2008.3-6
In this Issue:
News Updates...
- Tokyu Hotels'
new development
announcement

- Tokyo Metro global
website renewal

- H.I.S. Experience
Japan launches
the online booking
system

- JR East New
Reservation System
launching in March

Upcoming Festivals and Events
Japan Tour Updates
Hotel Updates
Food and Sake
Flights
Register as a Japan Travel Specialist

Tokyu Hotels' new development announcement
Tokyu Corporation has announced their "Nagatacho 2-chome" project to be commenced on the 11th of March, 2008, which includes the construction of a mixed-used building on the site of former Capitol Tokyu Hotel. This building, located at the prime location of Tokyo, will include office floors and luxury hotel – The Capitol Hotel Tokyu. The completion of the building is scheduled for autumn 2010, for more information please contact the Tokyu Hotels.

Tokyo Metro global website renewal
Tokyo Metro has renewed their global website – available in Chinese, English, Korean and Japanese, this website provides information on tickets, service, sightseeing spots and access. Subway map is also available for download. Please see http://www.tokyometro.jp/global/en/index.html

H.I.S. Experience Japan launches the online booking system
H.I.S. Experience Japan (HEJ) has launched their new online booking system on the 3rd of March, 2008, providing inbound tours with unique Japanese experience such as samurai or ninja actions, cooking classes, and even day tours to Hakone and Mt. Fuji. For more information please contact info@his-exp.jp

JR East New Reservation System launching in March
Starting from March 25, 2008, overseas visitors may reserve JR East Long distance rail lines before arriving in Japan using the new online reservation system, which covers bullet trains to important cities in northern Honshu such as Sendai, Morioka, Akita, Yamagata, Niigata, Nagano, etc. The reservation system however, does not cover the trip to Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, etc. For more information about the system, please see here.

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Climbing Mt. Fuji

As the Japanese proverb goes, "He who does not climb Mt. Fuji is a fool, but he who climbs Mt. Fuji twice is also a fool." An ascent to Japan's highest peak (3,776 m) is a once in a lifetime experience that most do not want to repeat. The mountain is officially open only during the months of July and August. Climbing during any other time can be very dangerous and requires police permission (details).

Access: Bus from Shinjuku (2,600 yen each way) is the easiest way to get to Mt. Fuji's 5th Station (halfway up the mountain) where most people start the climb, but train-to-bus options may be cheaper for Japan Rail Pass holders. There are actually 5 different trailheads, the most popular being Kawaguchiko on the north side. See the sites below or JNTO's Practical Guide for details

The Climb: The hike up from the 5th station takes 5 to 8 hours, and the descent another 3 to 4. The trail consists of fairly steep switchbacks and has people going up and down 24 hours a day. Altitude sickness does affect some people, so many opt to stay in one of the many mountain huts (5,250 yen) and climb to the peak early in the morning to see the sunrise. It is important for all climbers to be properly prepared with the proper equipment and clothing (it can be very cold at the peak even on hot days). For more information about the climb, please check any of these websites: Fujiyoshida City's official website, Japan Guide, Wikitrave, Personal Site, My photos of my Mt.Fuji Hike.

Tours:
Sunrise Tours: Challenge! Mt. Fuji Climbing 2 Days Bus from Tokyo; fully guided with mountain hut stay.

Mt. Fuji Ecotour: Grand Prize winner of the 2006 Japan Ecotourism Award, Mt. Fuji Ecotour is a series of eco-tours offered by the Whole Earth Nature School. They have a Summer Mountaineering (Fuji climb) 2-day, 1-night package for 15,000 yen (mountain hut and meal fee of approximately 8000 yen not included). They also have a Lava Cave Exploration Tour (3 hours, 4,500 yen), a Mt. Fuji Culture & History Tour (2 hours, 4,000 yen), and several other tours year round.

Goriki Mountaineering School: Offers Premium Tours in which others carry equipment for you (88,000 yen), Regular Tours (24,000 yen), and Slow-paced Tours (29,000 yen). Lodging fee (7,350 - 8,400 yen) and interpreter fee (21,000 yen) will be added to all tours.

Fireworks Shows

Fireworks shows are a big part of summer and festivals in Japan. It would be impossible to list them all here, but here are a few of the most popular:

The largest fireworks display in Tokyo is the Sumida River Fireworks Display (Jul. 26). For more information on fireworks shows throughout Japan, please visit Infomap Japan (info from 2006) or Japan Fireworks.

Niigata Prefecture's Nagaoka Fireworks Festival (Aug. 1-3): One of Japan's largest fireworks festivals in an otherwise quiet town.

Hiroshima Prefecture's Miyajima Floating Fireworks Festival (Aug. 14): The picture speaks for itself – Fireworks next to one of Japan's "3 most beautiful sights" make for a spectacular show. (5,000 rockets + 200 fireworks shot from the water).

Akita Prefecture's Omagari Fireworks Competition (Aug. 23) The top 30 fireworks makers in Japan compete to come up with the most unique and technically difficult fireworks displays. Considered the highest quality fireworks show in Japan.

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IACE Travel Discover Japan-Eastern Hokkaido Highlight Tour May 27-June 4
Pacific Delight Tours 12 Day Japan Super Value
SITA World Tours Affordable Japan 8 days
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Pan Pacific Yokohama Bay Hotel Tokyu
Pan Pacific Hotel Yokohama has recently been re-branded as Pan Pacific Yokohama Bay Hotel Tokyu. This luxurious hotel features rooms that give you the city view, park view, and even Bay Bridge view. 2008 Special rates start from 22,500yen per night for a city view deluxe twin (regular rate: 42,000yen). For more information on other rates , please contact reservation@tokyuhotelsjapan.com

Peninsula Tokyo
The Peninsula Tokyo now offers customized virtual walking tours of the surrounding area – staying guests can request an iPod from the hotel's concierge on a complimentary basis and both programs are available in English. The Peninsula Eye Walk takes you through Hibiya Park, the Imperial Garden and Marunouchi Naka-dori Street; guests can also enjoy The Peninsula Tokyo art collection by taking the Peninsula Art Walk tour. For more information, please contact: ptk@peninsula.com

Grand Hyatt Tokyo
To celebrate the 5th Year, starting April 24th to August 31st, Grand Hyatt Tokyo will offer two special accommodation packages, "Celebrate Plus 50,000" and "Celebrate Plus 5,000", both designed to allow guests to experience all five senses during a relaxing and leisurely stay by adding either 5,000 Yen (for one person) or 50,000 Yen (for two people) to the price of a guestroom. Special benefits include breakfast at The French Kitchen Brasserie and Bar or through Room Service, access to Nagomi Spa and Fitness, original fragrance chip and CD, chocolates and a seasonal fruit platter. Rates are 10% commissionable to travel agents. For more information, please contact Grand Hyatt Tokyo at info@tyogh.com.

Tokyo Dome Hotel
Tokyo Dome Hotel, located at the very center of Tokyo's JR Yamanote Line and just next to the famous Tokyo Dome and LaQua facility, now offers 7 different accommodation packages starting from April 1, 2008. These plans include great rates and some of them include discount coupons to the facilities nearby such as restaurants and LaQua spa. For more information and reservation please contact: 81-3-5805-2222.

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When you ask someone if they want to eat Japanese food the first thing that comes to someone's mind is sushi, sake, tempura and rice. Little do people know that in Japan, there are more food options than the four mentioned. We have broken down some famous food areas that will for sure wet your appetite; Hokkaido, Niigata, Okinawa, Osaka and will introduce some of unique food and drink to that region.

Hokkaido
Hokkaido is famous for its natural resources such as national parks, hot springs, farms, and beautiful flowers. Surrounded by the sea, seafood in Hokkaido is abundant and fresh - the sea urchins and crabs are especially famous. Besides a huge selection of seafood, dairy products produced by local farms are also a local specialty. The weather in Hokkaido also produces grapes, which are very suitable for wine making.

Some dish to try in Hokkaido while you are there:

Ramen – you can try the Sapporo Ramen – it is the first ramen in Japan that is made from miso soup base.

Genghis Khan Barbecue – lamb barbecue with vegetables, which also goes great with beer.

Seafood – Besides Sushi or sashimi, you can try Ruibe (an Ainu specialty which thinly sliced raw frozen salmon is eaten like sashimi) or Ika Somen (squid is sliced into thin noodles and dip into a sauce, just like eating noodles)

Chocolate – You can try Royce Chocolate, especially the Nama Chocolate made from fresh cream produced in Hokkaido. Shiroikoibito is also a famous brand with white chocolate encapsulated in thin cookies.

Alcohol – Hokkaido produces some fine wines in Japan – you can choose from red, white or rose with a great variety of taste. If you like beer Hokkaido also produces fine beer like this.

Some cities to visit to sample some of Hokkaido's great food:

Hakodate – Make sure you try some Shio-ramen with a slice of fresh squid in it as squid is the symbol of Hakodate as well as kaisen-don (a bowl of rice topped with fresh seafood such as; Crab, salmon roe, and sea urchin.

Furano – come and enjoy some great wine and dairy products (cheese and ice cream).

Otaru – is known for it's large variety of fresh, high quality seafood. Make sure you visit Sushiya Street to sample some of Otaru's mouth-watering sushi.

Kushiro – home to Japan's largest fishing fleet so make sure you go one of the many seafood restaurants and sushi bars.

Niigata
Niigata, located in the center of the Japanese mainland and along the coast of the Japan Sea, is famous for its hot springs and skiing activities. It is believed that seafood obtained from the Japan Sea is the most delicious, and Niigata clearly enjoys the geographic privilege which seafood is a local specialty. Niigata also produces fine rice, which is perfect for sake making.

Seafood – Choose from sushi, sashimi, and even dried seafood – dried seafood tastes the best with hot white rice.

Alcohol – Rice and water in Niigata produce some of the best sakes in Japan. The sake of Niigata is characterized by the term Tanrei Karakuchi, which means that it is crisp, clear, and it does not leave you bored. Try the Ginjoshu if you are looking for the top sake in Japan. Sake can also be served warm or chilled, but it is also a good idea to ask for the professional's opinion. Some breweries also offer factory tours, you can see the list here and advance reservation is usually required.

Soba – Niigata also has a famous type of buckwheat noodle (soba) named hegisoba made with also seaweed. It goes well with the sauce, spring onion, and even wasabi.

Osaka
When people go to Osaka they usually don't go there for sightseeing but mostly for the food! Many tourists Japanese and foreign alike, can't express enough how good the food is in the Kansai area. If visiting Osaka, you should visit Dotonbori, where you can find many shops selling some of these delicious foods.

Here is a list of some of the foods you must try when you go to Osaka;

Takoyaki – Personally one of my favorite foods in Japan. Takoyaki originated from Osaka so some of the best Takoyaki is found in Osaka. Takoyaki is a mixture of wheat-flour, tempura scraps, pickled ginger, and green onion mixed together to form a batter with a chunk of octopus that is added to the middle. After being cooked, takoyaki is usually topped with okonomiyaki sauce, green seaweed (aonori), mayonnaise, and katsuobushi (fish shavings).

Okonomiyaki – There is two kinds of Okonomiyaki in Japan. One being Hiroshima Okonomiyaki and the other is Kansai style Okonomiyaki. So what is Okonomiyaki? It is a Japanese-style pancake cooked on a hot plate. Made with pieces of meat (usually pork), seafood and chopped cabbage, after grilling, a brown sauce (Okonomiyaki sauce) is spread on top of the pancake with dried bonito shavings and green seaweed is sprinkled on top of the sauce. Some people also add mayonnaise to the toppings. Please feel free to experiment with other ingredients to put in your Okonomiyaki because there is no wrong way to have it. Okonomiyaki is eaten all over Japan, but is particularly popular and delicious in the Osaka area.

Kushikatsu – is a deep-friend kabob of vegetables and pork. Some places in Osaka will let you cook your kushikatsu, making it half the fun.

Okinawa
Okinawa is known for the longevity of its people through the unique Okinawan diet. Okinawans believe that "good food" is medicine for your body.

Some of Okinawa's must try foods and drinks are;

Goya – Japanese (Bitter melon). Just as the name says, "bitter" melon; this vegetable can be found in many Okinawan dishes and has a bitter taste.

Goya Chanpuru – is a dish made by stir-frying goya and tofu with a bit of salt and seasoning for flavor.

Taco Rice – Invented in 1960's. It consists of taco-flavoured ground beef served on a bed of rice and lettuce, frequently also served with tomato,cheese and topped off with salsa.

Okinawan Soba – Okinawa soba really isn't the standard Japanese soba. Japanse soba is made using buckwheat where as Okinawa soba uses just wheat. The noodles are just like udon noodles with the soup similar to ramen. Standard toppings are kamaboko (fish cake), sliced scallion and a thick slice of stewed pork belly or boneless pork ribs (soki), and usually garnished with beni shoga (pickled ginger).

As for Okinawan sake, there are two drinks that come to mind and are a must try when visiting Okinawa.

Awamori – is a alcholoic beverage that is unique to Okinawa. It is made from rice, and is not a direct product of brewing (like sake) but of distillation (like shochu). Awamori typically is 60 proof alchohol but 120 proof can be found so for those wanting to try some of Okinawa's island sake "shimasake" please make sure to check before drinking.

Orion beer – In Japan, Orion beer is not such a major beer company but in Okinawa it has over 50% of the market share. The taste is a very light taste that is very similar to American beer.

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There are number of international airports in Japan which serves the needs of international travelers. To facilitate your next travel, you may consider flying into the appropriate airport and minimize your traveling time:

Narita International Airport (IATA: NRT)

Located in Chiba (about 1 hour away from Tokyo by train), Narita International Airport is one of the busiest international airports around the world. Many airlines with flights to Japan stop here, and passengers can continue their domestic lag of their trip by traveling to Haneda Airport in Tokyo (about 1 hour and 45 mins away from Narita), if they decide to travel by plane. Travel time from Los Angeles or San Francisco: 11 hours and 35 mins (reverse trip is only 9 hours and 45 mins)

Access to nearest city (Tokyo) by: Train (takes you to major train stations in Tokyo), bus (takes you to major hotels in Tokyo)
Best for travelers who:
1) Plan to travel in the main island of Japan.
2) Plan to visit the northern part of Japan.
3) Plan to first visit Tokyo then depart for other areas.
Narita International Airport also has a JR East Travel Center, which can assist your travel needs, for more information please see here.

Kansai International Airport (IATA: KIX)

Kansai International Airport is located on an artificial island in the middle of Osaka Bay. Like Narita International Airport, it is also a major transportation hub of the western Japan.

It serves mainly international flights, so passengers who wish to continue their domestic journey by plane might have to travel to the Osaka Airport (aka Itami Airport), which is about 75 mins by bus.
Travel Time from Los Angeles or San Francisco: 12 hours from San Francisco; flight from LAX to KIX will also begin in late March.

Access to nearest city (Osaka) by: Train (by JR West Line or Nankai Railways), Bus, Ferry service is also available from KIX to Kobe Airport.
Best for Travelers who:
1) Plan to travel only in the western Main Island area such as Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima.
2) Plan to have a trip in Kyushu area such as Fukuoka, Beppu, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Kagoshima, etc.

Centrair (IATA: NGO)

Centrair (abbr.: Central Japan International Airport) is the newest international airport in Japan. Located on a manmade island of the central Japan area near Nagoya, this airport serves both international and domestic flights, taking over the commercial flights of Nagoya Airport. Currently there are flights from San Francisco to NGO directly. Travel time from San Francisco: 11 hours and 40 minutes

Access to the nearest city (Nagoya): by Train or by Airport Bus
Best for Travelers who:
1) Are looking for domestic flight services in the same airport.
2) Plan to travel extensively in central Japan.

A travel tip to these airports: trains and bus services are frequent and convenient to use, and we recommend you to utilize these services for an affordable trip – Taxi is NOT recommended and should be avoided if possible.

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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