"Dear winner! Congratulations! You've won $10,000!" At first you are surprised. Your heart skips a beat, then you read the fine print. It says,
How many times has this happened to you?
Your dreams dashed. Of course, it was too good to be true.
You know, in Japan, there is an old saying, "There's nothing scarier than something for free!"
Well you might remember a few months back the campaign announced in the Japanese media and all over the world about 10,000 people winning free airfare to Japan in a Japanese Government Tourism Bureau effort to support flagging numbers of tourists to Japan after the March Fukushima nuclear accident? Well the Japanese government was just kidding about the free vacation... (I reckon that you can deduce that I not the most dependable travel agent in the world either... Chuckle!)
Of course it is/was a stupid idea. A very stupid idea (too good to be true for anyone who "won" - and it was)... (No problem for the government idiots who thought of this... They aren't spending their own money. Why not?)
But besides the practical concerns, think about the ineptitude: Talk about a BS contest! Imagine winning only to be told, "Oh yes, Mr. Something-or-other, congratulations but we were only kidding about the million dollars!"
The Wall Street Journal reports in Dream For Free Flights To Japan Over (article quotes highlighted in yellow, my snide remarks follow):
Back in October, Japan's national tourism agency floated a plan that seemed an ideal remedy to boost flagging visitor numbers in the wake of the March 11 disasters.
What!? "..a plan that seemed an ideal remedy?!" What are the these people at Wall Street Journal smoking? Oh, yeah, I forgot. The Wall Street Journal are a bunch of big government wankers too.
Free flights to Japan in 2012. A full 10,000 of them.
Over flowing with cynicism: Cheap skates! I knew it! "Why stop at 10,000?" I said at the meeting, "Let's make it 100,000! No! A million, ten million! Free babies, bento and Banzai too!"
Now, as the country crunches through the detail of tight budget numbers for next year, the hope many had for visiting Japan in 2012 has evaporated into a pipe dream: There won't be any free flights next year, period.
Well, duh. There ain't no Sanity Claus either.
The budget for them has not been approved. Whatever tourism authorities thought a good idea, Japan simply can't afford it, the government's budget planners have concluded.
Evidence that more government planing will make our lives better!
The Tokyo-based Japan Tourism Agency didn't sugar-coat the decision in a statement on its website late Dec. 26: "The project titled 'Fly to Japan!' (to offer flight tickets to 10,000 foreigners with high potential to communicate Japan's attractions), which had been covered in a number of media in autumn this year, was not approved as a governmental draft budget of FY 2012."
How about not sugar-coating a message to the Einsteins in the Japan Tourism Agency on their website by writing something like, "You're fired!"
Regular readers of this blog will know that I am extremely skeptical of any pronouncements by the Japanese government (or any government for that matter) and, at the time of this campaign's announcement, I remember thinking, "These clowns have a debt that is over 225% of GDP and now the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster to contend with. Where in the hell are they going to get the money to pay for this?"
Now, what do we who live in Japan and pay taxes for have to show for this idiocy? Well, I haven't any figures, but I know we spent lots of money on promotional items like posters, TV ads, and advertising in publications all over the world (besides the silly posters advertising this campaign that were hung in my local bar in Tokyo - go figure!) so we dumped at least a few hundred thousand dollars on that. Small change, right? No problem. Then, on top of that, we got this bad promotion (or good depending on how you look at it).
These types of dumb government planned promotions are always a boondoggle. Let me recall a few for you that I remember:
In 1979, at the height of the trade wars with the USA, the Japanese government made stickers and posters and placed them all over Japan's train stations and in taxis. The stickers and posters said, "Import Now!" (as if the average Japanese housewife reads English and/or has any say as to whether or not pots and pans and textiles and steel are imported into Japan from the United States or not.
Which is much like this campaign that I've seen at my local pub recently. The posters say, "Visit Japan!" I think, "Wow! What a brilliant idea! Promote visiting Japan to people who are already here! Saves them the airfare! Brilliant!"
This poster hangs in my favorite restaurant ... in Tokyo!
The next campaign that I remember Japan spending an exorbitant amount of money on was the Yokoso Japan campaign. Japan must have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on this campaign making videos that were shown (and viewed) a few hundred times on the Internet and seen on American and European TV at times like 5:00 am on a Sunday morning. In fact, I hosted the one about Hiroshima (even though I don't live there!). Uh, don't expect me to show you that one, it was embarrassing (many of the English subtitles were spelled incorrectly and lots of other problems):
*That's tue: This contest is a farce and not real... Just like the vacation to Japan contest was also. Sorry.