Tsuruga Citizens Celebrate Newly Extended Shinkansen Line; Hopes for New Section to Aid Post-Quake Reconstruction

The Yomiuri Shimbun
People take pictures in front of the Kagayaki 501, the first Shinkansen train to arrive from Tokyo, on a platform at Tsuruga Station in Fukui Prefecture on Saturday.

About 800 people celebrated the departure of the first train on the newly extended Hokuriku Shinkansen line to Tokyo at Tsuruga Station in Fukui Prefecture on Saturday.

Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Tetsuo Saito also attended the ceremony, which was held just before 6:11 a.m., the first train’s departure time.

A kusudama paper ball hanging from the platform roof was broken during the ceremony.

“I finally got a ticket after waiting for a cancellation,” said a veterinarian from Sakyo Ward, Kyoto. He said his family of three arrived in Tsuruga on Friday on the Limited Express Thunderbird train to catch the first Shinkansen.

Many tourists arrived at Fukui Station, a stop on the new section, on the first day.

A 38-year-old company employee from Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, who arrived at Fukui Station with his family, said they plan to visit scenic spots such as the Tojimbo Cliffs and Awara Onsen hot spring resort in Fukui Prefecture.

“The ride on the Shinkansen was comfortable. I’m looking forward to seafood and sea views,” he said.

Hopes for reconstruction

The newly extended Shinkansen line connecting Tokyo and Tsuruga is expected to help reconstruction in areas damaged by the Noto Peninsula Earthquake on New Year’s Day.

“We never imagined we would have so many reservations,” said the manager of Obishiso, an inn in Komatsu, Ishikawa Prefecture.

Obishiso had about 500 room reservations canceled in January following the earthquake.

However, when the government’s discounted tourism package program to support the Hokuriku region began accepting reservations on Tuesday, the inn’s phones were ringing off the hook. All rooms for April are already booked, the manager said.

The inn believes that the extension of the Shinkansen line will revitalize tourism in Ishikawa Prefecture.

There are still around 1,600 evacuees in Kaga, also in the prefecture. Kaga Onsen Station has been added as a station on the Shinkansen line.

By making rooms on some floors available to victims, inns and hotels in the prefecture have tried to strike a balance between tourism and helping those affected by the quake.

About 70 disaster victims have taken shelter at Hoshotei, an inn in Kaga.

“I have mixed feelings about this, as I’m afraid it will interfere with the tourists,” said an 86-year-old victim from Wajima in the prefecture.

“We can’t ask those who have nowhere else to go to leave,” said Mai Boshiyama, 45, the proprietress of Hoshotei, who plans to continue accepting the disaster victims until summer.

Meanwhile, she expects Kaga to become more lively, saying, “I think that more tourists who have not gone beyond Kanazawa will visit the city.”

Promotion of ‘dinosaur kingdom’

In Fukui Prefecture, where the Hokuriku Shinkansen is now positioned to help revitalize the region, there is a growing mood to welcome tourists.

At Fukui Station, some residents had been taking pictures on their smartphones of the countdown board that showed the number of days until the new station facilities opened on Friday.

Fukui Prefecture has focused on promoting itself as the “dinosaur kingdom” in the Kanto region, since many dinosaur fossils have been discovered in the prefecture.

In late January, a 12-meter-long, 5.6-meter-high life-size Tyrannosaurus rex appeared outside Fukui Station.

Ahead of the opening of the new section of line, about 20 dinosaur robots and monuments have been installed around the station.

The Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum, which reopened in Katsuyama in the prefecture last July, has a new section where visitors can experience assembling a fossil model of a Tyrannosaurus.

The percentage of tourists from the Kanto region has remained at about 20%.

“We hope that the power of the Hokuriku Shinkansen will increase the number of fans of Fukui Prefecture and dinosaurs,” said museum director Yumiko Tanikawa.