Travelers to U.S. urged to be vigilant after mass shooting

by Mizuho Aoki and Ayako Mie

Staff Writers

The Foreign Ministry has urged travelers to exercise caution when visiting parts of the U.S. that could be targets for terrorism, following Sunday’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

In an advisory issued Monday, the ministry said people should seek out the latest safety-related information before traveling to the U.S.

It also said travelers should be vigilant after the Islamic State group in May called on its followers to carry out attacks on the West during Ramadan, which lasts from around June 6 to July 5.

As of late Monday, the massacre at Pulse nightclub had claimed 50 lives in a tragedy that has sent shock waves around the world.

In Japan, major travel agencies said on Monday there were no plans to cancel tours to Orlando, which is popular with Japanese tourists who visit the Walt Disney World Resort.

“There have been no cancellations so far,” a spokeswoman at JTB Corp., the nation’s biggest travel agency, said. “The shooting occurred in one place, so I don’t think that will have much impact on people planning to travel to Florida.”

According to the website of the Consulate-General of Japan in Miami, the number of Japanese visitors to Florida has increased steadily over the past few years. In 2012, 278,000 visited the state, up from 150,000 in 2008.

Nippon Travel Agency Co. and H.I.S. Co. also said they had no plans to change tours to Disney World, and that there had not been any cancellations from customers planning trips to Florida.

Meanwhile, LGBT people in Japan were shocked to learn the Orlando gunman had targeted the gay community.

Ayako Itagaki, a transgender person who came out eight years ago, said he felt horrible about what had happened, especially after the LGBT community had gained more public support globally.

“This tragedy happened just as we started to feel comfortable about who we are. At the same time, I understand there are people who do not appreciate the LGBT movement as we get more support,” said the 35-year-old Tokyo restaurant manager. “Usually a revolution takes a bumpy road, but it is not acceptable that people die in that process.”

Itagaki said that he sometimes felt threatened even though Tokyo had a much more tolerant attitude.

“I am sure a lot of LGBT people have a fear of the hatred toward our community. It has always been like that, but we are always careful about how to behave.”

The Foreign Ministry’s alert, which is issued following a major incident overseas, is the same level as one issued after a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, in December.

Depending on a situation, the ministry can raise an alert level, according to its website.