What is happening in japan
After the Noto quake?
Since entering into 2024, Japan has suffered from a successive slate of disastrous events starting with the 1 Jan Noto earthquake and the Haneda plane crash a day after. What is happening in Japan since then? Le Chief files this piece from the country's old imperial capital on Setsubun, a day where evil is out and good is in before spring officially begins.
What a dramatic start to 2024 in Japan
From our new base in Kyoto Japan we’ve entered into 2024 full of hope and aspirations. Afterall, the weeks leading up to 2024 have been super positive and fruitful - we’ve spent 2 weeks combing through the hospitality addresses of Osaka in late November and the week before Christmas traipsing from Matsumoto to Kanazawa. In the final moments of 2023, our inaugural FAB GOLD List was announced from Kyoto with several prominent Japanese hotels the likes of Park Hyatt Tokyo and Intercontinental Osaka ranking high on the List. Little did anyone expect disaster to strike so bright and early into the new year, Roughly an hour before the first sun of 2024 is to set over Japan, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck off the Noto Peninsula, sending devastation throughout the region and shockwaves around the world. For a few minutes, strong tremors can be felt throughout most of Japan as families gathered at home or were out celebrating Oshogetsu, or the Japanese new year. I was getting out of the Yasaka Shrine amongst a throng of visitors spilling out into the roads after the customary bout of ‘hatsumode’, or new year shrine visits, at that precise moment.
Fortuitously, the tremors were not sharply felt on the streets or who knows what could have played out in the ensuing pandemonium. We thank our lucky stars for life’s tender mercies even in the face of major disasters because some of us have learnt early on that there is never a state so bad that couldn’t possibly get worse. A day on, the horrifying scenes of a passenger plane bursting into flames at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport circulated throughout the media. In recent memory, this has got to be the most tragic, but best illustrative eruption of a double whammy, for Japan. In the grand sum of things, death and destruction is proverbial reality and we all deal with it as we best can.
After the catastrophic episode of COVID19, there is a palpable stoicism in the face of unalterable eventualities and somehow in Japan this sense of calm is more pronounced. I guess when your livelihood is built along tectonic fault lines, one has no choice but to elect optimism and calm as a coping mechanism.
After the initial shock of the earthquake and plane collision, life pretty much returned to normalcy a pronto in Japan. Whatever needs to be done was expediently rolled out and life close to the epicentre of the quake went on as it should.
Business as Usual
When we visited Kanazawa over the Christmas weekend in 2023, we were much impressed by the conception of Hyatt Centric Kanazawa, an art-filled establishment that is channelling both the city’s cultural resplendence as well as its modern gloss. Like most of the businesses in Kanazawa, the Jan 1st earthquake had profoundly disrupted the operations of the hotel but we are happy to hear that none of its staff and guests were hurt and things are largely on the mend.
‘In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, we had suffered some damaged equipment and the elevators were out of service. However, we were blessed that none of our guests or employees were injured, and the team worked together to tend to the emergency needs of the guests, including utilising our banquet rooms to help stranded guests. Around the region many buildings were destroyed or severely damaged, and we feel that it is important to support the losses of our affected staff as well. Although we had to reduce restaurant operations for a few days immediately after the earthquake, we were able to confirm the safety of our facilities at a relatively early stage, and we are now welcoming guests at usual capacity,’ shared Kei Takahashi, general manager of Hyatt Centric Kanazawa.
Over the proceeding weeks it is heartening that help and concern kept pouring forth from the Japanese and foreign community. It is also comforting to know that visitors continue to flow into Japan despite this series of unfortunate events. As a reviewer, I kept to my schedules across Honshu in the January of 2024. True to its world-renowned fortitude, it was business as usual at all the hotels we have visited since. What we saw surpassed gratification - as always the old and the new continue to move in tandem and discovery across these lands can never be complete. There is a palpable sensitivity to never take life for granted as operations carry on, but in Japan it is business as usual with normalcy and gusto.
Today is Setsubun, the official festival celebrating the arrival of spring in Japan. There will be plenty of fun and revelries amidst ritualistic solemnity across Kyoto, Japan’s repository of age-old traditions and adherences. In the upcoming months we will be rolling out reviews and FAB Lists covering Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nikko and other lesser-known destinations across Honshu. We have seen with our own eyes in real time how resilience is crafted into the nature of this amazing nation and hope our coverage will tempt you to visit these resplendent islands over the successive seasons soon.