Japan Travel Updates
2008.12-22
In this Issue:
News Updates
Upcoming Events and Festivals
Japan Tour Updates
Hotels
How to Enjoy Hanami
Transportation, now affordable
Introduction to Japan
Local Events
Register as a Japan Travel Specialist

Yokoso! Japan Weeks 2009      Jan 20 - February 28
It's back again! Yokoso! Japan Weeks 2009 will be held from the 20th of January to the 28th of February, 2009. In continuation of last year's success, a wide range of events will be held all across Japan to welcome the many overseas visitors during winter this year as well, such as first hand experience opportunity to learn about the Japanese culture, regional festivals and features, plus campaign and discounts at various retailers! For more information please see here: the website will be updated very soon so don't miss out!

Kyoto Winter Special      December 1 - March 31
Kyoto Winter Special is a winter promotional event starting from December 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009. This year the scale will expand even further with more special admission to normally restricted heritage sites, winter events, special promotions, and special cultural experience in Kyoto! Visit the link here for program details.

JR East Reservation system now covers some private lines
The JR East Shinkansen Reservation began covering some private sectors section; as a result, travelers can now make reservation for "Odoriko" "Super View Odoriko" between Tokyo and Izu-kyu Shimoda, "Hakutaka" between Echigo-Yuzawa and Naoetsu, "Nikko" "Spacia Nikko" between Shinjuku and Tobu Nikko, and "Kinugawa" "Spacia Kinugawa" between Shinjuku and Kinugawa Onsen. For more information please visit here.

Office relocation
JNTO Los Angeles has relocated to Little Tokyo, with the address as follows:

340 E. 2nd Street, #302,
Little Tokyo Plaza,
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Please notice that e-mail address (info@jnto-lax.org) and phone number (213-623-1952) remain the same. For any questions please contact our office.

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Omizutori (Water-drawing Festival)       March 1 - 14
From the 1st to the 14th of March in Nara, Priests at Todai-ji Temple, famous for its enormous statue of Buddha, confess their sins before the Eleven-faced Kannon enshrined in Nigatsu-do Hall, and also pray for world peace and a rich harvest for 14 consecutive days. The Omizutori, the highlight of this event, is performed early on the morning of the 13th. Water which only springs forth in front of the temple building on this very day is drawn up and offered to the Buddhist deities. This water is said to have special powers for curing all disease.

Hina Matsuri (Doll Festival)       March 3
On the 3rd of March, hina ningyo dolls will be displayed at homes where there are daughters. Offerings of diamond-shaped rice cakes, sweet and peach blossoms are made to accompany prayers for the healthy growth and happy future of the daughters. There is also the custom of cooking clams and short-necked clams, these dishes decorate the doll-stand and are served as a special dinner for this feast.

Tokyo Marathon      March 22
Tokyo Marathon will be held on 22nd of March, 2009. This event is held in usually in late March, which participants will have a chance to tour through all the famous spots in Tokyo, such as Imperial Palace, Hibiya Park, Ginza, Asakusa, Tsukiji, and Tokyo Big Sight. For more information please see here.

Tokyo International Anime Fair      March 18 - 21
The Tokyo International Animation Fair (TAF) is an annual event highlighting animation in which many products designed by professionals and amateurs are exhibited. It is the largest anime exhibition attracting visitors from all over the world. It will be held from 18th to the 21st of March (with public attendance only on 20th and 21st). For more information please see here.

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TAF tour
H.I.S. Destination Japan
JTB Sunrise Tour (Land Only)

Cherry blossom tour
Japan Deluxe Tour
R&C Hawaii
Kobayashi Travel Service

Some other tours to Japan
Brendan Worldwide Vacations - Fascinating Japan 2009 and Japan's Golden Route
IACE - A Story of Atsuhime - Kyushu
Majestic Vacations - Tokyo 1 Night + Shanghai 3 Nights
United Vacations - Sake Brewery Tour in Tokyo

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Hyatt Regency Kyoto special offer during KWS
Hyatt Regency Kyoto offers a special "Stay Four Nights for the Price of Three" during the Kyoto Winter Special period (December, 2008 to March, 2009) - Guests staying at the hotel for three nights will receive one night free (except for arrivals on Wednesday and during periods of high occupancy). This offer is valid from December 7, 2008 to March 18, 2009. For more information please see here.

Hotel New Otani Osaka Family Plus Special Rate
Hotel New Otani Osaka now offers a Family Plus special rate (for 3 guests use) with a rate of 31,000yen, valid until September 30, 2009. The package includes full buffet breakfast, superior large room with roll away (Osaka Castle or Town view). From now until March 31, 2009, guests can also receive an Osaka's map and 10% discount ticket for river cruise "Aqua-Liner" upon reservation for this discount program. Rate is 10% commissionable to agents. For information please contact Hotel New Otani North America Sales Office at 646-216-2186.

Tokyu Hotels special room rates for Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu
Tokyu Hotels is offering special room rates for single, twin, and double rooms for Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu, from January 3, 2009 to December 30, 2009. Room rates start from 14,000yen per night (single) to 18,000yen (superior double) for 4 nights (or above) stays. The rates are also 10% commissionable - For more information please contact Tokyu Hotels Reservation Center North America at 1-800-42-TOKYU (86598).

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One of most beautiful times of year in Japan is spring, when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. Every year, millions of people will set aside one afternoon or night and do "hanami". This is a time when co-workers and friends get together and enjoy this beautiful time of year to welcome in spring and say goodbye to the cold winter. When a group of people decide to do hanami, it usually starts with someone in the group or company, depending how big of space you need, getting up early to reserve that perfect picnic spot underneath that perfect cherry tree for their co-workers or friends to do hanami (view the cherry blossoms). As you walk through the parks, you usually will see many blue tarps underneath the cherry trees reserving their spot for their group's picnic that day. So if you have a large group, please be prepared and get your spot as you can see in the provided picture, it can be very crowded so get there early.

How do you enjoy viewing the cherry blossoms?

There are various ways to enjoy viewing the cherry blossoms.
The fastest one is to take a stroll around the park and take pictures of the blossoms. The other one is to actually have a picnic underneath the trees with the cherry blossoms overhead with your friends and enjoying the party like atmosphere.

What are the "must have" things to have to enjoy having a picnic?

Just like having a picnic in America, you'll need something to sit on. If you happen to not have a tarp or some newspapers, you can always go to the 100yen ($1) store and get a small tarp or leisure mat, as they call it in Japanese, to avoid sitting on the ground.

The next thing is the food and drinks. During this time of year you may be able to find many street vendors (please see picture on right) around the park selling various kinds of food. This route is safe and not expensive and can provide a cheap way to enjoy some great tasting food and enjoy doing as the natives would enjoy it. If you are worried about trying the food at the street vendors, you can always go to a nearby convenient store, as there are plenty to be found and really show the true meaning of a "convenience" store. They offer a wide variety of healthy food from the typical Japanese style rice balls to pasta and salads.

As for drinks, this is half the fun of doing hanami and those drinks usually involve alcohol. Drinking in public in Japan is legal, and you soon will discover this while doing hanami. Many people either drink beer or sake as their drink of choice. For those not wanting to drink alcohol, it is ok as anything goes, so feel free to drink whatever you want. So please remember to not drink too much and most important, have fun enjoying hanami with the locals.

For more information on where to go, please click here.

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As we always believe, going to Japan should not cost you a fortune - We have affordable food, accommodations, shopping options, and even transportation!  We would like to show you how to get around in Japan with even lower prices than you might know!

Skyliner
While Narita Express or Airport Limousine Bus is about 3,000yen per trip, you can also use Skyliner between Narita Airport and Tokyo - A trip costs only 1,920yen (from Narita Airport to Nippori is only 51 minutes, and 56 minutes to Ueno - Passengers can then take other subway lines such as Yamanote Line to go to major locations such as Tokyo, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, and so on, which a ride to any of the above locations is usually under 300yen) with relaxed seats in a spacious car.  All seats are reserved so please go to a Keisei Electric Railway counter in Narita Airport or any Skyliner stations.

*Note: This train is not valid for Japan Rail Pass.

Subway pass/packages
Subway passes on Tokyo Metro or Toei Line are available for travelers who plan to go to many locations within a day.  If you are considering a subway pass, you might also want to see the special packages available, such as the Airport Limousine Bus and Metro Pass Package or the Skyliner and Metro Pass Package - These packages consist of a metro pass plus a one way ticket from Narita Airport to Tokyo, and prices are also lower compared to purchasing them separately.  For example, with 100yen extra (3,100yen in total) you can obtain a ride on Airport Limousine Bus plus a Tokyo Metro one day open ticket, a saving of 610yen (Airport Limousine Bus: 3,000yen; Tokyo Metro one day open ticket: 710yen).
If subway passes are not what you are looking for, you may consider the SUICA and Narita Express package, which includes a SUICA (a type of IC card that when you pass it through the sensors near the gate in subway stations or retail locations, money will be automatically deducted) of 2000yen (500yen towards deposit) and a Narita Express ticket, a saving of almost 1,500yen!

*Please notice that many of these packages are available at certain locations only, so please check with the ticket counter staff once you have arrived at Narita Airport.

Overnight Highway buses
This is a very popular option to travel within Japan for students and businessmen.  An overnight highway bus normally leaves at night and arrive at the destination in early next morning - It may take longer to get there compared to a bullet train; however, you can save a night for accommodation instead (Not to even mention that you don't have to sacrifice your day time for traveling)!  Many companies offer highway bus services within Japan, with clean and comfortable seats, some with toilets on board, and even some buses are designated for female passengers only.  Overnight highway buses usually require advance reservations, for some highway bus companies you can refer to here.

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Okinawa
Located in the most southern region of Japan, Okinawa is made up of 160 islands, which 40 are inhabited. These chains of islands are known as the Ryukyu Islands. Okinawa is known for their beautiful beach like atmosphere with the average annual temperature of 73F. Here you can find some of the best places to go diving, sunbathing, and is also the birthplace of karate. For more information on Okinawa, please click this link.

Getting to Okinawa:

By air:
From Tokyo, all flights will use Haneda Airport and will take about 2 hours 55 min. one way. If needing to transfer from Narita Airport to Haneda Airport, the easiest way will be by taking the limousine bus, and will take about 90 minutes.
As for Osaka, you can either fly out of Itami or Kansai Airport. Both flights times are about 2 hours 15 minutes.

By Ferry:
For those looking for an adventure and have a lot of time on their hand, you can get to Okinawa by ferry. From Tokyo to Okinawa, the Marue Ferry departs from Ariake Pier in Tokyo and takes about 47 hours to complete the journey. For those looking to go from Osaka, you can take the Arimura Sangyo, which will take about 31 hours or the Marue Ferry, which will take 39 hours.

Getting around while on the island:
Although Japan is famous for being train country, there is only one train (Monorail to be exact), which is located on Naha, Okinawa and only covers within the city of Naha. To get to other places in Okinawa you will either need to take a bus, rent a car, or hire a sightseeing taxi. For more information on getting around Okinawa, please click here.

What to do/see while in Okinawa:

Shurijo Castle, Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, Diving, Relax on the beach, and Island hoping.

What to eat and drink while in 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;
Food: Goya (Bitter melon), Goya Chanpuru, Taco Rice, Okinawan Soba, Chinsuko
Drink: Awamori, Orion beer.

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

Japan Showcases:
1. January 28, 2009 (Wednesday) in San Francisco, CA
2. January 29, 2009 (Thursday) in Portland, OR
3. February 24, 2009 (Tuesday) in Los Angeles, CA
4. February 26, 2009 (Thursday) in Costa Mesa, 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)

LA Times Travel & Adventure Show 2009      Feb 14 - 15
The Los Angeles Times Travel & Adventure Show is the West Coast's largest travel event!
Come visit the Japan booth (Booth #1117 & 1217) and meet the Japan Specialist for updated information on Japan!

Date:
Saturday, February 14th, 2009 8:00 am - 10:00am (Travel Agents Only)
10:00 am - 5:00 pm (General Public)
Sunday, February 15th, 2009 10:00 am - 5:00 pm (General Public)
Place: Los Angeles Convention Center ( http://www.latimes.com/extras/travelshow/ )
1201 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, California 90015
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FIND YOUR NEAREST JAPAN TRAVEL SPECIALISTS
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.

JNTO

Information is provided in this Japan Travel Updates 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
340 E. 2nd Street, Suite 302, Los Angeles, CA 90012
email: info@jnto-lax.org
website: www.jnto.go.jp or www.japantravelinfo.com