The Rebound Phenomenon, or how rural Japan was saved by tourists - Vikingess Voyages

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Rebound Phenomenon, or how rural Japan was saved by tourists

An estimated 19,730,000 foreigners visited Japan in 2015 according to Inbound Navi
The number of tourists visiting Japan has been increasing rapidly during the last couple of years as Japan is experiencing a weaker yen, low-cost carriers providing cheaper flights, combined with a softening on visa regulations especially for its Asian neighbours. This has led to an "opening" of the country in a scale that almost gives associations to the end of the Sakoku in 1853 when Japan started opening up to foreigners for the first time in around 200 years.

For the first time in 45 years the inbound tourists outnumbered the outbound tourists. Source: Inbound Navi
While some people of course are worried about the increasing influence from abroad there are others who see this as a chance to get a boost for their businesses and in turn for the local community. Although the Japanese population is ageing this is by far the status for other neighbouring countries, and their young populations, having grown up on One Peace, Sailor Moon and ninjas, are eager to discover the land of the rising sun. The timing couldn't have been better, as Japan is gathering its workforce to try and get the country out of the recession, and at the same time is struggling to revitalise the local communities threatened by depopulation as the young people leave for the bigger cities.

This is where the recent Japanese term known as the "Rebound Phenomenon" (Ribaundo Gensho / リバウンド現象) comes into the picture. This word describes how an area that used to be ignored and/or forgotten among domestic travellers suddenly “rebounds” in popularity due to the high number of foreign travellers visiting. This virtuous cycle begins as a few foreigners go out and "discover" a place that hasn't been on the radar among tourists yet, and share the information and/or pictures through SNS. In turn this leads to increased attention among foreign travellers, which creates a "rebound" among Japanese people when Japanese media make national broadcasts about how this certain area is so popular among foreigners ("Wow, can you believe how much foreigners take interest in these bathing monkeys!? I guess we have no choice but to go there and see it for ourself!!").
People gathering around the bathing monkeys in Jigokudani
There are a few concrete examples of where the Rebound Phenomenon has literarily helped saving the local community from dying out. One example that can be mentioned is the small village of Takayama where locals were struggling with a lack of business opportunities and depopulation. That was until the place was discovered by foreign tourists for its peculiar architecture. Now there are even hotels in the area specialising in foreign tourists only, and the number of domestic travellers has also increased due to media attention that came as a result of the foreign visitors. Other places that can be mentioned as rebound success stories are the Jigokudani valley where you can see the snow monkeys bathing in the hot spring, and the foxes roaming around in the Zao Fox Village.

Personally I would love it if I could contribute more to spreading tourists out to the local communities. Some of my personal recommendations for Japanese destinations outside of the beaten track can be found below:

Tsubame Sakura Matsuri
Sightseeing in Niigata
Shibazakura pink moss Chichibu
Sightseeing in Saitama
Sightseeing in Hokkaido
Sightseeing in Chiba
Shibazakura pink moss Chichibu
Sightseeing in Miyagi
Sightseeing in Nagano

Hotel Booking:

Book hotel in Japan
My hotel reviews

Do you have any questions or recommended travel destinations in Japan? Please feel free to leave me a comment in the comment section below!
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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who enjoys both the great outdoors and her urban lifestyle.

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About Me

Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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