Officials in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, attempting to promote their city as a tourist destination, received a rude shock recently when a survey showed its image was less one of natural beauty and fresh seafood and more one of being a center for nuclear power.

In fact Tsuruga is home to two of Japan’s commercial nuclear power plants (one of which is due to be decommissioned), and the controversial Monju fast-breeder reactor (which will also be scrapped). Further, the city is a major center for nuclear power research and has public facilities dedicated to extolling the virtues and safety of technology.

Officials are concerned, however, that without an effective strategy for convincing tourists to historic spots like Kanazawa to come to Tsuruga as well, trains on the extended Hokuriku Shinkansen Line set to be completed in six years will be empty.

Last fall, Tsuruga conducted a survey of 120 tourists in and around the JR Kanazawa Station area, asking if they knew about Tsuruga and what they thought about it. About 60 percent of 74 respondents said they knew Tsuruga, but only four said they’d actually visited.

City officials had hoped respondents would at least reply that they had seen last year’s NHK period drama “Sanada Maru,” which featured a Tsuruga hero. But only one person mentioned the program.

Respondents who said they knew of Tsuruga were also asked about their image of the city. While it’s not clear how many answered the open-ended question, the most popular response, given by six people, associated the city mostly with nuclear power.

Only about 20 percent of the respondents knew the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line was due to be extended from Kanazawa to Tsuruga by fiscal 2022.

Two separate surveys of tourists at Toyama Station and Takaoka Station in Toyama Prefecture also showed that Tsuruga’s image was associated with nuclear power.

Over the past several years, Tsuruga has made efforts to promote its local cuisine and natural environment. The survey showed that unlike Kanazawa, facilities in Tsuruga, especially for international tourists, remain undeveloped.

But the results also suggested that the city needs to get out of nuclear power before large numbers of tourists would consider a visit. While Tsuruga may have assumed visitors from Tokyo or the Kansai region would not mind a vacation among nuclear power plants, the survey has given it a reason to rethink its strategy.

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