Nuclear plants and leprosy islands: Rise of ‘dark tourism’ in Japan unveiled

Forget Japan1 s sushi restaurants, historic shrines, and geisha tea rooms and make way instead for leprosy islands, nuclear disaster towns and Second World War landmarks.

Nuclear Plants And Leprosy Islands: Rise Of 'dark Tourism' In Japan UnveiledA deserted street is pictured in the town of Namie, inside the Fukushima nuclear disaster exclusion zone Photo: EPA/FRANCK ROBICHON In its inaugural issue, the 96-page magazine entitled Dark Tourism features a report on the National Sanatorium Nagashima Aiseien for leprosy patients, located on a remote island in Okayama prefecture. Other articles include discussions relating to the definition of dark tourism and a debate as to whether disaster-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant should be turned into an official tourist site. The magazine was the brainchild of Kaoru Nakata, the editor-in-chief, who has previously published books focusing on abandoned buildings and trouble-hit Second World War spots across Japan.

The concept taps into the rise of so-called disaster tourism which reportedly surged in the aftermath of Japan s devastating 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. Since then, a growing number of visitors have made pilgrimages to landmark disaster sites in tsunami-hit north-eastern Tohoku, such as the solitary surviving pine tree from a forest of 70,000 trees that were swept away in the coastal town Rikuzentakata. Others involved in the magazine, which will be published four times a year, include Akira Ide, an associate professor of tourism studies from Oteman Gakuin University in Osaka Prefecture, according to the Mainichi newspaper.

An established expert on the rise of dark tourism2, Prof Ide previously described the concept in an academic paper submitted to an International Conference on Humanities, Literature and Economics in Bangkok last year.

From the ancient times, Japan has experienced a lot of natural disasters, he wrote. Therefore, Japan is suitable for dark tourism. Accident of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station added the image of radioactive disaster to Japan besides natural disasters.

“Dark tourism is the new way to help young people enjoy journeys.”

Prof Ide, who also researches the role of technology in dark tourism such as augmented reality apps which enable visitors to recreate disaster scenes on smart phones told the Telegraph: I believe the basis of dark tourism is the witnessing of, or participation in, local grief, because tourism helps increase the awareness about a tragedy and to ensure that the next generation does not forget the lamentable events of the past.


  1. ^ Japan (
  2. ^ established expert on the rise of dark tourism (

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