Even though it was the Summer Festival, the number of people walking around the tourist area was sparse. The cries of seagulls echoed in the town. A female employee of a restaurant that also operates a sightseeing boat lamented, “It’s the peak of the season, but business is slow.
It’s a busy time of the year, but business is slow. Usually during this time of the year, there is a traffic jam of tourist cars. But every so often, we have no choice but to cancel the cruise ship because there are not enough customers to fill the capacity. It’s because of the new Corona and that accident.
The accident. It was the sinking of the cruise ship “KAZU 1” off the Shiretoko Peninsula in Hokkaido in April of this year. Twenty-six passengers and crew were killed. More than 10 people are still missing.
In June, Shiretoko Sightseeing Boat, the operator of the KAZU 1, had its business license revoked by the Hokkaido Transport Bureau of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism. When this reporter visited the office near Utoro fishing port in Shari-cho, he found. The shutters were closed and there was no sign of anyone. Trash was left on the side of the building and it was in ruins. An employee of the company told us, “It was before the summer.”
It was before the summer. They took down the signboard and moved out of the office. However, the president (Seiichi Katsurada, 59) has not made a formal apology to us locals after the accident. It is really upsetting to me that he has caused so much damage to the city.
The president’s answer to the broken agreement…
When we interviewed Mr. Katsurada at the fishing port, we learned that he had committed an act of betrayal that foreshadowed the accident. Mr. A, a former employee of Shiretoko Pleasure Boat, told us, “It was last May, I believe.”
It was in May of last year, I believe. The tour boat operators in Utoro got together and decided to suspend operations because of the spread of the new strain of corona. The number of customers was decreasing. But President Katsurada violated the agreement and forced the boats to go out under the guise of ‘crew training.’
Mr. A quit Shiretoko Sightseeing Boat and went to work for another operator. When Shiretoko Sightseeing Boat was breaking the agreement, he happened to bump into President Katsurada at a convenience store in town.
“I questioned the president. I asked him, ‘Isn’t there something wrong?’ Then he made the excuse, ‘The inn is busy and I don’t have anything to do. Apparently, the hotel owned by President Katsurada was offering a package tour with a sightseeing boat to its guests.’
Moreover, the people who were piloting the boat, claiming it was ‘for practice,’ were inexperienced sailors. The tragic accident in April was an accident waiting to happen.”
The reporter went to Mr. Katsurada’s home to interview him. He was met by his wife, who was said to be at least 20 years younger than he was. When I handed her the letter requesting an interview, she replied “yes” in a few words, but as of 10:00 a.m. on August 13, there was no reply.
In his statement to the Hokkaido Transport Bureau, President Katsurada wrote, “The government is also responsible. “Is he trying to claim that he is not the only one at fault? Compensation for the bereaved families has been slow in coming.
Image： Yamazaki Takayoshi Jiji Press Kyodo News