Hokuriku Shinkansen Extension: Use Tourism Demand to Aid Reconstruction from Noto Quake

If tourism demand is stimulated for the areas affected by the Noto Peninsula Earthquake, it may provide a tailwind for reconstruction efforts. It is hoped that a newly created flow of people will steadily lead to the revitalization of the entire Hokuriku region.

A 125-kilometer extension on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line, jointly operated by West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) and East Japan Railway Co. (JR East), began operations between Kanazawa Station in Ishikawa Prefecture and Tsuruga Station in Fukui Prefecture on Saturday. The minimum traveling time between Tokyo and Tsuruga stations has been reduced by about 50 minutes compared to the previous route, down to 3 hours and 8 minutes. Traveling time between Osaka and Kanazawa stations is now at 2 hours and 9 minutes, a reduction of about 20 minutes.

After the opening of the Nagano-Kanazawa section of the line in 2015, the number of tourists from the Kanto region increased in both Toyama and Ishikawa prefectures, and land prices around Kanazawa Station have since doubled. This time, the annual economic effect for Ishikawa and Fukui prefectures is expected to total ¥58.8 billion.

The central and local governments have borne most of the ¥1.6779 trillion project cost. It is essential to use the extension to aid recovery from the Noto Peninsula Earthquake and to implement efforts to sustain the positive effects of the project.

After the earthquake, bookings at accommodation facilities not only in the heavily damaged northern region of the peninsula but also in neighboring municipalities were cancelled one after another. It is hoped that many areas, including the hot spring resorts of Kaga Onsen in Ishikawa Prefecture and Awara Onsen in Fukui Prefecture, where new Shinkansen stations have been built, will see crowds return.

In Fukui Prefecture, a foreign-affiliated hotel has opened and a bus service that travels to tourist spots in the prefecture has begun operations. It is important for the Hokuriku region to work together to attract visitors from the Kanto and Kansai regions, such as by promoting tourism in Fukui, Ishikawa and Toyama prefectures.

The government’s tourism support campaign to offer discount deals for trips to Ishikawa, Toyama, Fukui and Niigata prefectures started on Saturday and will run until April 26. The central and local governments should encourage not only travelers to the region but also volunteers who come to work in the affected areas to take advantage of this campaign.

About 3,600 people are still staying at hotels and inns serving as secondary evacuation facilities in Ishikawa Prefecture. The facilities will now have to balance receiving tourists with supporting disaster-affected people.

The prefecture has said it will extend the application period of the discount campaign for these facilities so they will not be disadvantaged. Tourists visiting such areas should be aware that there are many residents who are still unable to rebuild their lives.

Even though the new section of the Hokuriku Shinkansen line has now opened, construction of another section connecting Tsuruga and Shin-Osaka stations has yet to begin. The completion of the line is expected in 2046. When completed, the economic benefits will likely be even greater.

Currently, there are many issues to be addressed for the construction of the remaining section, such as the delay in environmental impact assessment procedures and construction costs that are expected to soar. How will the development plan be realized in the future? It is important for the plan to be flexible, taking into account population decline and the needs of the surrounding areas.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 16, 2024)