The Yomiuri Shimbun March 14 marked the second anniversary of the extension of the Hokuriku Shinkansen line through Kanazawa. The bullet train service has continued to generate positive economic effects in the regions along the route.
The extended 228-kilometer section between Nagano and Kanazawa stations opened in March 2015. According to West Japan Railway Co. (JR West), 8.295 million passengers traveled on the section between Joetsumyoko and Itoigawa stations — part of the extended line — in the second year through the end of February, down 8 percent year on year. The operator said the decrease was smaller than it initially expected.
According to the Kanazawa municipal government, there were 8.44 million tourists in the city in 2014, the year before the Shinkansen extension opened. There were 10.06 million tourists the following year. The local government said the number appears to have increased in 2016, even though data is not yet available.
Kenrokuen garden, one of Kanazawa’s major sightseeing spots, was visited by 1.96 million people in 2014, 2.88 million people in 2015 and 2.96 million people in 2016.
The increase in the number of tourists has also boosted cruise ship tours to and from Kanazawa Port.
There used to be a dozen port calls a year at Kanazawa made by cruise ships, but the number surged to 30 in 2016, with a total of about 25,000 passengers.
Kanazawa is expected to receive 54 port calls this year — close to the 64 made in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, and the 47 made in Hiroshima, in 2016. Sasebo was ranked No. 9 and Hiroshima No. 10 in terms of the nation’s ports that received the most port calls.
Ships operated by Costa Cruises S.p.A., an Italian cruise service operator, made 10 port calls at Kanazawa last year.
“We likened the Sea of Japan to the Mediterranean,” said Yusuke Itokawa, head of the Japan unit of the Italian operator. “And we’ve applied a business model for the Mediterranean in which passengers can get aboard every time ships call at Rome, Marseille and other locations.”
The company operated a regular cruise service from July to September 2016 that visited Kanazawa; Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture; Sakaiminato, Tottori Prefecture; Fukuoka; and Busan, South Korea. The ship’s occupancy rate was about 90 percent during the six-day tour, which cost from about ¥60,000 to ¥350,000.
About 7,000 passengers boarded the ship at Kanazawa Port — double the number expected. Of them, about 40 percent traveled to Kanazawa from the Tokyo metropolitan area using the Shinkansen line, according to Costa Cruises.
The cruise proved a hit because “it carried passengers to cities that are difficult to visit in a single trip when using land transport,” an official at the operator said.