SARS fears deter Japan's Green Gables fans from Canada
Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE
"SARS fears deter Japan's Green Gables fans from Canada"
(By Rajiv Sekhri) Reuters
This is an interesting little report on Prince Edward Island, that this year's tourists from Japan seem to inevitably decrease because SARS contamination in Toronto has spread the impression that all of Canada is dangerous. With due respect to the people involved in tourism in PEI, however, the number of visitors referred to almost induces a smile. The number of 5,300 tourists for the whole season last year is comparable to what Tokyo Disneyland could accumulate in less than an hour. But, of course, it would not server the purpose for those going all the way to PEI if the stage for 'Anne of Green Gables' was crowded and noisy as Disneyland. Actually, it is surprising to realize so many people from Japan visit Charlottetown and Cavendish, a very lengthy and costly trip to make, especially considering that there is not much else to see within a 1,000 km radius.
The article explains very nicely how 'Anne of Green Gables' by Lucy M. Montgomery caught the minds of Japanese girls half a century ago, and that the story moved them so deeply they handed over their emotion to their daughters, until the 'red-haired Anne', as it is called in Japan, became a part of Japanese culture.
There are, as mentioned in the article, a number of institutions which makes some sort of reference to 'Anne of Green Gables' in Japan, some authorized and some obviously not. One of them not mentioned in the article is the 'Canadian World', a theme park built in 1991 in Ashibetsu, possibly the least populated region in Japan, in the center of Hokkaido, the Northern Island, which in short, means in the middle of nowhere.
Those were the days of bubble economy, when investors were looking for the wildest of opportunities, and people were willing to pay for just about anything. An idea popped up to build authentic scenery of Atlantic Canada with a focus on ever-popular Anne, and to simulate the scenery, it was necessary to locate it in a remote area, away from distractions to harm the image.
It was not much of a surprise, then, after six years from the opening, in 1997, upon draining all the money and effort, the theme park as a commercial entity went bust.
The story did not end there, though. City of Ashibetsu purchased the remains of the facility and renovated a significant part of it, to form a public park, which opened in 1999. Where it used to charge up to 20 dollars just to enter the facility became free for everyone to visit and stroll. Now, most of the buildings remain intact and aptly maintained, a number of shops including a small restaurant are operating, and best of all, it continues to provide the atmosphere akin to that of Atlantic Canada, including the wide-open scenery and quietness.
Does it worth going all the way to the middle of nowhere and visit the park? Of course it does! It would give you an idea on how far Japanese tourists must travel to reach the real house with green gables in Cavendish, which in turn makes you realize how strong the passion many Japanese girls have toward "Anne of Green Gables."