2007.12-4
In this Issue:
News Updates...
Events
- Cherry Blossoms
Anime
Sports
- Sumo
- Baseball
(Puro yakyu)
Rental Cars in Japan
Japan Tour Updates
Hotel Update
JNTO Activities

Kyoto Winter Special
Kyoto Winter Special is a winter promotional event starting from December 1, 2007 to March 31,2008. During this period, special admission will be available to normally restricted heritage sites. Winter events such as Hanatouro (Flower Lantern Lane Festival) will also take place in Arashiyama and Higashiyama. Visitors can also win a chance for a hotel room upgrade! For more information about this event and Kyoto travel information, please visit: www.kyotowinterspecial.com/

Yokoso! Japan Weeks
The Yokoso! Japan Weeks 2008 will be held from January 20 to February 29. This campaign is designed to enhance traveling experience, and this year we have focused on these two major themes - "Experiencing Japan" and "Shopping Spree". You can enjoy the first hand experience by taking part in a variety of activities while enjoying discounts at various participating facilities! Click the link above for more details!

Top    

Viewing sakura, or cherry blossoms, also known as Hanami, is one of the major events in the Japanese calendar. Blooming dates vary by latitude; in Tokyo and Kyoto, sakura trees bloom for about two weeks from the end of March through the first week of April, but dates will vary based on the weather each year. At more popular locations many people will arrive early in the morning to lay out a picnic tarp and get the best spots. Once their friends, family, or coworkers arrive, they will eat and drink together, watching the petals from the cherry blossom trees fall like pink snowflakes. The most beautiful spots tend to be around castles, shrines, and temples (or Mt. Fuji).

Kyoto
Kyoto is one of the most famous places for watching cherry blossoms in Japan. There are countless places to view them throughout the city and in Arashiyama (northwestern suburbs). The most popular place is Maruyama Park, which is especially beautiful when lit up at night. During the day, try Kiyomizu Temple.

  • Best Viewing Spots: Arashiyama, Okazaki Canal, Maruyama Park, Kiyomizu Temple
  • Access: 90 min. by train from Kansai Airport, or 2 hr. 20 min. from Tokyo by shinkansen
  • When to Go: Late March - Early April

Yoshino (Nara Prefecture)
With over 30,000 trees, Yoshino is the most famous place for cherry blossom viewing in Japan. Most of the trees are on Yoshino Mountain, and they bloom from bottom to top, as the weather gradually gets warmer.

  • Best Viewing Spot: Hanayagura Viewpoint
  • Access: Ropeway or shuttle bus (sakura season only) from Yoshino Station (Nara Pref.)
  • When to Go: Early - Mid April

Tokyo
Ueno Park is the most famous and most crowded of Tokyo's hanami spots. Chidori-ga-fuchi, a moat around former Edo Castle provides a more serene viewing experience - no picnic tarps or alcoholic beverages are allowed. Nearby is Yasukuni Shrine with over 1000 sakura trees.

  • Best Viewing Spots: Chidori-ga-fuchi, Shinjuku Gyoen, Ueno Park, Sumida River
  • Access to Chidori-ga-fuchi: 5 min. walk from Subway Kudanshita Station
  • When to Go: Late March - Early April

Hirosaki Castle (Aomori Prefecture)
Those who think they missed cherry blossom season may still have time to see them in northern Japan, where they bloom toward the end of April and sometimes as late as mid-May. Hirosaki Castle Park is surrounded by 2000 trees and is beautiful when lit up at night.

  • Best Viewing Spots: Kajo Bridge, West Moat
  • Access to Hirosaki City: About 5 hr. north of Tokyo by shinkansen and train
  • When to Go: Late April - Early May
Top    

Anime, from the word "animation", has become an extremely popular Japanese culture all over the world. Known for its fine presentation techniques, the vast variety of genres and themes, and beautifully drawn characters, anime is considered to be one of the most important cultural exports, especially to the younger generations. These are some must-see points and events when it comes to anime:

Ghibli Museum
The Ghibli Museum is located in Mikata, a western suburb near Tokyo, featuring the work from Studio Ghibli. Hayao Miyazaki, founder and key person of this studio, is known for his anime works such as "Princess Mononoke", "My Neighbor Totoro", and the Academy Award winning "Spirited Away" (Best Animated Feature Film, 2002). The museum is opened from 10:00 to 18:00, and entrance to this museum requires an advance purchase of the reserved ticket, which specifies the appointed date of the reservation. Please see here for more information. Travel agencies such as JTB Sunrise also host one-day tour with English speaking guides.

Akihabara (Tokyo)
Akihabara is famous for its enormous number of electronic stores which deals with all kinds of appliances, computers, games, cameras, CDs, DVDs, etc. at discount prices. It is now also the mecca for anime fans to visit and shop. Some of the popular anime shopping spots include Animate, Asobit City, Pokemon Center and so on. Travelers can also visit the manga café, maid café, or butler café if they wish to take a rest and enjoy an afternoon tea. There is a tour in Akihabara also available, for more information, please click here.

Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower is a symbol and sightseeing spot of Tokyo, and it has appeared in numerous anime and Sci-Fi scenes such as in "You’re Under Arrest", "Kamen Rider", "Card Captor Sakura", "X", and so on. It serves as a transmission tower for the entire Tokyo area, and visitors can also enjoy its art gallery, museum, aquarium, and observatory inside. Please see here for more access and facilities information.

Tokyo International Animation Fair
The Tokyo International Animation Fair (TAF) is an annual event highlighting animation in which many products designed by both professionals and amateurs are exhibited. It is the world largest anime exhibition, and it has attracted attentions from all over the world. This year’s schedule is from 27 March 2008 to 30 March 2008 (public attendance on only 29 and 30th), and more ticket information will be announced in January 2008.

Top    

Sumo
It’s that time again for the Sumo tournaments to begin for the 2008 season. The first tournament of the year will take place in Tokyo from January 7th -21st. The next tournament will be the Osaka tournament that will be held on March 11th -25th. If you happen to be in Tokyo and you can't attend a match, you can always visit the Sumo Museum on the first floor of the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Ryogoku to some of past sumo wrestlers. If you are wanting more you can also book a tour where you can catch a morning sumo practice, have a photo session with sumo wrestlers, and have lunch with the oyakata (stable master) while eating chanko-nabe.
Advance tickets may be purchased from inside or outside Japan by calling the Kokugikan (National Sports Theatre) at 03-5237-9310 (English OK). Please have the following information ready when you call: a) Name; b) Telephone number in Japan (Hotel number or friend’s number); c) Date of match d) Seating level - prices are about: Second Level A section (rows #1 - #6): 8,200 yen/seat, B section (rows #7 - #11): 4,900 yen/seat, C section: (rows #12 & #13) 3,600 yen/seat. Tickets can also be purchased at Ticket Pia, Family Mart & Circle K Sunkus.

Play Ball! Puro Yakyu in Japan
Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, Daisuke Matsuzaka are just a few players that have come from Japanese Pro Baseball. As spring rolls around, it is that time again for baseball to begin. In Japan, baseball or in Japanese, Puro Yakyu, is a time when all the crazy fans come out to cheer on teams like the Carp, Giants, Tigers, and Dragons. The atmosphere at the park is a bit different from MLB baseball. First off, the fans, they are crazy! You have fans sitting in the outfield bleachers waving flags, playing instruments, and cheering every minute of the game. Going to a Puro Yakyu game is part of modern day Japanese cultural and it is a must see event, even if you don’t like baseball.
The season begins for the Pacific League March 20th and 22nd and the Central League begins March 28th. Tickets to baseball games can be purchased at stadium kiosks either the day of the game (if not sold out) or beforehand. Japan Ball, a Seattle based company that also runs baseball-themed tours to Japan, can order advance tickets for you for a small fee http://www.japanball.com/tickets.htm Tickets for baseball, soccer, boxing, pro-wrestling and other such sports may also be purchased from Ticket Pia or convenience stores.

Top    

Renting a car in Japan really isn't necessary unless you are going to a rural part of Japan. Japan has a wonderful transportation system that is punctual and safe and can get you to all most all areas of Japan without a car. If you are traveling in a big group and don't want to worry about trains, renting a car wouldn't be a bad idea. However, if you were just planning on staying in a big city, renting a car wouldn't be necessary.

If you do need to rent a car this is what you'll need:
First, you must be 18 years of age to drive in Japan and have either a Japanese license or an international driving permit that must be obtained in the Untied States before going to Japan. This license can be purchased at your local AAA office or National Auto Club. Moreover, having some Japanese knowledge and speaking ability will be a big help but you can find a few companies that have English sites and the companies that do are hyperlinked below.

Rental Companies:
Here are some rental car companies; Nippon Rent-a-car, Toyota Rentalease, Orix Rentacar, Times Car Rental, and Nissan Rentacar. There are some international companies like Hertz, Avis (using Japaren Co., Ltd), and Budget but their rates are not very competitive.

The average cost per day for a car is around 6,000 yen for a sub-compact and up and usually includes some sort of insurance.

There is also a rental company called ToCoo that provides an English website and support for a small fee for those who don’t want to worry about the language barrier.

Top    
Thinking about participating in Tokyo International Anime Fair (TAF) 2008? These are some of the options…
IACE Travel Tokyo International Anime Fair 2008
Visit the Ghibli Museum, Akihabara, and TAF 2008
JTB USA Otaku Anime Tour 2008
Visit the Ghibli Museum, Akihabara, Manga Café, TAF 2008
JALPAK JALPAK Tokyo Pop Culture Experience
Sightseeing in Tokyo and visit Akihabara, Harajuku, Tokyo Anime Center, and TAF 2008
 
Here are also some ideas for cruise to Japan:
Cruise West
High Country Passage Travel
Smithsonian Journey
Zegrahm Expeditions
Holland America Lines
Top    

Hyatt Regency Tokyo
Century Hyatt Tokyo has recently re-branded to Hyatt Regency Tokyo on October 1, 2007. It is located in Shinjuku, where you can find thriving businesses, shopping, and entertainment facilities within your reach. The restaurant Cuisine[s] Michel Troisgros is also awarded two stars by the Michelin Guide Tokyo 2008, where you can enjoy the finest French Cuisine.

Hotel New Otani Tokyo
Hotel New Otani Tokyo is now offering a special rate from November 18 2007 to March 31, 2008. Located in central Tokyo, Hotel New Otani Tokyo features a 400-year-old Japanese Garden which is perfect for a peaceful scroll. Tower Standard Rooms are 24,000 yen per room per night from Nov. 18, 07 - Dec. 24, 07, 23,000 yen from Dec. 25, 07 - Jan. 14, 08, and 24,000 yen from Jan 15 to Mar 31. For reservations, please see here.

Numazu Tokyu Hotel
Numazu Tokyu Hotel, located conveniently near Mt. Fuji and Izu sightseeing area, will become a member of Utell, and agents will be able to make reservations through GDS next year.

Sabre
Apollo/Galileo
Amadeus
WorldSpan
UZ81826
UZ25829
UZOIM820 
UZ15820 

Single room is 8,000yen per night (7,000yen/night for over 3 nights) and double room is 12,500yen per night (12,000yen/night for over 3 nights). Rates are 10% commissionable.
For inquiries, please contact: 1-800-428-6598.
Top    

Japan Showcase
Mark your calendars! JNTO's Los Angeles office will be holding Japan Showcase educational seminars at the following four cities. These seminars are an excellent opportunity to learn more about Japan and make important connections with suppliers (Airlines, Hotels, Tour Operators, Destinations, etc.)

January 23, 2008 San Francisco, CA
January 24, 2008 Seattle, WA
February 11, 2008 Los Angeles, CA
February 13, 2008 San Diego, CA

Invitations with more details will be sent out by post approximately one month in advance of each showcase, so watch for yours. Please do not RSVP before receiving a paper invitation by mail. If you do not receive by one by two weeks before the showcase date, please contact us and we will fax one to you. Participation is limited to two persons per retail agency.
If you are not near any of the above cities, do not despair, as we vary Japan Showcase locations every year in order to reach as many agents as possible. In the meantime, please take advantage of our online educational JTS program (see below).

Top    


Will your customers be able to find you when they click on that link from our website? If you have registered as a Japan Travel Specialist, the answer is yes. Just watch a few educational videos and take three short quizzes to become part of our JTS Program. See the website for details.
* A CD-ROM containing JTS educational material is available by request. Please contact JNTO's Los Angeles office at 213-623-1952 or email info@jnto-lax.org for your copy.

Information is provided in this Japan Travel Update as a courtesy to readers of this newsletter. Though JNTO endeavors to ensure the information is accurate, users of the information are to act on such using their own judgment and at their own risk. Neither JNTO nor any holder of a copyright to the information shall be held responsible in any way whatsoever for any loss or misunderstanding, either direct or indirect, that is incurred as a result of utilizing the information.

Publisher: Japan National Tourist Organization, L.A. Office
515 South Figueroa St., Suite 1470, Los Angeles, CA 90071
email: info@jnto-lax.org
website: www.jnto.go.jp or www.japantravelinfo.com