~SEPTEMBER·OCTOBER 2011~

Japan Travel Updates is a publication of the Los Angeles Office of the Japan National Tourism Organization.
For more information, or for promotional opportunities, e-mail: info@jnto-lax.org


Sendai to Host 2012 WTTC Events
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has announced that Sendai will play host to a series of events during the 2012 WTTC Global Summit in Tokyo. Citing a desire to help support Japan's tourism industry following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the WTTC and the Host Committee agreed to hold their General and Executive Committee meetings in Sendai, along with an additional congress that will focus specifically on the recovery of Japan tourism, risk management, and crisis response. Both the Sendai events and Tokyo Summit are expected to draw thousands of figures from the tourism industry from around the world. The 2011 Summit was held in Las Vegas this past May.

World's Steepest Freefall Rollercoaster Arrives near Mt. Fuji
If you were the first one in line for the roller coaster when you were a kid, this news is for you: Fuji-Q Highland, an amusement park located near the base of Mt. Fuji, has just installed their newest rollercoaster. With a drop angle of 121 degrees - the world's steepest - Takabisha opened in July and joins six other coasters to make Fuji-Q one of Japan's top destinations for thrill seekers. The roller coaster was designed by German firm Gerstlauer, which has also designed numerous thrill rides for the Six Flags amusement park chain.


Travel + Leisure Magazine Names Tokyo and Kyoto to "World's Best" List
In its annual list of the best cities, hotels and destinations to visit around the world, Tokyo and Kyoto both earned positions on the "Best Cities in Asia" list. Traditional capital city Kyoto maintained its number 3 ranking that it earned the year before, while Tokyo checked in at number 5, up four spots from number 9. The "best" designation is generated from surveys of readers and travel professionals.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT!
This December, come visit us at the 2011 Luxury Travel Expo! Japan Specialist Partners such as Japan Airlines/American Airlines, Shizuoka Prefecture, Hiroshima / Okayama Tourism, Keio Plaza Hotel, Tokyo, JTB USA, IACE Travel, Japan Quest Journeys and Inside Japan Tours will be joining us at our booth, which we'll be operating on behalf of Japan Tourism Agency.

We'll also be holding a special 90 minute Japan seminar, starting at 11AM on Tuesday, December 6!

The Expo will be held from December 6-8, 2011 at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Come meet with us and find out how Japan can be your client's next luxury destination!


National Geographic Blogger extraordinaire Andrew Evans is currently in Japan on a 23 day trip all over the country. He's already submitted some gorgeous pictures and interesting stories from the journey thus far; you can follow the adventures at his blog, Digital Nomad.

Meanwhile, Pride Travel Owner and COO S. Nathan DePetris shared his thoughts about his recent trip to Japan in the pages of TravelAge West. Read his piece here.

Finally, also in TravelAge West, Kenneth Shapiro also checked in with news from meetings in Tokyo between travel industry representatives and groups in Japan and their American counterparts.

JNTO President Tadatoshi Mamiya thanks the international community for its support

Five months have now passed since the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake. During this time, we have received very gracious support from many people across the globe. The Japan National Tourism Organization, on behalf of the nation of Japan, would like to express its heartfelt gratitude. Thanks to your support, the number of visitors to Japan is gradually recovering. We will continue to do our best to repay the kindness of our friends overseas by getting things back to normal as quickly as possible.

We at the Japan National Tourism Organization have kept the world informed with up-to-date, accurate, and in-depth information about Japan, and we have sent out a positive message that Japan is in good shape from a tourism point of view.

We have also made continued efforts to invite members of the media and travel industry professionals to come and see for themselves how the Japan of today offers as memorable and diverse a travel experience as ever before.

The allure of Japan as a tourist destination remains unchanged. Numerous visitors over the past several months have told us that they found Japan to be a remarkable destination. Such comments have given us the confidence to continue to send out our encouraging message that travel to Japan is an unforgettable tourist experience.

Japan is currently in the midst of a dynamic summer. As we head into the Fall season, the green foliage covering our mountain ranges will gradually transform into a magnificent seasonal display of many colors, just like a traditional Japanese woodblock print picture. Japan is a country where each of the four seasons has its own distinct character. We are ready to greet travelers from all over the world with unparalleled hospitality to make their "Japan experience" even more enjoyable. As a way of expressing our thanks for the support shown to us since the earthquake, we are doing all we can to encourage as many people from all over the world to visit our country. Please do come and visit us in Japan!

Tadatoshi Mamiya, President
Japan National Tourism Organization


As the weather gets colder, Japan offers a lot of unique takes on holiday season festivals - which make the holiday season a magical time to visit. Let's get to the listings!

Kobe Luminarie - December 1~12, 2011
Sannomiya/Central Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture

Although its history is relatively short, the Kobe Luminarie has become one of Japan's most iconic year end festivals. The event, where tens of thousands of hand painted lights are set up in decorative patterns along the streets of Kobe, was started as a way to encourage the people of Kobe following the devastating Hanshin Awaji Earthquake of 1995 and pay tribute to those that died in the disaster. The light decorations and designs themselves are the product of Italian designer Valerio Festi and Kobe native Hirokazu Imaoka. So grab a warm cocoa and a camera, because this is one of the best ways to enjoy a winter night in Kansai!

Chichibu Yomatsuri - December 2~3, 2011
Chichibu Shrine, Chichibu City, Saitama Prefecture

Held at Chichibu's central shrine - which boasts a 2,000 year history - Chichibu's Yomatsuri is arguably one of Japan's biggest late season festivals. Floats are paraded through the streets, Kabuki and dance performances are held, and near the end, two of the floats are carefully pulled up a steep slope, right before fireworks illuminate the night sky. Chichibu also has a fantastic variety of hot spring resorts, which means that guests can preface their festival experience with a soothing natural bath (with a mountain view!) if they so choose.

Kasuga Wakamiya On-Matsuri - December 15~18, 2011
Wakamiya Shrine, Nara/Nara Prefecture

Held near the Kasuga Taisha Grand Shrine, this festival encompasses a variety of traditional music performances, including "Kagura" and "Bugaku." Dancing and other performances can be seen as well, including a "procession of the eras" where customs and mannerisms from each of Japan's historical eras are reproduced on stage by close to 500 performers. If you are a fan of the traditional Japanese music and art, this is a spectacle that you won't want to miss.

 

Hagoita-Ichi - December 17-19, 2011
Sensoji Temple, Asakusa Area, Tokyo

If you consider yourself a connoisseur of holiday decorating, head to Tokyo's most iconic shrine in Asakusa for the Hagoita-Ichi, a festival where new year's decorations and other traditional charms, such as the racquet-like Hagoita (or "Battledore"), kites, and other items. The atmosphere here has been described as "lively", "enthusiastic" and even "crazy" - so if you're in the mood to have fun, eat fried festival food and maybe even banter with the decoration sellers, you won't want to miss this one.

Special Note: Sapporo Snow Festival

This coming February 6-12, Japan will hold its biggest winter festival: the Sapporo Snow Festival in Sapporo, Hokkaido. Japan Travel Updates will be covering this event in a bit more detail in our next issue, but as a reminder:
If your clients are interested in attending this festival, we strongly suggest booking hotels as soon as possible. Space in the Sapporo area at festival time is extremely limited, so book early to secure your spot!
More information about Japan's big winter festivals in our next issue!


This month, we welcome our new Executive Director, Mr. Daisuke Tonai.

Greetings! My name is Daisuke Tonai, and as of this month, I am the new Executive Director at the JNTO Los Angeles Office. This marks my second time at the LA Office; I worked here before as a Director. It's a strange feeling to be back in a different role, but I am excited to get reacquainted with the city and our travel partners here and all over the United States.

I've been working for the JNTO for over 18 years, ever since I graduated from Sophia University in Tokyo. During that time, I've had the chance to work for numerous divisions within the organization, including Conventions, Corporate Planning, and International Promotions. At the moment, I've settled in the South Bay with my wife and two sons. It's been quite the experience bringing my entire family to the United States, but we are all thrilled to be here!

The current situation facing Japan Tourism is admittedly tough. As Japan recovers from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, we shall work tirelessly to help people get acquainted with Japan, get accurate information about the safety and security of each destination in Japan as they need it, and feel safe during their travels. This is going to take a lot of work, but I believe that getting to see others travel to Japan and enjoy the culture I grew up with will make all the effort worthwhile. My staff and I are looking forward to serving you!

Daisuke Tonai
Executive Director
Japan National Tourism Organization

...and now, a word from your editor...

Hello everyone! My name is Evan Miller, and I'm the guy who has been writing this newsletter for the last four months. Yes, I know this introduction is coming rather late, but what can I say - we had other stuff that we needed to cover. Anyway...

I was born and raised in Minneapolis, but in the past decade I've also lived and worked in Denver, San Francisco, the San Joaquin Valley, the Kansai/Osaka area, Tokyo, Akita, and now Los Angeles. I got my start in the Japan travel field about nine years ago, when I was asked to show foreign delegations around Akita Prefecture during diplomatic visits. Before landing at the JNTO I was the chief tour designer and tour leader for Pop Japan Travel, which gave me the chance to design and lead pop culture-themed tours to places all over Japan.

Helping people get the most out of their time in Japan - whether it's navigating the train system or finding that special hole-in-the-wall pub or secluded hot spring - is my passion, so please feel free to contact me here at the JNTO office for brochures, travel tips, or anything else you may need. I look forward to working with you!


 

For those of you who weren't around for the last issue, we've been looking at some places in Japan "off the beaten path" - the kind of places that the tours usually skip, but are still relatively accessible from Japan's major destination cities. We'll be presenting these spots in two categories: "Off" the path for places that some tourists see but most skip, and "Way Off" for places where visitors are rare. Last issue, we covered Tokyo; this time, we'll be looking at destinations accessible from Osaka and Kyoto. On with the show! 

OFF

The Naruto Whirlpools, Tokushima Prefecture

Tired of the same old sea cruise? Well then, how about a cruise that gets up close and personal with a whirlpool or two? These whirlpools appear usually two to three times a day and can be viewed from a boat or the park nearby. If you aren't afraid of heights but don't want to get as close as the boats get, there's also an observation deck under a bridge that lets visitors gaze through a glass floor - straight down into the whirlpools themselves. The surrounding area also offers fantastic seafood and spectacular mountain and sea views.

Access: 2.5 hours by bus from Osaka Station; 2 hours by bus from Sannomiya Station in Kobe.

Tottori Sand Dunes, Tottori Prefecture

Japan's remote rural areas offer a lot of interesting treasures to discover, and none is perhaps as unexpected as Japan's miniature desert on the Japan Sea coast. If your travel needs gravitate towards kitsch, you can saddle up for a camel ride across the dunes or go "sandboarding" down the naturally formed dune slopes. If you're more in the mood to relax, worry not; the ocean views and tranquil surroundings are be more than enough to do the job.

Access: 2.5 hours from JR Osaka Station to Tottori; short bus ride from the station.

 


WAY OFF

Ishiyamadera Temple, Shiga Prefecture

If your first exposure to Japanese culture was literature - or if you're looking for a temple that tourists tend to miss - Ishiyamadera is a destination not to be missed. This is the temple where famed author Murasaki Shikibu supposedly began working on her famous novel The Tale of Genji over a thousand years ago. There is a room dedicated to Shikibu, but even if that doesn't interest you, chances are the mountainside foliage and the scenic views of Lake Biwa will.

Access: 50 minutes from JR Osaka Station to Ishiyama, 5 minute train ride to Ishiyamadera Station, which leads to the temple.

Tomonoura, Hiroshima Prefecture

Described by some visitors as "frozen in time," Tomonoura is a classic sleepy fishing village with numerous shrines, local shops, and sites for visitors to see. In fact, famed animated filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki used this town as his inspiration point when he made the film Ponyo. Visitors can take a short ferry over to a small island shrine, or climb the steps to Ioji Temple, which overlooks the bay. Along the way, you can browse the wares of local merchants, which include pottery, the catch of the day, and even locally-produced sake and plum wine. The best part? The town is small enough that you'll have time to do all this - and more - on foot in just one day.

Access: 75 minutes from JR Shin Osaka Station to Fukuyama on the Shinkansen/Bullet Train; 30 minute bus ride from Fukuyama to Tomonoura.

 


The tranquility of Kurashiki

The Basics: Situated roughly halfway between the Osaka/Kobe area and Hiroshima, Okayama is a place that many tourists skip - but those that do go often find themselves planning a return trip. The mountainous northern part of the prefecture has unique surprises waiting around every turn, including castles, shrines, villages that replicate the region's rich history, skiing, and even caves where visitors can explore underground lakes. To the south lies Okayama's commercial center and two of its most iconic cities, Kurashiki and Okayama City. The capitol city boasts a castle, numerous art museums, temples, and Koraku-en, a centuries old garden reputed to be one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan. Kurashiki, renowned for its large historical quarter, offers historical sightseeing and seaside beaches that point visitors towards scenic island chains in the sea.

See:

Koraku-en Gardens, one of Japan's three most iconic gardens Kurashiki's Bikan Historical Quarter, famed for its samurai homes and pre-Meiji architecture
Okutsu Hot Spring and Ravine
, a mountain hot spring near picturesque rivers and forests
Maki Cave, where visitors can wander tunnels and bridges over an underground lake
The View from Washuzan,
which overlooks the Seto Bridge and the Seto Inland Sea

 

 

Eat:

    Somen, a locally produced noodle that can be served cold, hot, in a bowl, or as "nagashi somen", where diners pluck the noodles from a current running down a bamboo chute
    Kibi Dango, a sugary dumpling popular in castle towns
    Fruit: Thanks to its warm climate, Okayama is also known as the "fruit kingdom" of Japan, producing some of Japan's finest peaches, grapes, and other fruits

More Information:

See our Guide to Okayama or visit the Okayama Prefecture Tourism Division website.


Fall and Winter are coming, along with a full slate of tours and travel deals to share with your partners and clients. Here's this month's list:
  
All Japan Tours
Japan Autumn Leaves Tour and Japan Enchantment - 10% agent commission available!

Asia Transpacific Journeys
Japan Custom Journeys (net pricing available for agents) and the Quintessential Japan Small Group Tour (10% commission for agents on group bookings!)

Charming Asia Tours
All Year Japan Tour and Japan & Korea Discovery Tour

Destination Japan
Japan Fast Food Frenzy Attack Tour - $50 off with payment by end of September!

InsideJapan Tours
Essential Honshu Tour and Tokaido Trail Tour - 10% net discount for agents!

JTB USA
Welcome to Japan Package (with Deluxe Hotel) and Flex Japan + Split Stay - both tours commissionable!

Samurai Tours
Fall Foliage Best of Japan Tour (November 2011) and Winter Wonderland Tour (February 2012) - Both tours are discounted and commissionable! Info: Samurai Tours website

Signet Tours/Super Value Tours 
Revisit Japan 6 Day Kanto Tour for $1199 and 9 Day Japan Classics for $2199 (from LAX).  Commissionable for agents.  Ask about our guaranteed dates.

Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo
Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo is currently offering special promotional rates until December 30, 2011 - Save 20% on 2 nights stay, 30% on 3 night stay, and 40% on 4 night stay!  For further details about this promotion or reservations, please contact the Keio Plaza Hotel Los Angeles Office at 1-800-222-5346 or reservation@keioplazahotel.com

 

Prince Park Tower/Tokyo Prince Hotel
Located in the heart of Tokyo next to the iconic Tokyo Tower, The Prince Park Tower and Tokyo Prince Hotels are rolling out the red carpet for guests with their 2011 Prince Club International rates! Tailored towards guests from overseas, these rates allow visitors to Tokyo to experience city luxury at an affordable price. Plus, all booking rates are 10% commissionable! Per night costs start at just 11,400 yen/night. For a full rate chart or more details, contact Prince Hotel Group at 1-800-542-8686 or visit their website.

Shangri-La Hotel Tokyo
We mentioned the Shangri-La's special Wish for Japan charity campaign in our last issue, and now we're pleased to announce that the hotel is also offering guests a special Wish for Japan stay package. 10% of the room cost will be donated to support relief efforts in the areas affected by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Book your package here.

Japan Airlines
Japan Airlines (JAL) announced that it will launch a brand new route between Boston Logan International Airport and Tokyo's Narita International Airport starting April 22, 2012. Japan Airlines will be the first airline to link nonstop service between Boston and Asia. The airline also announced its plans to operate the highly-anticipated Boeing 787-8 configured with business and economy class cabins on this route, making Boston the first destination named by JAL to utilize the Dreamliner. For more info, click here!

Ride the Peach: New Low-cost Airline Launches in Japan
One complaint we've heard from travelers is the lack of "low-cost" domestic air carriers in Japan. All Nippon Airways (ANA), along with a handful of corporate sponsors, is aiming to change that with the launch of a new airline called Peach. With a fleet of planes in Pink and Purple livery, Peach has announced that they will be offering flights at half the current rates of other carriers. The new airline begins service on March 1, 2012 and will be using Osaka's Kansai Airport as its hub. Initial flight service will include three daily round trips to Fukuoka and four daily round trips to Shin-Chitose Airport, which serves Sapporo and Hokkaido. Future expansion plans include routes to other airports in Japan and potential expansion in Asia.



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.
You can also contact our office for travel brochures and language handbooks.  Please e-mail info@jnto-lax.org for more information.
* 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 is here to help! We can provide you with updated information, advice, brochures, and more to make yours a trip to remember. If you have any questions, feel free to contact our office between 9AM and 5PM Pacific Standard Time. We look forward to assisting you!

JNTO Hotline: (213) 623-1952

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THE FINE PRINT/LEGAL STUFF
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 Tourism Organization, L.A. Office
340 E. 2nd Street, Suite 302, Los Angeles, CA 90012
email: info@jnto-lax.orgwebsite: www.jnto.go.jp or www.japantravelinfo.com