Japan Travel Updates is a publication of the Los Angeles Office of the Japan National Tourism Organization.
Sendai to Host 2012 WTTC Events
World's Steepest Freefall Rollercoaster Arrives near Mt. Fuji
Travel + Leisure Magazine Names Tokyo and Kyoto to "World's Best" List
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.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
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
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
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
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
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:
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!
...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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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:
Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo
Prince Park Tower/Tokyo Prince Hotel
Shangri-La Hotel Tokyo
Ride the Peach: New Low-cost Airline Launches in Japan
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
To unsubscribe to this newsletter, please click here.
THE FINE PRINT/LEGAL STUFF