The March 11 Tohoku disaster has had a pronounced effect on recreation and leisure throughout Japan. Web newspaper J-Cast News had earlier run stories on the closure of Tokyo Disney Resort and other theme parks in East Japan.
It followed up that story with March 28 report that the impact is being felt as far away as Kyushu, where bookings by foreign visitors to Huis Ten Bosch in Sasebo City and the Phoenix Resort in Miyazaki Prefecture have been sharply down.
A hotel operator at the famous Yufuin spa in Oita Prefecture was quoted as saying that 90% of its visitors from overseas, mostly from South Korea, had cancelled reservations, mainly out of fears over the nuclear plant accident at Fukushima.
Another area beginning to feel the disaster's impact is the domestic entertainment industry, both live performances and television.
Looking at online ticket sales sites, J-Cast News (April 3) noted widespread announcements of cancellations of the performances and information about how to apply for refunds on tickets. Releases of new CDs and DVDs, moreover, have been successively postponed until the period of "jishuku" (self-restraint) has been lifted.
Not surprisingly, the current somber mood of the nation has resulted in a sharp fall in demand for appearances by TV's top comedians.
"Cancellations have been coming in one by one, and work is down by at least 30%," says a source in the entertainment industry. "While there's still work to be found in western Japan, if the problems related to the disaster and nuclear accident become prolonged, there will be no avoiding an even worse situation."
Popular vocalists and other entertainers also regularly tour Tohoku to give live performances at hot springs resorts and other leisure facilities. Virtually all of the scheduled events have been cancelled.
"Due to the mood of self-restraint, Japan's entertainment world has probably been hit the hardest," remarks Masaaki Hiruma, an authority on the entertainment industry, who describes the current situation as the worst for the business since the immediate postwar period.
In the aftermath of the quake, commercials were dropped from TV in favor of public service messages, which the networks air for free. The suspension of commercial broadcasts by Japan's broadcasters is said to have cost each network an estimated 100 million yen per day.
Commercial advertisements on television are at last making a comeback, but in the second half of March alone, by Hiruma's estimate, the total shortfall of advertising revenues by all TV stations nationwide came to 10 billion yen through the end of March. Major sponsors normally conclude annual contracts with the networks, in which the amount is fixed, but it remains to be seen if the companies will be willing to pay the full amount despite their commercials not being aired.
With revenues down, it's likely that the networks will have no choice but to make drastic cuts to their program budgets, and top entertainers may face not only lowered fees, but being dropped from programs entirely.
"Budgets are already way down due to the recession," says Hiruma. "Cuts of an additional 20% are expected."© Japan Today