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Wednesday, 9th September 2015
In Japan Travel News,

New magazine focuses on dark tourism sites in Japan

For many people planning a holiday to Japan, sacred shrines, geisha tea rooms and sushi restaurants are high on their list of travel priorities, but another side to tourism in the country is emerging.

Dark tourism refers to visitors who would prefer to see go and see less conventional sites and therefore gain a different insight into Japan's history.

These may include nuclear reactors, leprosy islands and landmarks relating to conflicts such as the second world war.

A new magazine entitled Dark Tourism has been published in Japan to shed light on such places and highlight the value of visiting them.

The first issue, which has 96 pages of content, includes a feature on the National Sanatorium Nagashima Aiseien for leprosy patients, situated on an island far removed in Okayama prefecture.

Another piece looks at the possibility of turning the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which hit the headlines in 2011 when it surged in the aftermath of an earthquake, into a tourist attraction.

Dark Tourism's editor in chief, Kaoru Nakata, has a history of looking at Japan in an alternative way, having previously published works about abandoned buildings and Second World War sites in the country.

Since the Fukushima incident, Japan has become a more popular destination for disaster tourism, according to The Telegraph.

Among the places where an increase in this type of visitor has been reported is north-eastern Tohoku, where the coastal town of Rikuzentakata once boasted 70,000 trees, but was left with just one after it was hit with a tsunami.

Seeing the solitary surviving pine tree standing where an entire forest had once been has a profound effect on those who make the journey to the site.

Dark Tourism is set to be published four times a year and has a selection of experts among its editorial staff.

These include Akira Ide, an associate professor of tourism studies at Oteman Gakuin University in Osaka Prefecture, the Mainichi newspaper reports.

He explained the deep connection between dark tourism and Japan in a paper for the International Conference on Humanities, Literature and Economics in Bangkok, which he submitted last year.

It stated: "From the ancient [times], Japan has experienced a lot of natural disasters. Therefore, Japan is suitable for dark tourism. Accident of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station added the image of radioactive disaster to Japan besides natural disasters.

"Dark tourism is the new way to help young people enjoy journeys."

While some visitors to Japan may feel that the idea of visiting sites such as a nuclear disaster site or a sole surviving tree a little macabre, others may wish to contemplate adding one or two of these places to their itineraries.

After all, travel is a way for people to better understand a culture and its history and these locations are part of that narrative.

Professor Ide told The Telegraph: "I believe the basis of dark tourism is the witnessing of, or participation in, local grief, because tourism helps increase the awareness about a tragedy and to ensure that the next generation does not forget the lamentable events of the past."

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