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Kiso Town: Stuck between a volcano and a hard place

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A few weeks after the sudden and tragic eruption of Mt Ontake, search-and-rescue teams have gradually become simply “search teams” and many families still await increasingly certain bad news.

Beyond loved ones, disasters like this often have a reverberating effect which reaches far out to places we don’t often see. One such place is Kiso, a highland town located roughly 10km away from Mt Ontake which suffered no adverse effect to business or life during the eruption.

As a town which relies on tourism, the people of Kiso would like to tell you that their town is perfectly safe and just as beautiful as ever. But with so many still mourning the loss of life at Mt Ontake, every time the people of Kiso try to make it plain that they’re open for business, people call them “despicable” and “heartless.”

Kiso City, like many parts of Nagano, makes a considerable amount of revenue from tourists wanting to see the changing of the autumn leaves. Kiso deals with annual heavy rains during the summer which makes the autumn visitors that much more valuable.

After the eruption on Sept 27, Kiso’s already well-booked accommodations started seeing cancellations steadily come in. Since none of that disaster actually affected the area, the Kiso tourism board took to Twitter to notify people that everything was business as usual there and there was nothing to fear.

However, although not unanimous, there were a considerable number of people commenting on these updates, saying that the Kiso Tourism Association was either “unscrupulous to the families of victims and missing people” or treacherous for “calling people to a dangerous place pretending its safe.” Since then they have refrained from making such statements via their Twitter account.

A message was then posted on the Kiso website stating that all businesses in the area, hot springs included, were completely unaffected by the Ontake disaster, but that too resulted in several angry phone calls and emails a day. Complaints again accused Kiso of trying to either capitalize on the grief of victims’ families or lure people into their “deathtrap” of a town.

Of course, the Kiso Tourism Association were not looking to make extra profit off of the eruption. They simply wanted people who planned on visiting to know things were still safe. Soon after the eruption, most, if not all, of the seasonal events in the area were canceled out of respect to those lost or missing in the disaster and their loved ones. Unfortunately, those cancellations seemingly served only fuel people’s suspicions that Kiso might have become an ash-covered wasteland.

And that’s where things stand now. The Town Hall and Tourism Association are currently busy fielding questions ranging from “Would I need to wear a face mask if I visit?” to “How can you live with your despicable selves?” while few people are actually setting foot in the area. So, in addition to all this added misery, they will probably also experience the worst financial year in a long time.

As a result there’s a weird feeling in the air of Kiso, with feelings of anger and frustration but with nothing to really be angry or frustrated at. They can’t be angry at the people who felt they were defending the Mt Ontake victims and their families by criticising the town’s posts online. Getting angry at a volcano won’t get them very far either. Their only remaining option is to sit in silence and wait out the quiet autumn and winter.

Source: Livedoor News via Itai News

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2 Comments
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It was a tragedy, but the town depends on tourists. Can't blame them for trying to rebuild their lost revenue source.

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Love that place lived in the valley for 4 months.

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