KANAZAWA, ISHIKAWA PREF. – It was a great year for the Hokuriku region — an area facing the Sea of Japan rich with scenic landscapes and abundant marine food products.
On the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line between Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture to Tokyo, which marked its first anniversary Monday, passengers tripled from the previous limited stop line to the new bullet train service.
“It’s beyond expectation,” said Seiji Manabe, president of West Japan Railway Co., last month.
The easier access and media attention have been behind the boost in tourist numbers.
According to Nippon Travel Agency, tourists from Tokyo’s metropolitan area more than quadrupled between June and December last year compared with the previous year.
Hokuriku people traveling to Tokyo more than doubled during the same period.
Tourists from the Kansai and Tohoku regions also increased, while travelers to Nagano on the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line were also up.
And the benefit was not limited to tourism.
For the first time, the prestigious Waseda and Keio universities held a joint gathering in the region for prospective students.
Chuo University held an entrance exam in Kanazawa in addition to exams in Tokyo.
For Hokuriku residents, the Kansai region has become more accessible and as a result closer bonds are being forged between the areas.
However, parents are still hoping their children aim for Kanto region universities given the closer access, a cram school official in the city of Toyama said.
Local trains between Nagano and Kanazawa stations operating parallel to the shinkansen line have flourished as well.
Passengers at Ishikawa Railway in Ishikawa Prefecture totaled 26,000 between April and September last year, up about 4,000 from the same period in 2012.
“Many came to Kanazawa by shinkansen, with some taking the local train thereafter,” an official at the railway said.
With the Hokkaido Shinkansen Line expected to start operations on March 26, some voiced concern that a tourist boom in Hokuriku may end up being merely a fad.
But JR West is optimistic.
“It was big that we have closer access to the 40 million people in the metropolitan area,” said Masashi Nonaka, who heads JR West’s Kanazawa branch.
“We will maintain this momentum in the second year.”