Japanese visitors Keiko Yukawa, left, and Ritsuko Kaihatsu toured Aloha Tower last year. Despite a drop in travelers from Japan during the Iraq war, some are determined to continue with their trips.

Some Japanese tourists
are isle-bound despite war

By Tim Ruel

Some Japanese tourists are content, even determined, to visit Hawaii during wartime.

"I've already ordered a surfboard, so I have to go," wrote a 26-year-old resident of Kumamoto, who plans to fly to Hawaii this month for a trip.

Another person, a 50-year-old from Shizuoka, wrote: "I was worried, but I got information from the Internet that local Hawaii people were carrying on with their everyday lives, so I went on March 25."

Other would-be Japanese visitors took a more conservative view, and canceled their trips. "I had planned to go to a wedding (in the islands), but Hawaii is also America. I am in no mood to celebrate or drink toasts while there is a war going on," wrote a 55-year-old from Kanagawa.

On Sunday, a 33-year-old from Tokyo wrote: "In addition to the war, I'm also afraid of the unidentified pneumonia that's spreading at the moment. It's because I would be taking my child with me."

These comments, and many others, were gathered between March 28 and April 8 by Honolulu firm PacRim Marketing Group Inc., which conducted a Web survey that drew 302 respondents. The survey, which is unscientific, found that 10.6 percent of respondents plan to postpone or cancel their trips to Hawaii in April, while 86.1 percent said they will travel as planned. There was a much smaller rate of cancellation than after Sept. 11, 2001.

Since the start of the Iraqi war, Japanese arrivals to Hawaii have dropped 27 percent from last year, when travel was depressed by the effects of the terrorist attacks, according to preliminary state data. Local tourism companies have said they expect Japanese business to be down 30 percent to 40 percent in April and May. Many hope for a quick recovery in June.

Some survey respondents were more concerned about missed opportunities than they were about the war, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. "As I didn't want to waste the money for the trip, and also because I was looking forward to it, I ended up going (to Hawaii) on the very day the war began!" wrote a 26-year-old from Hyogo. "I was a little uneasy about it, but when I went there it was absolutely fine."

Wrote a 41-year-old from Saitama, "We heard that the security at the airports is very strict, so we decided to go."

Some said they were influenced by others in deciding to cancel or postpone their travels to Hawaii. "I thought I would go as planned, but my family is against it, and I haven't been able to change their minds," wrote a 32-year-old from Tokyo.

Others had no control over their travel plans, such as one 19-year-old living in Chiba. "I was meant to be going on a study trip with my mechanic school, but with the war, they decided to cancel early. It's too bad ... just because of the war ... I was looking forward to it!"

Another, a 43-year-old Aichi resident who visited the islands in March, wrote: "Now that I have returned home, I am very glad that I didn't cancel. I could really relax, and didn't hear a thing about Iraq. Since I have returned home to Japan, from morning to night, all I hear is Iraq, Iraq."

PacRim Marketing Group Inc.
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