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        Mountainous forests and coastal towns dominate most of the prefecture, where visitors will find enterprising locals and nature guides working to revitalize their communities. Shikoku’s winding roads are best explored by car.
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        Kamikatsu INOW Program

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        Kamikatsu is Japan's first zero waste village. Travelers can experience what life is like here with the INOW cultural homestay program.
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A Message to our Readers: Spring 2020

From the Editor

The symbolism of spring has never been more poignant than in 2020. The country feels like it has been reeling ever since the super typhoon swept over Japan last October, wreaking havoc in many communities including ours here in northern Nagano. The winter season, which attracts powder lovers from around the world started off with a whimper, with many resorts struggling to open by Christmas. The snow did arrive and there were some incredible days on the mountain. While the industry has limped through one of the most underwhelming seasons in nearly a century, overall resorts made it through the bulk of the season unscathed before the news broke of the silent killer from Wuhan. 

The chaos that Covid-19 has brought to travelers, Japan residents and the global economy could not have been seen through the clearest crystal ball. Japan is no stranger to natural—or man-made—disasters and while pundits the world over argue about the best way to contain or stop the contagion I’m grateful to live in a country that handles emergency situations with grace and calm. Here in Nozawa Onsen many of our staff have chosen to stay here, rather than return to what awaits in their homeland. We’ve shared tears and embraces with travelers, staff and friends ordered home by their country’s leaders, scared of what will come of jobs, mortgages and what the future has in store.

Yet, as the initial rush of fear has abated, nearly everyone we meet has dealt with the new normal with a dignified resignation that we are all in this together. Like many, my family’s spring travel plans came to an abrupt halt when the U.S. decided to place a quarantine on any visitors to Saipan. We were looking forward to enjoying some stunning Micronesian sunsets and seeing old friends, but now is not the time. Knowing travel restrictions hit everyone from airlines, hotels, restaurants and workers across many industries is frustrating. Skymark Airlines had just restored direct flights from Japan to Saipan and there was a a lot of excitement about the return of many Japanese travelers to Saipan, but that’s now on hold. 

A common theme during this extraordinary time has been the opportunity to simplify, slow down and focus on what’s most important: health, happiness, friends and family. It’s unfortunate that it takes a global disaster to force us to look inward and be more thankful for what we have. The pause on industry and travel is also an opportunity for Mother Nature to catch her breath. The satellite photos of some of the world’s most polluted cities minus the dark haze are promising, and perhaps will give a new perspective to people living in these places and a renewed priority on health over wealth.

And with all this free fresh air to be had there’s literally no better time to get outside and explore your immediate surroundings. Ride a bike. Hike a mountain. Climb a rock. Ride a wave. Spring is a season of rebirth and regrowth and this year it is also a reset. We hope our readers will support local businesses when they can, find fun, safe ways to enjoy the great outdoors, travel with their families and close friends and enjoy the simple pleasures of living in a beautiful place like Japan. Onward!

— Gardner Robinson, Editor-in-Chief

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