After dealing with a natural disaster, this part of Japan is now struggling to prevent financial disaster as well.

In late June and early July, a large swathe of southwestern Japan was devastated by floods and mudslides following a series of heavy downpours, leaving over 200 dead and more than 40 missing, after millions of people in 23 prefectures were urged to evacuate.

One of the hardest hit areas was the Mabicho district of Kurashiki in Okayama Prefecture, where dozens of people were killed and thousands of houses were affected after nearly 30 percent of the town became flooded with water from the Oda River, which broke its banks in the early hours of 7 July.

Scenes of devastation in the area were broadcast on TV news programmes around the country, but what hasn’t been as widely publicised is the state of the area now, particularly in the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, which is one of the region’s most popular sightseeing spots.

According to Yuurin-An, a cafe and guesthouse in the historical quarter that suffered nothing more than a roof leak during the crisis, the canal-lined district escaped severe damage and is perfectly fine and open for business, but there’s one problem: now there are hardly any visitors.

After receiving successive cancellations, the owners became so concerned about the reputation of the area that they decided to take action, printing out a notice to let everyone know the area was fine, and handing the leaflets out to visitors.

The notice says “Please let people know that it’s business as usual in the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter!” and goes on to explain the cancellations received after the disaster and the importance of the district as one of the representative tourist areas of not just Kurashiki, but Okayama Prefecture as a whole. In order to help preserve the future of the area, and Okayama itself, they ask that people post photos of the historical quarter on social media with the hashtag #美観地区は元気だったよ (bikan chiku wa genki datta yo, which translates to “The Bikan District was healthy!”).

This photo from Yuurin-An shows that the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter really is fine and open for business as usual.

After sending out the request online, people were quick to act and show their support for the area.

“I hesitated to attend an academic conference here, but everything was normal in the area around Kurashiki Station.”

“It’s concerning that less people are here. There’s no damage in the Bikan District and at Korakuen (one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, located in Okayama). By all means, please stop by.”

“We stopped by Kurashiki and saw no real change in the area, apart from the colour of the water in the river. We finally got to eat the parfait with a whole peach in it, which was delicious and fresh, and made a small donation by buying a peach juice afterwards.”

“We came to Kurashiki. The Bikan district was unchanged, but there was noticeably less pedestrian traffic. We got some delicious things and bought a lot of souvenirs.”

“I went to the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter today. The financial damage there is real…it was a weekday, but I only saw about one visitor every ten minutes…the denim burger was as delicious as always, and I had fun going around the stores picking out some Bizen pottery. Somehow I felt like crying.”

The situation in the area, and the support it’s currently receiving from visitors, is enough to bring a tear to anyone’s eye. If you were intending to visit the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, then rest assured that you don’t need to cancel your holiday plans, and if you’re looking to support the region, you might want to book a trip there soon. And if you do visit, don’t forget to post your photos online with the hashtag #美観地区は元気だったよ!

Source: Net Lab
Featured image: Twitter/@uurin_an