Thursday, 29 March 2012

Lonely Planet - out of touch, lazy, paternalism

In response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, we have removed coverage of the affected areas from this guidebook. However, we believe that travel in other parts of Tōhoku remains safe, with the caveat that you continue to stay informed on the latest developments.

This turned up on the Lonely Planet Thorntree this week, posted by Machiruda who used to live in Tokyo not long after I moved here.  The Lonely Planet guide book no longer includes Iwate, Miyagi or Fukushima!!!!!!!  What a disgrace.  
In the words of Derryn Hinch, "Shame, Shame, Shame".
So much for their pontifications about letting people decide where is safe to travel.  For the record most Iwate and Miyagi inland have never been unsafe for travel, both in terms of radiation and earthquake damage. Parts of Fukushima too are well outside the radiation exclusion zone.  Once the trains and highway were fixed -the highways within a couple of weeks, the Shinkansen within 6 weeks, the area became accessible again. 

The destruction on the coast has been phenomenal, but that doesn't mean it's unsafe to go there.  It's a lazy cop out not to try and find accurate information and to keep updating it.  The area excluded includes Sendai - one of Japan's biggest cities, the biggest city in Tohoku and stop off point for Matsushima and Yamadera,  Matsushima - traditionally said to be one of the 3 most beautiful views of Japan  and Hiraizumi which has just been made a World Heritage area.

Contrast this with JR East, who have done so well, not only  with trying to get infrastructure operational again but to get people visiting the region as tourists.  Admittedly their financial viability depends on profitable lines, but small local lines is not where they make their money.  People in Rikuzen Takata that I spoke to seemed resigned to the fact that a train line was unlikely to be rebuilt.  It seems that that plan is that they will be rebuilt, what additional precautions are being taken I am not sure.   Infrastructure is essential if the areas damaged by the tsunami are revive.

Well done JR East! Keep it up!

JR Promotion on signboards at railways now -
Iwate and the Sanriku Kaigan, featuring Iwaizumi,
Jodogahama and Miyako
A map with places to visit, and re-opening schedules for trains.


Rurousha said...

AAARGH, Cecilia, but you've just been there, does that mean your blog is contaminated, will I get radiation from reading your blog?!

Dear heavens. When will sanity return?

I've just added my two cents worth to that LP forum.

Cecilia said...

Thanks for your addition to the TT. I'm really quite irritated about it. It's wilful ignorance combined with a typical Kanto-esque dismissal of Tohoku as a black hole (full of gamanzuyoi peasants)... sigh...

Rurousha said...

By the way, I was really shocked that LP had banned you for a while! Shouldn't they be grateful when residents of Japan point out mistak ...

No. That was a stupid question. I guess not.

I have mixed feelings about LP. I know of some remote spots in SA - places where you could really enjoy beauty plus silence - that have been wrecked by too many tourists (garbage, noise, bad behaviour) after exposure in LP. :(

Cecilia said...

I know what you mean's really upsetting to see the way tourists have trashed parts of SE Asia.
I have mixed feelings on whether to blame the travel guides. I strongly object to them giving tips on how to dodge paying fares etc. But I think the problem is the people that go there, rather than the information that took them there.
In some places the infrastructure can't cope - and I'm sure there's lots of that in Africa - transport routes designed to ship natural resources out of the continent rather than to be of any use to people wanting to move around inside the continent.

But I'd really like to see more sustainable industries in Tohoku and other parts of regional Japan. Not sure if you saw my post on Tehaizaka
If people coming from outside valued it, it might end up being preserved. As it is, it's just going to rot away. Which is probably better than the concrete ghost buildings that will never rot away (but neither do they have potential for being valued for anything).

Rurousha said...

Can't argue against your argument in that second paragraph. Tehaizaka looks beautiful. Now what LP should do is to promote areas like that, instead of simply throwing entire regions into a black hole of nothingness.

I still hope, though, that some unspoilt natural areas with no human habitation whatsoever (in Africa) will remain off LP's radar for a bit longer ...

Cecilia said...

Very true point taken. Pristine nature and hoards of tourists definitely don't mix.