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Miyagi… for when travel restrictions are lifted

Throughout the region, there are a vast array of remote places that provide travelers with a serene escape from the crowded cities. Here are some attractions and destinations to dream about from afar, until travel restrictions are lifted.

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Known as the “land of contrasts,” Miyagi Prefecture in northern Japan gets this name from its unique blend of urban areas and natural attractions. Throughout the region, there are a vast array of remote places that provide travelers with a serene escape from the crowded cities. Below are some attractions and destinations to dream about from afar, until travel restrictions are lifted. 

Travelers looking for a quick escape from the cities can find one in Akiu, home to Rairaikyo Gorge. The one-kilometer nature trail is free and easy to access. The scenic gorge features a variety of rock formations and flowers, and offers access to Nozoki Bridge, also known as the Lover’s Sanctuary. The remote spot has a heart-shaped hole that naturally formed in the gorge wall. After it rains, the heart is filled with water and locals believe you can see your future lover’s reflection in the water.

Right near the gorge is Hotel Zuiho, an upscale and modern hot springs hotel with numerous baths at different temperatures. The city of Osaki also has a variety of natural attractions, such as Naruko-kyo Gorge. To experience these attractions from home, Osaki has its own Youtube channel featuring in-depth videos of many local attractions. 

The sacred Oshima Island in Matsushima Bay was famous decades ago, regarded as a special place of spiritual power, and home to numerous natural attractions. In the 11th century, the island became home to poets and monks, including the famed pilgrim Kenbutsu Shonin, a monk who was said to have magical powers, including the ability to fly. In 1119, Emperor Toba heard of these legends and gifted the island 1,000 pine trees — which is believed to be the origin of the name of the bay of “Matsushima,” meaning “pine tree island.” Today, the island is shrouded in mystery and still contains historical landmarks and artifacts for visitors to explore.

A short trip from the island to the Onikobe Jigokudani Nature Trail in Northern Miyagi offers a very different view. This volcanic area, whose name translates to “demon neck,” is home to erupting geysers that momentarily disrupt the solitude and tranquility of the trail. Also nearby are natural hot springs, and travelers looking to spend the night can camp out at the Fukiage Kogen Campground

Miyagi is also known for its variety of remote onsens, ideal for travelers looking for wellness options. The Sakunami Ichinobo is a ryokan that sits among the lush forestry in the valleys of the prefecture’s Sendai region. Reflecting the natural beauty of the surrounding nature, the Sakunami Ichinobo features an outdoor pool, sun deck and eight hot spring baths from three natural geothermal sources, including the nearby Hirosegawa River. Gaga Onsen of Mount Zao is also incredibly remote and has been a family operation since 1875. The ryokan boasts a rustic wooden private open-air bath overlooking the river that guests can reserve free of charge. For even more privacy, the Komakusa Suite includes its own in-room hot spring bath.

Sporty travelers looking to explore the land and see as many sites as possible can mountain bike through the Mount Zao Highlands. The Zao Echo Line is the best way to take in the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains and is considered the most scenic route around Mount Zao. The nearly 16-mile trail traverses through the mountainous border between Miyagi and Yamagata Prefecture. Bike riders and hikers can follow this trail up and over Mount Zao, eventually ending at the hot springs of Kaminoyama Onsen in Yamagata. Beautiful waterfalls, spiritual sites and Okama Crater, the crown jewel of Mount Zao, are waiting for those who choose this path.

For a way to experience cycling in Miyagi from home, people can check out this video on cycling through Matsushima Bay and this one in Akiu.

Travelers who prefer the beach instead of mountains can hike the Michinoku Coastal Trail, a trekking route running from Fukushima to Aomori Prefecture that is over 500 miles long. Hikers who travel through Miyagi are bound to encounter some of the prefecture’s most iconic remote and scenic spots, such as Matsushima Bay and Sanriku Coast. Travelers at home can still experience the trail through this online guide that shows the trail in its entirety.

For more information on Miyagi, visit http://www.visitmiyagi.com.

Travel

Environmentally friendly behavior is easy… tourists just need a ‘nudge’

The study showed that the presence of a ‘nudge’ or cue towards certain behaviors was enough to encourage people to behave in more environmentally conscious ways, whether that was refusing a plastic bag whilst at the convenience store or ensuring they maintained a safe distance from turtles when on a snorkeling trip – whether this message was framed positively or negatively did not matter.

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Photo by Aliona & Pasha from Pexels.com

A new study in Frontiers in Communication has demonstrated the powerful impact that subtle messaging and cues, or ‘nudges’, can provide on encouraging people to show socially desirable behaviors.

Travelers who were observed on the Indonesian island of Gili Trawangan, a popular tourist destination, were more likely to demonstrate environmentally conscious actions, such as refusing a plastic bag or avoiding contact with a coral reef, when they were ‘nudged’ towards the desirable action with either a written or face to face interaction.

The researchers found that any intervention, whether framed positively or negatively, was enough to lead people to make environmentally conscious decisions, compared to being given no behavioral cues or messaging. The study provides many practical takeaways that can be easily implemented by tourist operators or businesses, at a low cost, to increase environmental stewardship and promote positive behaviors in their customers.

Although many of us feel a responsibility to demonstrate environmentally-conscious behaviors and possess the knowledge we need to take these actions, we are often burdened by numerous obstacles, a phenomenon the researchers describe as the ‘knowledge-action gap’.

Dr Katherine Nelson, who led the study in partnership with the Gili Eco Trust, explains: “The gap between knowledge and action exists because it is much easier to think a certain way than it is to actually consistently behave in that manner — but providing a subtle cue can help us relieve some of the cognitive burden on our brains when we are in a complex environment.”

To try and close this gap, the researchers set up scenarios for tourists in two real life situations — when being offered a plastic bag at a convenience store, and when given a briefing before a snorkeling trip. The researchers observed the differences in people’s behavior based on whether a person was confronted with a written or face to face interaction of either a positive message highlighting good outcomes, or a negative message focusing on the bad outcomes of a specific action.

The study showed that the presence of a ‘nudge’ or cue towards certain behaviors was enough to encourage people to behave in more environmentally conscious ways, whether that was refusing a plastic bag whilst at the convenience store or ensuring they maintained a safe distance from turtles when on a snorkeling trip – whether this message was framed positively or negatively did not matter.

“Our study highlights that an intervention can lead people to making better decisions by just drawing their attention to an issue — by providing a small cue, we can reduce the obstacles that get in the way and make environmental behaviors easy.”

The results offer important insights on the effectiveness of simple messaging as a practical way to nudge people towards environmentally conscious behaviors. The tourist sector in particular has huge potential to utilize these types of approaches and make pro-environmental behaviors a simple choice to reduce local impacts.

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NewsMakers

Taking the fear out of driver education

Educational programs often use fear-based messaging and films of crash scenes to reduce risky driving behavior among young people. But does this “scary” approach work?

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Photo by Laura Gariglio from Unsplash.com

New drivers between the ages of 15 and 25 account for nearly half of the more than one million road deaths that occur worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization. Educational programs often use fear-based messaging and films of crash scenes to reduce risky driving behavior among young people. But does this “scary” approach work?

A new study published in the journal Risk Analysis suggests that fear-based messaging fails to reduce risky driving behavior, while fear-based Virtual Reality (VR) films depicting a violent collision may actually lead young drivers to take more chances behind the wheel.

A team of psychologists led by University of Antwerp researcher Clara Alida Cutello, PhD, conducted a study of 146 students who had been legally driving for less than five years. The researchers examined the impact of both content (fear vs. positive) and delivery mode (2D vs. VR) of driver safety intervention programs.

Fear-based driver ed films often show terrible crash scenes in graphic detail. The assumption behind this approach is that arousing a sense of fear by depicting a serious consequence such as death will persuade young people to drive more carefully. Positively framed films take the opposite approach, using humor and empathy and modeling safe driving behaviors that result in positive consequences.

Three tests were used to gauge the risk-taking behavior of the young drivers before and after participating in the intervention program. One was a Driver Behavior Questionnaire. The other was the Vienna Risk-Taking Test on traffic, which asks participants to watch video clips of driving situations from the point of view of the driver and choose whether they view a situation as too risky. For example, choosing whether to pass another car in icy conditions. A third test was a 21-item Emotional Arousal Scale that measured the level of emotional arousal (such as feeling afraid) after watching a film.

The results showed that participants who viewed the fear-based VR film reported riskier driving behaviors afterward, while those who viewed a positively framed VR film exhibited the greatest reduction in risky driving behavior. This finding supports other research that has shown that exposing participants to an extreme and graphic collision tends to activate defensive mechanisms, such as paying attention for a shorter time, disengaging, rejecting a message, and an increase in risky behaviors.

“Fear appeals have been used in many health and environmental campaigns, such as smoking, anti-drug, safe sex, and HIV prevention campaigns,” says Dr. Cutello. “Further experimental research is needed to determine whether the use of fear is effective.”

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Destinations

5 Tips for summer road trips

Whether you’re going down the road to visit family or across the country to see a national monument, it is important to prepare your vehicle – and its tires – before you pull out of the driveway.

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For many people, summer means setting out on a road trip in search of bucket-list-worthy excitement or a relaxing vacation.

Whether you’re going down the road to visit family or across the country to see a national monument, it is important to prepare your vehicle – and its tires – before you pull out of the driveway.

These five safety tips can help get your family ready to hit the road this summer:

  1. Check Your Tread – A tire’s tread depth can determine a vehicle’s safe stopping distance. You can check your tread depth by sticking a penny upside-down in a tread groove. If you can see President Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace your tires.
  2. Ensure Proper Tire Pressure – Low tire pressure can lead to poor handling and gas mileage, excessive wear and overloading. Drivers should check their tire pressure at least once a month, and especially before any long trip. Use a dependable air gauge or stop by an automotive store to take advantage of complimentary air checks.
  3. Rotate Often – Tires should be rotated at least every 6,000 miles or earlier if irregular or uneven wear develops.
  4. Inspect Your Trunk – Some new vehicles no longer come equipped with a spare tire, opting instead for tire inflation kits that feature puncture coating sealants and air compressors, or even run-flat tires. Check your trunk to see what your vehicle contains and make sure you have a roadside assistance plan should the need arise.
  5. Don’t Overload – The combination of heat and overloading a vehicle, which can be common during summer travel, is one of the most dangerous conditions for a vehicle’s tires as overloaded tires can overheat and possibly fail.

When it comes to summer driving safety, it can be imperative to check your tires early and often. Knowing the condition of your tires can keep your family safe and your vehicle in quality condition. 

“It is important that drivers know how to check and maintain their tires and recognize the warning signs of when to replace them, especially during the hotter months,” said Tom Williams, senior vice president at Discount Tire. “Keeping customers and their families safe is our No. 1 priority each summer.”

To learn more about tire safety before a summer road trip, or to schedule an appointment for a tire safety check, visit tires.com.

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