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Tour packages to visit spots to observe total solar eclipse, as expensive as overseas trips at maximum 1.4 million yen

5, 12. 2009

   Total solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes through between the Earth and the Sun and the Sun can not be seen behind the Moon for a time. This rare occasion can be observed on July 22, 2009 at some areas in Tokara Islands, Amami Oshima and Tanegashima in the Pacific off Kashima Prefecture. Travel agents say tour packages for visiting the areas are already all reserved. The islands are planning various festivities to mark the occasion and they are already in a festive mood.

30 people rush for each available tour ticket for "Tokara Total Eclipse Observation Tour"

   It will be the first total solar eclipse to be observed in Japan in 46 years since the previous one took place in Hokkaido in 1963. It has to be waited for another 26 years before the next total solar eclipse to be observed in Japan occurs in 2035. This is why so many people are interested in the total solar eclipse that can be observed on the Pacific islands in July.

   Against this backdrop, Kinki Nippon Tourist Co. offered a "Tokara Total Solar Eclipse Tour" package in late 2008. The tourist agency sold the tour package to 1,500 people by lot on three occasions, and more than double the number of people responded to the sales, according to the public relations of the company. Tokara Islands consist of seven small islets. The number of people wanted to buy the tour packages for visiting one of the seven islets, "Akusekijima," where the total eclipse will be observed for the longest period of time of the seven islets, was 30 times that of the packages available for sale. All the tour packages have already been sold out, but there are still many applicants waiting for possible cancellations by those who have already been selected by the lot and bought the packages. The prices for the packages ranged from 300,000 yen to 1.4 million yen, as expensive as those for overseas tours.

   The population of the Tokara Islands is about 600. There are running water, electricity and city gas on the islands enough only for the residents there. As the population of the islands will be suddenly expanded by 1,500, and the officials of the islands are busy preparing for meeting the situation. The islands are under the jurisdiction of Kagoshima prefectural government, and the official in charge said:

"The tourists will stay at private tourist homes, camping places or school class rooms. What we have to worry about is how to feed them. We will provide the guests with food in cooperation with catering firms and PET bottle water. (Payments for these services are included in the prices for the tour packages.) The weather will be hot and we are worried about their health. We have made an arrangement to have a doctor and a number of nurses on each of the islands."

   The tour packages for the Tokara Islands have been sold out, but Kinki Nippon Tourist Co. began selling also in April 2009 the "Amami Oshima Total Solar Eclipse Tour" packages. These packages are available for 3,000 people, and about one third of them have already been sold. The rest of them are still available. The prices vary and the cheapest one is about 100,000 yen.

Dance music to be played all night on Amami Oshima

   Festivals will be held at many places on the islets to be timed with the happening of the total solar eclipse. On the Tanegashima islet, it will begin on July 21, the day before the total solar eclipse will occur. According to the person in charge of the event at the tourist association of the islet, a talk show is being planned as a special attraction of the event. Although details are still under study, Katsuhiko Hibino the artist and Shigesato Itoi the copywriter will take part in the show, he said. He further said:

"July 20 (July 21 by Japan Time) marks the anniversary the landing on the Moon of the Apollo 11. As Japan's space center is located on Tanegashima, we say that 'Ours is the island closest to the Moon.' The day should be remembered in future as the day coincided with the total solar eclipse observed on our island, and we want the event will be participated in by all the people on the island. We will welcome the visitors and we are planning to present them with some gifts."

   He seems to be ready to take a full advantage of the occasion to advertize his island.

   Amamioshima is also planning to conduct an outdoor event, called "Amami Total Solar Eclipse Music Festival," on July 16 through 24. The event will be of a large scale in which the "trance rave" dance music will be played all night long. Besides the psychedelic trance and dance music, Amami's traditional songs and folk music will also be played. The person in charge of planning the event said:

"The total solar eclipse can be observed somewhere in the world every year. An outdoor event is usually conducted at such a place. So, we also planned such an event here. A musical festival is normally held between evening and midnight, but we want to do something during the day on the occasion of the total solar eclipse. I think all the sound will be stopped during the time of the total eclipse, of course, so that everybody can observe it."

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