Japan Travel Updates
2009.03-27
In this Issue:
News Updates
Upcoming Events and Festivals
Japan Tour Updates
Hotels
Flowers in Hokkaido
Top 5 Questions from Travelers
Introduction to Japan
Local Events
Register as a Japan Travel Specialist

La Folle Journee 2009
La Folle Journee, the world's most exciting classical music festival originated in France, is back again this year in late April to early May. Visitors can enjoy top musicians' performances at an incredibly low price, with each performance scheduled to be 45 minutes long, so visitors can make their own program and enjoy as many performances as they wish. Children are welcomed with tons of free events and attractions. For detailed information on programs, tickets, and schedule, please see here.

Gokaicho of Zenkoji Temple
Zenkoji Temple located in Nagano will be unveiling the principle Buddha image (also known as Gokaicho) from April 5th to May 31st, 2009. The image of Amida-Nyorai is enshrined at the main hall of the temple, normally kept hidden from public viewing. This grand ceremony only takes place once every 7 years so don't miss this! For more information please visit here.

Hamamatsu International Mosaiculture 2009
This spectacular horticultural artistic event will take place in Hamamatsu of Shizuoka Prefecture from September 19 to November 23, 2009. Artists shape living plants according to the natural formation and the theme of the event. For more information on the event, please visit here.

Japan Railways Schedule Revisions
Updated schedules, effective from March 14, are now available on Japan Railways website. Please also see here for more details on the exact revisions.

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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During the spring and summer months, there are many festivals going on throughout the country. Below is a list of just a few of the festivals that are offered during this time.

Gion Matsuri       July 1st-29th
Come watch the two-storied floats parade down the streets of Kyoto on the 17th of July.

Sumidagawa Fireworks Display       Last Saturday of July
Witness one of the main fireworks display in Tokyo from the banks of the Sumida River.

Aomori Nebuta Matsuri       August 2nd-7th
Hirosaki Neputa Matsuri       August 1st-7th
Watch the gigantic paper mache floats parade around the streets of Tohoku.

Akita Kanto Matsuri       August 3rd-6th
See the 24ft high kanto with 46 lanterns be carried through the streets in hope for a good fall harvest.

Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri       August 5th-7th
Come and watch about a 100 groups of a total of 10,000 dancers participate in this festival as the parade is led by gorgeously decorated festival floats.

Sendai Tanabata Matsuri (Star Festival)       August 6th-8th
Nowadays, Tanabata is generally celebrated as a national event on July 7th, but the Sendai Tanabata Matsuri is held in August in accordance with the lunar calendar, which was used before the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Unique to Sendai are the Seven Ornaments, which embody prayers for progress in studies or calligraphy, the well being of one's family, good health and longevity, prosperous business, a large catch and a rich harvest.

For more information on other festivals in Japan please click here

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JTB Sunrise Tours - Tokyo Local Cuisine Tour 2009

IACE Travel - Okinawa Youth Exchange Program

Journeys East - Asian Havens

R&C Hawaii - Hokkaido Lavender Tour

Brendan Vacations - Fascinating Japan and Japan's Golden Route

AsiaLuxe Holidays - Japan Holiday and Kyoto Holiday

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Okura Hotels & Resorts
Okura Hotels & Resorts are now offering their new exclusive "Okura Premiere Hotel Program" at Hotel Okura Tokyo, Hotel Okura Kobe, and Rihga Royal Hotel Osaka - Enjoy complimentary room upgrade, daily breakfast, high-speed internet access, and many other specials! This program is 10% commissionable to agents, and must be booked via Okura Hotels & Resorts USA office. For detailed information and questions on the program, please contact the office at 800-526-2281 or usa-office@orangemarketing.jp

Park Hyatt Tokyo
Park Hyatt Tokyo is now offering their "East & West Discovery" package for guests to discover Tokyo, Kyoto, or Hakone, which includes accommodation, transportation between cities, daily breakfast, car transfers to hotel, and other specials! Stay at Park Hyatt Tokyo with incredible rates, then travel to Kyoto by the famous bullet train, and later make yourself at home at Hyatt Regency Kyoto. Or guests can also travel to Hakone by Romance Car railway and spend their time at the luxurious Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort & Spa. These special rates apply to a minimum of 4 nights stay (2 nights minimum in one city). For details on the rates and reservation, please contact the reservation department by e-mail (this package is also commissionable to agents).

New Otani Hotels
Special promotional rates are now available for Hotel New Otani Tokyo and Hotel New Otani Osaka until the 30th of September, 2009. Standard room of Hotel New Otani Tokyo is now 17,600yen (compared to 31,000yen) and superior room of Hotel New Otani Osaka is now only 20,000yen*. Agents can also receive a 10% commission! Other room types are also available on this program, for further information and reservation, please contact New Otani Hotels North America Sales Office at 646-216-2186 or e-mail.

Hyatt Regency Tokyo
Hyatt Regency Tokyo's new Regency Club rooms will make their debut in April - Featuring first class bathroom and relaxing bed area, this new Regency Club room, located from the 6th to 8th floor, provides a warm and soothing atmosphere for guest to feel "at home". Lightings, sounds, and design details are simple, carefully planned, with a touch of Japanese style. The Regency Club Lounge, located on the 9th floor and overlooking Shinjuku Central Park, offers personalized concierge service, complimentary enhanced continental breakfast, all-day tea and coffee, evening cocktails and appetizers. Rates start from 45,150yen - For further information, please contact Hyatt Regency Tokyo Office in Los Angeles at 310-301-2696.

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In the wintertime, Hokkaido is a destination known for their snow but in late spring and until late summer, Hokkaido is best known as flower country for the beautiful flower fields that are found throughout this area. Many people from all over the world and throughout Japan make this journey up north to have a chance to see these beautiful fields. Some of the most notable places are Furano and Biei area for lavender, the moss phlox in Kutchan, and the Sunflowers in Hokuryu Town.

If not wanting to go tour around Hokkaido you can go to the Furano region and visit some farms to see some of these blooming fields. Please go to this link for more information.

Below is list of just a few places where you can find some spots to view the flowers.

Type of flower: Tulips Type of flower: Lavender
When in bloom: mid May When in bloom: end of June - first part of August
Where: Kamiyubetsu, Otofuke Where: Furano, Biei

Type of flower: Moss phlox Type of flower: Lily
When in bloom: mid May-early June When in bloom: mid July-mid September
Where: Furano Where: Sapporo, Koshimizu Lily Park

For more information regarding flowers in Hokkaido please click here.

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Have you wondered what type of questions travelers have before they visit Japan? Or do you have questions that you don't know the answer to it? We have decided to put the top 5 questions we receive throughout the year and offer you some insights to them! Of course, if they don't answer the questions you have, or if you have any other questions, you are more than welcome to contact our office!

1. Should I get a JR Pass/Does a JR Pass worth it?
Ans: As you might know, Japan Rail Pass has 7 days, 14 days, and 21 days version, each with a fixed Japanese Yen price fixed to it. Once you have activated the pass, you will have 7 (or 14, or 21 days) days you can use. For example, many travelers itinerary might look similar to this sample 7 day trip, or otherwise, you can always refer to this website to look for train timetable from one point to the other and fare information - The trip price is displayed in Japanese currency, so simply add the sum up and eureka!

Travelers can also choose to activate their pass later in the trip*, so they can do most of the traveling by train in a certain period of time. For example, a traveler arrives in Narita Airport on the 1st, but he will be sightseeing in Tokyo for 3 days and won't be traveling down to Kyoto on the 4th, and coming back to Tokyo on the 9th, and leaving Japan on the 10th. If he starts to use his pass on the 1st, it will be very uneconomical (since he can only use his JR Pass for 1 Narita Express ride and 1 bullet train ride). Instead, he can request to activate his pass on the 4th, so he can use it for 2 bullet train rides, 1 Narita Express ride, and other local JR Line rides!

Otherwise, Japan Railways has a wide range of regional passes, which offer great versatility and pricing if you plan to do some extensive travel only in a particular area. Please visit here for more information.

* Note that travelers must start using the pass before the same calendar date of next month. For example, if you arrive in Japan on the 28th of February, you will need to use the pass before the 28th of March.

2. Where should I stay / Is this a good area to stay / Is this area safe to be in?
Ans: Japan is a very safe country, so unlike here in the U.S. where travelers might want to avoid some areas, Japan has no such cases, so please feel free to search for hotels in all areas!

As a general rule of thumb when looking for accommodation, I personally will look for hotels which are close to a train station since traveling around the area are usually done by train (for Kyoto, it will be by bus), and of course no one would like to walk for 15 minutes to the station! If you want to make traveling even easier, look for an accommodation which is close to large stations, such as Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Tokyo, Shinagawa, and such in Tokyo area. You can always find access information for a hotel on their website, which they will definitely mention the closest train station to the hotel and walking distance from there.

3. Can I do a day trip from Tokyo to Kyoto/Hakone/Nikko?
Ans: A lot of travelers asked us if they can do a day trip from Tokyo to Kyoto, and I would personally say that is close to impossible! First of all it takes about 2 and a half hours to go to Kyoto (so 5 hours of traveling time in total!), and not to even mention that Kyoto has over 1500 temples and shrines to see! In fact many travelers spend at least 3 days there so they can at least see the famous part of it, and I will not be surprised if someone needs to spend at least 1 week to see all the basics.

A day trip to Hakone or Nikko is possible, but one might just rush through the whole trip, so I would recommend staying for a night, making it a 2 day 1 night trip. Hakone and Nikko both have Ryokan (Japanese style inn), which offers great hospitality, services, food, and relaxing hot springs, and I believe that it will further enhance the whole experience.

4. Do I need a visa / Should I get money here or in Japan?
Ans: American Passport holders can enter Japan for a period of 90 days or less without a visa. For other countries, please see here.

While exchange rates and handling charges differ from bank to bank, travelers should have some Japanese currency in their hand since Japan is still a relatively cash-based society.

For other essential information including guide services, custom, climate, and many others, please go to our JNTO website.

5. When is the best time to go?
Ans: Cherry Blossom in spring and Autumn Foliage in fall are popular times; however, Japan has a great variety of activities offered throughout the year - For example, you can participate in many famous matsuri (festivals) during summer (and we also include some ideas for you just above!), or otherwise you can enjoy the powder snow during winter in Niseko (Hokkaido), Hakuba, or Shiga Kogen (Nagano) and have some winter sports fun!

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Our series of "Introduction to Japan" finally comes to an end this time! We hope we have given you some very basic knowledge about the different areas, and this time we will talk about Kyushu, one of the major islands in Japan.
Kyushu is a mountainous area with many famous hot springs in the area, such as Beppu, Yufuin, Kurokawa, etc. It is also known for nature, gourmet, and rich history in the area.

Fukuoka
Fukuoka is the major hub and most populous city in Kyushu area. Some of the famous sites and specialty includes:

Location: Dazaifu (Dazaifu Tenman-gu Shrine is especially famous among students who pray for their academic success), Hakata (the famous Sumo match also takes place in this city during November), Nakasu and Tenjin area (the busiest street in Kyushu with great food and shopping)
Handicrafts: Hakata Doll, Kurume-Gasuri (a type of famous indigo fabric with white splashed patterns)
Food: Hakata Ramen (ramen noodles with rich, milky, pork-bone based tonkotsu broth), Mentaiko (marinated roe of pollock)
Festivals: Tamaseseri (Bell-Catching Festival) on the 3rd of January, Usokae (Bullfinch Exchange) on the 7th of January.

Oita
Oita is famous for the two major hot springs in town - Beppu and Yufuin. Visitors can also relax in the nature, taste the delicious local cuisine, and learn more about Buddhism here.

Location: Usuki (a group of Buddha figure cravings out of the natural rock, known as "Usuki Sekibutsu", can be found), Beppu (a very well-known, comfortable hot spring resorts area with also exotic hot springs known as "Jigoku", which means "hell" in Japanese), Yufuin (An area with unique art galleries, sophisticated restaurants, beautiful scenery, and famous hot springs)
Food: Fugu (Japanese pufferfish cuisine), Dangojiru (a traditional Kyushu dish with noodles, pork, and vegetables in a soya sauce or miso soup).

Saga
Saga was an important point of trade between China and Korea due to its proximity. Ceramics and pottery from this prefecture is also very famous.

Location: Karatsu (Niji-no-Matsubara is a very famous scenic spot with more than a million old pine trees stretch along a 5km long seaside. Karatsu Castle, one of the famous castles in Japan, is also located in the city) Ureshino (This tranquil town is known for green tea and the hot spring which leaves your skin silky smooth), Arita and Imari (The towns that are famous for ceramics, especially Imari ware)
Handicrafts: Karatsu ware, Imari ware
Food: Green Tea, Saga beef, Rice, Tofu
Festivals: Karatsu Kunchi Festival

Nagasaki
Nagasaki was an important trading point between Japan, Asia, Holland, and Portugal. In addition, it was also the center of the spread of Christianity in Japan - Many exotic ruins and historical structure still remains, and Nagasaki has an interesting blend of European and Japanese culture for visitors to explore.

Location: Nagasaki city (Many points of interests are located in Nagasaki city - The Atomic Bomb Museum, Urakami Cathedral, Glover Garden, Shinchi China Town, and many more!), Kujuku-Shima Islands (A national park featuring beautiful scenery and 208 islands of all sizes), Unzen and Shimabara (known for hot springs, samurai residence, and Shimabara Castle)
Food: Castella (Japanese sponge cake), Chuka Ryori (Chinese cuisine in Japanese style), Shippoku Ryori (one of the most famous kinds of Chuka Ryori originated in Nagasaki, with also influences from European style cooking as well), loquat

Kumamoto
Kumamoto is located in the center of Kyushu at the western end of Japan. Nature is abundant with 20% of the area designated as different national parks. Mt. Aso, an active volcano with one of the largest calderas in the world, has also numerous hot springs.

Location: Kumamoto City (Kumamoto Castle is one of the most famous castles in Japan. Suizenji Jojuen is a Momoyama-style garden with an unusual large scale design.) Mt. Aso (Visitors can see one of the largest calderas in the world, or relax in the Kurokawa Onsen)
Food: Kumamoto Ramen, Ikinari Dango (a type of Japanese confectionary with sweet potato)
Festivals: Dai Himonjiyaki at Aso Fire Festival (which takes place at weekend in mid March)

Miyazaki
Miyazaki is one of the centers of politics, economy, and culture of southern Kyushu. Climate is subtropical, which makes it one of the most popular sightseeing spots in Japan. Besides, many mythological legends about Japan also relates to Miyazaki, which visitors can learn about them at the Miyazaki Jingu Shine or Udo Jingu Shrine.

Location: Miyazaki city (Visitors can stroll the Tachibana-dori street or visit the Miyazaki Jingu Shrine), Nichinan-Kaigan Coast (Udo-Jingu Shrine is one of the famous shrines in Japan. Visitors can also experience the subtropical paradise at the coastline and Aoshima), Ebino-Kogen Highland (visit the vast nature, the national park, and also the famous Kirishima Mountains).
Food: Shochu, Miyazaki beef, lobsters

Kagoshima
Kagoshima is located at the southern tip of Kyushu with beautiful ocean, bright sunshine, pleasant climate, and abundant nature. There are also about 30 islands located nearby, such as Yakushima Island which has been inscribed as one of the natural world heritages. The volcanic activity also makes this place another hot spring paradise.

Location: Kagoshima City (Sengan-en Garden is a fine Japanese garden built in 17th century. Mt. Sakurajima is the landmark of Kagoshima, where it can be reached by ferry), Ibusuki (Ibusuki is famous for hot springs and sand bathing, which utilizes the natural steam passing through the sand for a spa experience), Yakushima (This island is covered in deep green forest with 1000-year-old Yaku cedars.), Amami Oshima Island.
Food: Kagoshima beef, Kagoshima pork, sweet potato, Shochu made from sweet potato, Somen nagashi (flowing noodles)

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Tokyo City Cup GIII at Santa Anita Park      Mar 28
Make it a family day for everyone! See the race and Japanese cultural demonstration! More information here!

Aurora Fantasy Show and Gege (with English Subtitles) in Little Tokyo       April 4th
Come and join the Aurora Foundation as they present the U.S. premiere screening of the film "GEGE" in Japanese with English subtitles. The screening will begin with a special presentation of U-ZO Co., Ltd.'s aurora borealis digital video show "AURORA FANTASY SHOW". The screening will be presented at the Aratani Japan America Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.

Japan Film Festival at various locations in LA      Variable dates in April
This is a chance for movie lovers to see many great Japanese movies in the L.A. area! Pick a location in Santa Monica, downtown, or Irvine and enjoy this opportunity with very affordable pricing! Please see here for more information on theaters, schedules, and tickets.

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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.

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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 Tourism 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