Long ago, when travelling for fun was a lesser known form of recreation, it was the Japanese who could be seen all over the globe with their little hats, goggles and the ever present camera dangling at their midriffs. So even today it comes as no surprise that Japan has come up with a new concept of touring. After having seen the beauties of natural and man-made places, they have turned their sight on factories. The Japanese now go on what are called “Factory Tours”.
How did this come about? Well it all begins with making good use of available resources. Japan has abundant factories and the city of Kawasaki is the one that seems to have ticked off this revolution in tourism. Kawasaki lies between Tokyo and Yokohama and has some of the largest and busiest industries; its nearness to Tokyo makes it easily accessible. The past couple of years have seen a growing number of tourists, mostly local, making their way to the roaring production houses with their expensive cameras since photography happens to be the highlight of these excursions.
Come evening, one can see tour buses pouring out its cargo of impressionable tourists looking ready to be amazed by the aesthetics of the power plants. Kojo Moe, which means “factory infatuation” in Japanese has the group holding fort for hours watching random cranes swivel, raise and lower in slow motion. Their love for the proceedings is obvious as they “ooh!” and “aah!” unanimously at the large chimneys coughing out billows of smoke.
The night darkness has a special place in their hearts. As millions of lights go on, the wonder in the eyes of the watchers matches that of children let loose on an “all-you-can-buy” spree in a toy store. People who have the kojo moe, have actually have been heard to liken the dazzling spectacle of such an illuminated web of tangled metal to a wonderful larger than life Christmas tree.
Factory tours have since moved on from mere bus tours to boat trips which are pre-reserved and have become so popular that the seats are sometimes sold out within a day. With people making it a point to go factory–admiring at least once a week, smaller businesses have profited by offering sundry facilities to the tourists. The Kawasaki City Tourist Association is not getting left behind making a fast buck by running boat cruises bi-monthly around the industrial city for 4000 yen per head, which according to the Wall Street Journal are advance booked month before date.
So who is behind kick starting this subculture? It all started with a picture book titled “Kojo Moe” put together by writer and photographer Ken Ohyama and freelance illustrator Tetsu Ishii. They have had some 40,000 takers since its publication in 2007, and there is a Kojo Moe DVD out there too.
“Still”, you might ask, “factories, really?” Well, what can I say except to answer really wisely “Beauty lie in the eye of the beholder”?