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The Japan Tourism Agency’s recent announcement that it will dispatch 1,100 international students to tourist destinations throughout Japan beginning in July raises more questions than it answers. JTA’s press release and an accompanying PDF can be found at www.mlit.go.jp/kankocho/news03_000028.html.

Has the Japan Tourism Agency thought this plan through, or is this merely a plan for a plan’s sake so that JTA is seen doing something? Does JTA think international students will have an impact on the preferred tourist demographic? Students, by the way, are not included in this demographic. Does JTA feel this action will restore the image that Japan is “safe”?

Are the images of smiling, fresh-faced international students aimed at countering those of the sweaty, dirty international volunteers who work tirelessly and selflessly to help the residents of the disaster-struck Tohoku-Pacific region? Has JTA simply calculated that images of dirty volunteers are bad for business?

Does JTA believe foreigners will return to Japan only if other foreigners appear to be enjoying themselves? Does JTA not see how out of touch this policy is, since many international students did not return to Japan (after the March 11 quake and tsunami) and many universities canceled study-abroad programs?

Is JTA truly concerned about the welfare of international students? If so, how does it plan to create a Japan that is a more affordable travel destination for international students?

Through June 4, I will attend the annual conference of NAFSA (association for international educators) in Vancouver. With more than 8,000 individuals expected to attend, I am anxious to discuss JTA’s plan for international students with my colleagues from around the globe.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

brian masshardt