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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Japan backpackers flood in

Japan backpackers flood in

Japan's college students are on winter break and many are

visiting Cambodia.

Fujii Nobuhide, an economics student from Tokyo said

"I came to see Angkor and to see an undeveloped country. This is the first

university break since the end of UNTAC."

The flood of Japanese students

has surprised many who remember the difficulties Tokyo faced deploying their

Self-Defense Forces for the UN mandate, and the reaction to the deaths of two

Japanese during the same period.

Fujii Nobuhide said: "Everyone in Japan

says that it is dangerous, but I had a friend in UNTAC, and he told me that

there is no problem in Cambodia."

Nowhere is the flood of Japanese

tourists more apparent than at the Capital Hotel, Phnom Penh's magnet for budget

travelers and backpackers.

Piep, the owner, says that he first started

getting Japanese travelers one month ago.

Though budget travelers, the

Japanese students say that they are spending $250 to $300 for their 7-10 day

visits. This includes hotel, food, domestic airfares, visas and airport

tax.

If the pattern of tourism follows that already established in

Thailand, budget travelers will spread the word at home, and tourists with

heftier wallets will follow.

Yasutaka Ito, a business student from Kyoto,

said that most of the students visited Phnom Penh's markets, the Palace, the

National Museum, the new Japanese bridge and the killing fields and Tuol Sleng.

They would also fly to Siem Riep.

Murase Koichi, a sociology student from

Kobe was the most traveled of the group interviewed. Besides touring Phnom Penh,

he took trains to Siem Riep and Sihanoukville, and visited Tonle Bati. "I will

tell my friends that I like Cambodia because the people are kind and warm," he

said.

All students interviewed said that they worried about security

while in Cambodia. However, none had problems. "My father told me to be careful

here. All of my family thought that Cambodia would be dangerous," one

said.

Air fares between Bangkok and Tokyo are as low as $400 round-trip,

making Cambodia relatively accessible for these students.

One student

said that for him the Angkor monuments were all the same to him. "One looked

just like the other. But the people in Siem Riep, especially at the guest house,

were very warm and kind. Common Cambodians are very generous people," he

said.

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