiking the countryside. Many thanks for your help!"
Pat Marion, Land of Fire, April 2011
"This trip was very seriously everything I could have hoped for. I filled out the survey, but it's pretty much straight excellent ratings, so I don't think it will provide much constructive feedback. So I just wanted to to drop one last personal note and say thanks a lot. You really went the extra mile dealing with earth quakes and date changes and requests to set me up in tiny towns like Iwade (which meant I got to see some friends from 16 years ago and had a great reunion with some people who are really important to me). Seriously, great job. I did not deserve a trip that was that fun and went that smoothly. I keep expecting Karma to smack me around a little bit just to get the universe back into alignment."
Andy Eliason, Kumano Kodo self-guided, May 2011
"Dear Jeremy, We've been back for over a week now but I've been without a computer or I would have written earlier. We had a wonderful time in Japan, even exceeding my expectations and I'd been wanting to go to Japan for years. Your planning and preparations for us were so thoughtful and detailed - did you really know we might need a Ryokan with a coin operated tumble dryer at the end of our first walking day? Satomi Nagai gave us a great day in Tokyo and also gave us lots of useful advice about how things work in Japan which proved very helpful when we were on our own. She said we were her first clients this season and it was sad to see how quiet Tokyo was and empty of tourists. Lots of people said how glad they were to see us and please to tell our country, when we get home, that Japan is still a safe place to visit...Travelling on our own we had many meetings and conversations with Japanese people. You were quite right, self-guided is really the best way to go. We hardly saw any other westerners, a few Australians and, at Mount Koya, a few independent travellers. The chief priest there complemented us all on our bravery in coming and some people seemed to think it was our government's advice not go to Japan. That is certainly not so but, as if the earthquake and tsunami were not enough, the tourists seem to be staying away. After the first walking day the weather was perfect . We didn't see any bears (much to Siobhan's disappointment but not mine), we saw a snake near a temple, tiny, noisy green frogs and plenty of wild flowers. Up in the mountains the cherry trees were still in bloom! We were given a great welcome at all our accommodation. Siobhan loved Iseya and enjoyed the luxury of Koma-no-yu ryokan, where, after an amazing dinner, we were whisked up to the top of the mountain in their minibus to see the stars. Our day in Kyoto with Kana Hattori was a high spot. She is such a charming person and so knowledgeable about the history and religions of her country. Siobhan is hoping to show her the delights of Cambridge one day. I am busy reliving it all with your splendid itinerary and my photos. Thank you again! Best wishes from us both, Maureen"
Maureen & Siobhan M, Nakasendo self-guided, May 2011
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Yes. Travelling is safe in all but the area immediately around the Fukushima nuclear power plant and areas still affected by the earthquake. We advise against travel to parts of Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate prefectures.
Please see the official travel advice of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), USA Embassy in Tokyo, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.
I don't want to impose on the Japanese people and feel bad about travelling to Japan when they are suffering so much.
If you are thinking of visiting Japan, the best way you can show your support is to go now! The sudden drop in overseas travellers has dealt a blow to many of the small rural communities we take our clients to, through the cancellation of bookings in accommodations etc.
The Japanese people will warmly welcome you and will be grateful that you have come.
Yes. Companies are open, and trains are running as normal. .
Some foreign companies temporarily closed their offices and repatriated or moved staff to other cities in the aftermath of the nuclear crisis. Airlines are flying as normal, foreign companies have re-opened their offices, and most foreigners have returned.
All our tours are unaffected. We are running all tours as normal. Most tours focus on central or western Japan and are in an area of Japan that escaped any direct affect. Our Mountain Spirits tour does travel to the Tono Valley in Iwate prefecture. Kuraoka-san, who runs the lovely farmhouse-style Magariya inn there has told us that he is open for business as normal and hoping to welcome our guests.
All our guides are safe and were unaffected.
All the accommodations we use are open for business as usual. The Magariya Minshuku in the Tono Valley is about 50km from one of the towns affected by the tsunami but the town itself is inland and was not affected.