THE earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan on March 11, and the nuclear crisis that followed, have had an impact on nearly every corner of the economy, perhaps none more directly than the tourist industry. The number of foreign visitors has plunged 50 percent since the triple disasters, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.
But four months on, travelers are trickling back. Most are business travelers, adventure seekers and bargain hunters, a type of visitor not often associated with Japan, where a sushi dinner can wipe out a week’s savings.
The view of Japan as a high-priced playground is what kept Erin Conroy and Jenny McMeans, friends from New York City, from visiting. But this spring, they found round-trip tickets to Tokyo on airfarewatchdog.com for just $600, about half what they normally cost, and booked a room in a hostel for 2,600 yen (about $33 at 79 yen to the dollar) a night. Suddenly, Japan was affordable, even with the yen near record highs against the dollar.