Japan Tries To Fix 'nothing To Do At Night' Problem For Tourists

Japan tries to fix 'nothing to do at night' problem for tourists

Kabuki and other traditional entertainments are now being specially tailored for tourists in a bid to loosen the purse strings of foreign visitors who aren't spending as much as they used to.

An actor speaking English explains to foreign spectators how to enjoy Kabuki performances.

He says that the characters wearing red "kumadori" makeup like him are heroes while those in blue kumadori are villains, for example.

The initial 90-minute Kabuki dinner show that started at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 4 at a wedding hall near Tokyo Tower in the Japanese capital’s central Minato Ward was staged for people working in the tourism industry.

The price for tourists will be 19,000 yen ($174) per person, which includes a play based on traditional Kabuki, a sword fight and, of course, dinner.

"When the show gains in popularity we will provide a program in Chinese as well," said Kenichi Okumura, president of tourism consulting firm Aryu Corp. in Tokyo, the operator of the dinner show.

The government is also planning to provide assistance for such evening shows revolving around traditional Japanese activities.

Major travel agency JTB Corp. is working with a Japanese drum team called Drum Tao and is expected to provide 60 evening shows in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward between Sept. 16 and Oct. 29.

JTB offered traditional dance performances and other programs during the evening in January and February at the Kintetsu Department Store's Abeno Harukas main store in Osaka, which proved popular among sightseers.

In July, the Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau began "eisa" dance shows and other traditional performances in Okinawa Prefecture in Urasoe and Ginowan. The performances started at 7 p.m. and explanations were provided in English and Chinese.

Although the number of foreign visitors to Japan has been steadily rising, tourist spending per person is at a standstill. An overseas tourist spent an average of 149,000 yen between April and June this year, down 20 percent from the peak in July to September 2015.

While the government is looking to raise the spending to 200,000 yen by 2020, it is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve this goal.

There are "few entertainment activities overseas visitors can enjoy at night in Japan," according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

This shortage of entertainment programs at night is said to be a factor behind sluggish tourist spending.

Traditional performances are provided typically in Japanese and difficult for non-Japanese sightseers to understand.

While discount stores open until late at night are popular among foreign visitors, "demand is growing for entertainment programs at night other than going shopping or dinner," according to a JTB official.

This is why the agency is to begin offering assistance to nurture new events in the evening.

The Broadway Theater in New York, the Louvre Museum in Paris and other tourist facilities abroad that are open even at night take advantage of their name recognition to draw visitors.

Referring to lessons learned from those overseas cases, the agency is considering creating promotional videos and lists of sightseeing facilities on the Internet and has earmarked 120 million yen in its budget request for the next fiscal year.

The agency may also open a website to sell tickets as well as introducing other measures.