Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

A Paradigm Shift for the Japanese Economy toward Becoming a Tourist Destination
KIYOI Mikie  / Tourist Business Person

December 4, 2015
In Japan, not a single day goes by without news of inbound visitors. Japan's aspiration of becoming a tourist destination is a historical inevitability. In the memoirs of Katherine Graham, former owner of the Washington Post, there is a photograph of her honeymoon in Japan. Since those days when a dollar was worth 360 yen, there has been a continuous flow of Westerners - though they may have been few in number – who traveled to Japan. Even without government budgets for cultural exchange, tourists pay their own way to discover Japan for themselves. Yet, several decades ago, Japan was in no position to advocate becoming a tourism-oriented nation. Faced with demands from Western countries to slash its trade surplus, the Prime Minister at the time was hard-pressed to explain that the necktie he was wearing was in fact made in France, or that while Japan may be running a surplus on its trading of goods, its balance on services was actually in the red since many Japanese tourists were shopping abroad.

Following the Plaza Accord of 1985, the yen rose dramatically. For those living abroad, Japan became a country of forbiddingly high prices, visited only by those on the trail of exceedingly promising business prospects or by those who were guests of the Japanese. Taking pride in the invincibility of its manufacturing industry, there was perhaps a tendency in Japan to look down upon tourism as a business sought after by southern island nations or countries that could not produce competitive industrial products. But times have changed. The speculative bubble burst in the early 1990s, plunging the Japanese economy into a period of prolonged stagnation. Japan no longer enjoys a trade surplus. Its manufacturing industry has lost its competitive edge. The shift in its focus toward the tertiary industry, including tourism, was indeed inevitable.

Over the years, Japan had invested abroad as a means to reduce its surplus and deal with the strong yen. Combined with the efforts made by the recipient countries, such investments have succeeded in creating a middle class in neighboring Asian countries whose members are turning their interest to overseas travel, now that their daily needs have been met. They have become affluent enough to seek the extraordinary.

Suffering under the effects of deflation for over two decades, Japan had become a country where the cost of lodging and dining – as well as the price of real estate – are relatively cheap. The recent weakening in the yen is giving a further boost to this trend. In the days of the strong yen, many Japanese traveled abroad, and restaurants that catered to their needs by serving food such as yakitori, ramen and sushi have slowly won over local fans. The Japanese government and companies had also drawn from their deep pockets to provide the local elite with opportunities to experience Japan. Non-Japanese who winced at "raw fish" have gradually come around to love sushi. A great number of young people have also developed an interest in Japan through manga, anime broadcast on local television, and Nintendo games. The seeds that were scattered in the process of structural change in the Japanese economy had fallen on fertile ground that provided the perfect conditions for them to flower in the form of an increase in inbound visitors to Japan. According to David Atkinson, a former Goldman Sachs analyst advocating Japan as tourists destination, the four major elements of a tourist destination are climate, food, heritage and nature. Japan is actually endowed with excellent assets.

Tourism holds the key to raising GDP to 600 trillion yen, the goal set by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government. We need to engage competent human resources not only in the business of tourism itself, but also in the politics and administration of developing the systems that sustain the industry. We should start by directing our tax system, regulation, will power and capabilities toward recovering the beauty of our national landscape, which has been utterly destroyed by the era of high economic growth.

Mikie Kiyoi is a property management entrepreneur.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

清井美紀恵 / 観光関係経営者

2015年 12月 4日
インバウンド観光客のニュースが日本で報じられない日はない。日本が観光立国をめざすのは歴史的必然である。 ワシントン・ポスト紙元社主のキャサリン・グラハムの自伝には、日本での新婚旅行の写真がある。1ドル360円の時代でも欧米からの日本への旅行者は少数ながら常にいた。 政府が文化交流予算を講じなくとも、観光客は自分の財布で日本を知ろうとしてくれる。だが数十年前は、日本は観光立国を標榜する状況にはなかった。 欧米との激しい貿易摩擦で黒字減らしを求められ、日本の首相は「私のこのネクタイはフ ランス製」「貿易収支は日本の黒字だが、多くの日本人観光客が貴国で買い物をしているので、サービス収支は日本の赤字」と発言せざるを得なかった。

 1985年のプラザ合意の後、急激な円高が進んだ。海外の人にとっては、日本はとてつもなく物価の高い国になってしまい、よほどの商機を求めてか、日本側の招待客しか訪日できなくなってしまった。無敵の製造業を誇る日本人は、観光に力を入れるのは、南の島 国や工業製品で競争力のない国と見下しているフシもあった。しかし時代は変わった。90年代初めにバブル崩壊、日本経済
は長く低迷する。もはや貿易黒字国ではない。製造業の競争力は低下した。観光業を含めた第三次産業への軸足移動は 必然だったのだ。

 20年以上もデフレに苦しんでいる日本は、いつの間にか宿泊費も食事代も(ついでに不動産も)相対的に安い国になっていた。最近の円安は更にその傾向を助長している。 円高時代、多くの日本人が海外に行き、日本人旅行者用だった焼き鳥やラーメン、寿司等 の和食店が、じりじりと現地の人にもファンを増やしていった。日本政府も企業も潤沢な 資金で、赴任地のエリートへの日本体験機会を提供した。「生の魚」と顔をしかめていた 外国人も、寿司の愛好家になっていった。漫画や現地のテレビで放映されたアニメ、 Nintendo のゲームで日本への関心を高めた若者も多い。 日本経済の構造変化の過程でまいた種が、インバウンド観 光客の増加として開花する条件が整っていた。D.アトキンソンは
 安倍政権が目指すGDP600 兆円達成には観光立国が鍵を握るという。優秀な人材がビジネスとしての観光産業そのものだけでなく、この産業を支える制度を構築する政治・行政に 向かわなければならない。まずは、高度成長時代に破壊しつくした国土の景観を、美しく 再建する方向に持って行く税制、規制、意思と能力だ。

一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > A Paradigm Shift for the Japanese Economy toward Becoming a Tourist Destination