TOKYO/SAKAI: While Japan’s tourism industry has been severely damaged by the novel coronavirus crisis, some areas in the country are launching moves to lure tourists using cultural assets under a related law enacted last year.
The Tennozu area in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward and the city of Sakai in the western prefecture of Osaka, in particular, are beefing up preparations to turn the tables on the industry’s tough situation in a world after the pandemic.
Last month, a museum named WHAT opened in Tennozu, near Tokyo Bay, showcasing contemporary art pieces held by art collectors. The new facility is operated by Warehouse Terrada, which offers a service of preserving artworks, on top of warehouse operations. The museum allows visitors to enjoy private collections of works created by a wide range of artists, including well-known figures and fledglings.
The company is aiming to revitalize the Tennozu area by turning it into a modern art base with WHAT at its center. “We hope to propose a lifestyle in which people not only look at works of art, but also buy them and exhibit them in their houses,” Warehouse Terrada President Kohei Terada said.
In partnership with other companies in the district, Warehouse Terrada has produced large paintings on external walls of buildings, opened an art-themed cafe and built a promenade, as part of its efforts to create a community in which people can walk around while appreciating art. Warehouse Terrada is also planning to beef up its moves to attract foreign visitors once the coronavirus pandemic subsides.
Under the legislation, established in April 2020, the Japanese government offers support to areas working to promote tourism utilizing museums and other cultural facilities as hubs.
In fiscal 2020, 25 areas were selected as recipients of the government support under the regional culture tourism promotion law, aimed at helping tourists from both at home and abroad deepen their understanding for Japanese culture. Using financial assistance from the state, designated areas take measures, such as showcasing exhibits in multiple languages, fostering experts and disseminating information.
In July 2019, a group of “kofun” ancient-mounted tombs in the city of Sakai, including one for Emperor Nintoku, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Sakai is striving to lure tourists also by utilizing its rich history as a major trading city in the Muromachi to Edo eras between the 14th and 19th centuries.
Sakai, which has lost tourists to the city of Osaka, the capital of Osaka Prefecture, and other local municipalities, is specifically working to help visitors feel close to culture by offering experience-based tourism in cooperation with traditional local industries. For example, visitors can experience sharpening traditional Japanese kitchen knives and making “wagashi” traditional sweets.
The city also plans to sell tickets for a tour around its sightseeing spots, which will include looking at kofun tombs from 100 meters in the air on a hot air balloon and seeing what the city was like as a prosperous trading city in the past using virtual reality technology.
Through the moves, the city hopes that tourists will stay longer.
“In a post-coronavirus era, tourism will certainly see a shift from large group travel to small group trips,” an official at the Sakai city government said.
Aiming to double the number of foreign tourists in 2025, when the World Exposition will be held in the city of Osaka, Sakai will try to attract solo travelers by providing them with cultural experiences.