For foreign tourists, there’s room at the inn

When Martin Smith checked into a small “ryokan” in the hot-spring resort of Shima, Gunma Prefecture, on a rainy September night, staff at the traditional inn saw a glimmer of hope that overseas guests could be lured back after the March triple disasters of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident. Smith, a 32-year-old cofounder of a software company in San Diego, was the first foreign guest that Kashiwaya Ryokan had received since launching an English-language word-of-mouth campaign using Facebook and other websites earlier in the month.

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