Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Amazing Race 18, Episode 4 (two-part episode)

Kurihama (Japan) - Narita (Japan) - Kunming (China) - Lijiang (China) - Kunming (China)

For the last two weeks, The Amazing Race 18 made its way through a two-part episode from Japan to China. At the same time, the events of the reality-TV show have taken a back seat, even for dedicated fans, to thoughts about real-world events in Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami.

This is, remarkably, the third time in the ten-year history of The Amazing Race that a catastrophic earthquake (and/or earthquake-caused tsunami) has struck an area within a few weeks (in two of the three cases, just days) of the broadcast of an episode of the race filmed in that destination before the quake:

  1. January 2005: The Amazing Race 6 in Sri Lanka (December 2004 tsunami)
  2. February 2010: The Amazing Race 16 in Chile
  3. March 2011: The Amazing Race 18 in Japan

And that doesn't even count last month's earthquake in host Phil Keoghan's home town of Christchurch, New Zealand, while the race was being shown across the Tasman Strait in Australia.

Is there any lesson here, beyond bad luck? I don't think so. Earthquakes and tsunamis are rare and not (yet) predictable with any precision. Know what to do if you get warnings that one is coming, but don't spend too much time worrying whether or when or where they will strike. (Maybe I'm just in denial: I live in San Francisco, although on bedrock well above the height of any tsunami risk. And the risk of "The Big One" is as great, or greater, in most of the Los Angeles basin and other parts of Southern California as it is in San Francisco.)

I'm actually posting this several days late, both because I've been wrapping up the next edition of The Practical Nomad: How To Travel Around the World and partly because I had hoped that, once the dust settled -- literally and figuratively -- the situation for travel to Japan would become clearer.

That hasn't happened.

The situation in Japan is different than the one that formed the basis for Phil Keoghan's appeal to foreign visitors not to cancel planned trips to New Zealand. There are lots of foreigners in Japan, but relatively few tourists, and inbound international tourism is a relatively minor factor in the Japanese tourism economy, much less the Japanese economy as a whole. Japan doesn't need tourist dollars or yen to recover from the earthquake.

I've heard from one family of readers who, after careful consideration, decided to cancel their planned trip to Japan. They describe their thinking in No Tokyo: The Anatomy of a Decision in their "Only Planet" blog ("One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world..."). It's a worthwhile read.

If you are thinking a bit further in the future, the earthquake just a year ago in Chile (Remember the front-page headlines about the earthquake in Chile a year ago? See how quickly we forget?) may provide some perspective. The damage was serious, although not nearly as much so as in Japan, largely because the affected part of Chile is much less densely populated. And much reconstruction remains to be done.

Nevertheless, the damage was more limited and in a more limited area than was implied by most reports immediately after the earthquake in Chile.

Wayne Bernhardson, author of Moon Handbooks Chile and the authority on travel to the country, is making his first return visit to the areas most affected by the earthquake. He's posted his first reports from near the epicentre, one year later. Follow his blog for more reports on travel in earthquake country in the next several weeks.

Link | Posted by Edward on Sunday, 20 March 2011, 23:59 (11:59 PM) | TrackBack (0)
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