~JANUARY 2012~

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


Washington DC Cherry Blossom Centennial
The cherry blossom is an icon of spring in Japan. However, did you know that thousands of cherry trees bloom all across the US every year? This year is the 100th anniversary of Japan's gift of over 3000 cherry trees given to Washington DC in 1912. Most of the trees given 100 years ago still thrive along the Potomac Basin. So to celebrate the long friendship and history of cultural exchange the National Cherry Blossom Festival will hold an unprecedented 5 week event from March 20th till April 27th. The spectacular event will be filled with parades, performances, cultural demonstrations and most of all delicate pink cherry blossoms! (More Information: History of the Washington DC Cherry Trees.)

Local Japanese Spring Festivals
Many other US cities hold annual Cherry Blossom or Spring Festivals. Check out the list below for a few. Or visit your local Japan Consulate or Japanese Association for information on local Japanese events.
- San Jose, California: Nikkei Matsuri
- Phoenix, Arizona: Arizona Matsuri
- San Diego, California: San Diego Japan Fair
- Seattle, Washington: Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Festival
- Brooklyn, New York: Brooklyn Botanical Gardens Sakura Matsuri

Niseko 100th Anniversary
Niseko, Hokkaido is also celebrating its 100th anniversary as a winter skiing destination! As well, its first ski lifts were opened 50 years ago at the Grand Hirafu Resort. To celebrate resorts around the area are holding special concerts, events and promotions! One special event is a third visit from the Australian Chamber Orchestra which will play for three nights in January. The Grand Hirafu Resort has also just opened its newest high speed gondola lift as part of the 50 & 100 year celebrations. The Niseko resorts are already covered in fresh white powder and are looking forward to a fantastic 100th season. See a list of this winter's events here.

Japan Rail East starts sale of the Kanto Area Pass!
JR East announces a new rail pass, the Kanto Area pass (valid for use from Jan. 1, 2012.) Enjoy unlimited rides on the Bullet Trains and all other Japan Rail Trains in the Kanto Area! It's the perfect pass if you or your clients are visiting Tokyo and the surrounding areas. The pass not only gets you around Tokyo but also to many of the top site-seeing stops nearby, such as Mt. Fuji, Ise and Nikko! As well the pass is valid for travel to and from both Narita and Haneda Airports. Check out the JR East website for detailed information and route maps. JR East

Theme Parks are ramping up in Japan!
Tokyo DisneySea® Park is revamping the Tower of Terror ride to offer even more excitement to visitors. New special effects will be added as well as higher and longer drops to up the adrenaline rush! Even if you seen the ride before you are in for a shockingly fun time!
Universal Studios Japan, to end their 10th anniversary celebration is opening a whole new area with many new rides and attractions for guests to enjoy. The new area will be called Universal Wonderland and it will debut in March 2012!

Narita International Airport presents the "NariTra" App for Smart Phones
In cooperation with the National Institute of Information and Communication Technology (NICT), Narita International Airport is pleased to announce the release of the new smart phone translation application "NariTra". (NariTra is short for Narita Airport Translator.) NariTra is a free multilingual (English, Chinese, Korean & Japanese) translation application for smart phones. Words specific to traveling and Narita Airport have been added to the application, in addition to normal dictionary lexicon, so that it may aid travelers as they pass through the airport and beyond into Japan. It even offers speech to speech functionality for ease of customer use. Everyone is welcome to use this free app, so let your customers know about this great new tool available to them! Read the full press release here.

Reminder:
As of January 2, 2012 the JNTO Tourist Information Center in Tokyo has moved!

Notice:
The JNTO 2012 Desktop Calendar is now available for download! Click here for the download page.

New Year Greetings from Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO)

A very happy New Year to you all! We hope that you are having a peaceful start of a new year.

On behalf of the Japan National Tourism Organization, I would like to express my deepest appreciation for relief supplies and heart-warming moral support after the unprecedented magnitude of natural disaster in Japan. Except for a few countries, international travelers are already coming back to Japan.

As the winter goes into the high season, Japan has a lot to offer even in winter: Capped with world class quality of snow, northern and mountainous regions are great for winter sports and seasonal festivals. Regional winter cuisine is also not-to-miss. Tokyo and Kyoto are located where the mountain range blocks snow system, which makes easier for travelers to cruise around the urban areas.

In addition, a time-limited "Japan Big Welcome Campaign" is currently welcoming international visitors with around 8,000 retailers participating nationwide. While traveling Japan, don't miss this campaign and take advantage of special prices and complimentary gifts offered by the participating stores. (http://www.visitjapan.jp/eng/top.html)

After the winter is the beautiful cherry blossom season in Japan: Starting at the end of January in south most Okinawa until early May in north most Hokkaido, thousands of cherry trees blossom in such an ephemeral yet spectacular color, impressing visitors with unforgettable natural beauty. Cherry blossom has been well known and respected internationally, attracting many foreign visitors to Japan from all over the world.

I would like you to enjoy the best of Japan's winter and flowery spring with cherry blossom. We would like to welcome all of you to Japan with our utmost hospitality.

Ryoichi Matsuyama, President
Japan National Tourism Organization

Happy New Year to our friends in the travel industry!

On behalf of the JNTO Los Angeles office, I would like to express my deepest appreciation for the heartfelt concern and generous support everyone extended to Japan after the devastating natural disaster that hit northeastern Japan last year. All the major tourism sites are back to normal now, and travelers are coming back to Japan to enjoy its unique attractions.

This year, 2012, is very special for US and Japan relations since it is the 100th year since the city of Tokyo gifted over 3,000 cherry trees to the city of Washington D.C. in 1912. To celebrate this important year for the friendship between the US and Japan, many cherry blossom festivals are planned throughout the US, including the biggest one in Washington D.C. in March.

In this memorable year for both countries, we would like to welcome many American travelers to our beautiful country and provide wonderful experiences of our cuisine, historical architecture, unique culture, and most of all hospitality of the Japanese people. I do hope that Japan will be one of your top recommendations for your clients' next trip, and we, the JNTO, are always happy and ready to assist you in your business to Japan.

I look forward to seeing you all in Japan!

Daisuke Tonai, Executive Director
JNTO Los Angeles Office

To prepare for the upcoming cherry blossom season in Japan, this month we have a special section to highlight some of the best and most unique spots in Japan to view these spectacular trees.

To participate in Hanami - or "cherry blossom viewing" - in Japan is to participate in one of the most important events in the Japanese calendar. It's an event that everyone in Japan - regardless of age or background - participates in; a chance to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature with friends and/or family (perhaps while having a few beers or salty snacks). Of course, there are many different ways to enjoy the sakura/cherry blossoms. Picnics are the most traditional, but these days, hiking trips, boat rides, and other options are available to travelers. In this year's look at the cherry blossom season, we check out some of Japan's best hanami offerings by theme. We've also included access information, as well as the dates the blossoms are expected to appear.

Hanami for Picnic

Kitakami City Park

Kitakami City, Iwate Prefecture
One of the biggest hanami spots in all of Japan, the city park on the banks of the Kitakami River has over 10,000 trees and plenty of space to unfold that picnic blanket. The park is a short walk from Kitakami Station (which is served by the Tohoku Shinkansen), so it is easy for out-of-towners to get to the park within 30 minutes of arriving in Kitakami - and still have time to buy a bento box lunch.
Access: 20 Minutes from Kitakami Station
In Bloom: April 15th ~ May 5th

Kotohiki Park

Kanonji City, Kagawa Prefecture
Blooming a little later than the rest of the trees on the island of Shikoku, Kotohiki Park's inland sea location gives locals the chance to admire the blossoms late into the season. The park is also situated near a beach and the "Zenigata Sand Sculpture" monument, which means that visitors can see a whole lot more than just flower petals.
Access: 7 minute bus ride from Kanonji Station
In Bloom: Late March ~ Mid April

Hanami for Stroll

Chidori ga Fuchi

Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo Metropolitan Area
Set just west of the Imperial Palace and south of Yasukuni Shrine, Chidori-ga-fuchi is a small path that runs along the moat surrounding the palace grounds. At night, lights illuminate the trees on the water, giving visitors a chance to take a romantic stroll or boat ride under the blossoms in the center of Tokyo. If the walking makes you hungry, check out the festival booths at nearby Yasukuni Shrine for yakitori, potatoes, grilled fish, and endless amounts of other festival food staples.
Access: 8 Minute walk from Ichigaya Station or Kudanshita Station
In Bloom: Late March ~ Early April

Kakunodate

Kakunodate City, Akita Prefecture
The riverbanks of this "Little Kyoto of Tohoku" are lined with "weeping willow" sakura trees, which droop over the river and walkways to create a magical atmosphere. You can unfold a blanket and picnic here, but you might want to keep walking to check out the trees that frame the old samurai homes on Kakunodate's main street.
Access: 20 Minute walk from Kakunodate Station, bus service also available
In Bloom: mid April ~ Early May

Hanami for Bicycle

Oku Biwako

Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture
The road running along the north side of Japan's largest lake, Lake Biwa, has become a paradise for cyclists - especially during sakura season. The curvy road is lined with trees, and also offers fantastic views of the lake. Don't have your own wheels? You can rent a bike at one JR station and drop it off at another on the other side of the lake.
Access: Start from Makino Station (to the west) or Kinomoto Station (to the east)
In Bloom: Mid March ~ Early April

Maple Yaba Cycling Road

Nakatsu City, Oita Prefecture
Winding into the mountains on what once was a rural rail line, the Maple Yaba Cycling Road takes riders through some of Oita's most beautiful scenery. The path isn't that steep (it was built to accommodate trains), but you may want to take a break at one of the old rail stations to have a picnic and admire all the sakura trees you've been passing.
Access: 40 Minute Bus Ride from Nakatsu Station
In Bloom: Late March ~ Mid April

Hanami for Socializing

Ueno District

Ueno District, Tokyo Metropolitan Area
Considered by many to be the wildest way to experience hanami, the annual blossom viewing at Ueno Park can feel like a huge party because of all the picnics happening. As you admire the many trees in the park, you may also catch a glimpse of people singing karaoke, playing Mahjong or other games, and sharing all kinds of food and drink. The trees alone are worth the trip, but don't be surprised if someone invites you to join their picnic as you stroll through the park.
Access: Adjacent to Ueno Station
In Bloom: Mid March ~ Early April

Shukugawa

Nishinomiya City, Hyogo Prefecture
Situated halfway between Osaka and Kobe, the cherry blossoms along Shukugawa River stretch for over a mile - and so do the lines of people passing through to see them. You can choose to walk the length of the river, or you can join the many revelers on the riverbanks as they party the day (and night) away.
Access: Adjacent to Shukugawa Station, access available from 4 other stations along the river
In Bloom: Mid March ~ Early April

Castle Hanami

Takada Castle

Joetsu City, Niigata Prefecture
The main castle is long gone, but the park and its many sakura trees remain, making the grounds of this former castle a very popular place in the springtime. Wander along rows of trees and sample food from vendors before crossing the moat on an ornate bridge, illuminated at night to give people a better view of the blossoms.
Access: 20 Minute Walk from Takada Station
In Bloom: Early April ~ Late April

Hirosaki Castle

Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture
Considering how the cherry blossom has been a Japanese icon for centuries, it should come as no surprise that parks around castles are some of the best places to do hanami. The blossoms around Hirosaki Castle are legendary, featuring a "tunnel" trees and vendors selling all kinds of sakura-themed souvenirs. The city also illuminates the trees and castle until 11PM, giving visitors the chance to explore late into the evening.
Access: 15 Minute Bus Ride or 25 Minute Walk from Hirosaki Station
In Bloom: Mid April ~ Early May

Unique Hanami

Tendo Human Shogi

Tendo City, Yamagata Prefecture
Tendo Park has everything a hanami devotee would want - sunshine, hundreds of trees, and local vendors selling food. The real draw, however, is that the park also hosts a special variant of the game shogi (often called "Japanese chess"); in which locals in traditional Japanese costume participate in a "life size" game on a giant board. Even if you don't know how the game works, the costumed warriors on the field of battle surrounded by blooming trees is an amazing sight.
Access: 20 Minute Walk from Tendo Station, Shuttle Bus Available for Shogi Games
In Bloom: Early April ~ Early May; Shogi games held on 3rd or 4th weekend in April

Taki-zakura

Miharu City, Fukushima Prefecture
If you're interested in a bit of history, this is the place to be. Miharu's taki-zakura is recognized as one of Japan's three most legendary cherry blossom trees - not just because of its size, but because the tree is said to be over 1,000 years old. Besides the tree, a nearby park also has a grove of 3,000 trees where guests can picnic.
Access: Shuttle Bus from Miharu Station
In Bloom: Early April ~ Late April

Since this is a special Cherry Blossom Newsletter many of these tours are of course focused on Cherry Blossom viewing this Spring!

All Japan Tours
Japan In Depth Cherry Blossom Tour & Classic Japan Cherry Blossom Tour - 10% agent commission.

Asian Pacific Adventures
Rural Japan: Castles & Country Home Stay & Samurai Legacy: Japan - 10% agent commission.

Class One Travel
Japan Wellness Package Tour and Invitation to Royal Court and Art Tour - 5% agent commission.

Cox & Kings
Japan's Cultural Treasures Tour and Land of the Rising Sun Private Tour - 12% agent commission.

Destination Japan
Japan's Spring Beauty by Rail and Tokyo Anime Freedom 2012 - Save $100 & $100 agent commission.

Geographic Expeditions
Japan: A Cultural Feast and Shikoku: Japan's Sacred Island - 10% commission on land costs.

IACE Travel
Kyushu in Bloom Tour and Colorful Tohoku Sakura Tour - Commissionable. For the details, please contact with IACE TRAVEL Visit Asia Division.(Toll Free: 1-866-735-4223, Email:info@iace-asia.com).

InsideJapan Tours
Essential Honshu and Hands on Japan Tour - 10% agent commission.

Jack's Countryside Japan Tours
Kyoto Temple Flea Markets Tour and Takayama Countryside Tour - agent commission available; tours limited to 8 participants.

Super Value Tours
Japan Classic Cherry Blossom Special Tour, - Save $600 (subject to availability)! Mar 17, 24, & 31. 8% commission to agents.

Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo
Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo is currently offering special promotional rates until December 30, 2012 - Save 20% on 4 nights stay, 25% on 7 night stay, and 30% on 10 night stay! (i.e. The Plaza Premier King will be priced at 20,800JPY with a 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 or through GDS (Sabre: XL 1123, Apollo/Gallireo: XL 19244, Worldspan: XL TYOKP, Amdeus: XL TYOPT). All prices are subject to 10% commission.

The Prince - Park Tower Tokyo
The Prince Park Tower Tokyo Hotel Is offering special limited time overseas sales rates now until March 31, 2012. Special rates are available for all new bookings of stays between now and March 31st (excluding blackout dates). Get a Corner Double room for only 16,000yen a night! 10% commission available. For further details about this promotion or reservations, please contact the Prince Hotel Reservation Office at 1-800-542-8686.

All Nippon Airways

ANA's "Inspiration of Japan" available on more routes!
All Nippon Airlines announces the launch of their "Inspiration of Japan" products and services will be added to their Narita-San Francisco route from December 2011 and their Narita-Los Angeles route from January 21, 2012. The "Inspiration of Japan" services include new seats and seating configurations in all three classes, new and improved in-flight services. Some of the few upgrades all classes will enjoy are; universal power sources, iPod connectors & USB ports at every seat, all new menu choices including the new "j-menu" in economy class, new AVOD entertainment services with touch screen displays at each seat. For more details, visit: "Inspiration of Japan"

ANA expands Boeing 787 service.
ANA have announced they will expand routes flown with the new Boeing 787 to their Narita-Seattle and Narita-San Jose routes. All Nippon Airways is looking forward to taking full advantage of the capabilities of the new 787 Dreamliner. The addition of the plane on these two routes makes ANA the only Japanese airline to operate both routes. For more information please read their full press release here.

Japan Airlines

JAL official partner of Tokyo Sky Tree
Japan Airlines is pleased to announce that it has been named the official partner of the new Tokyo Sky Tree tower. The new broadcasting tower will open on March 22, 2012 and is recognized as the tallest free standing tower in the world. As its official airline partner, JAL will begin endorsing the tower with special logos and other activities to "help to convey the wonders of Japanese culture and technology to the world." For more information please read their full press release here.

JAPAN SHOWCASE DATES ANNOUNCED

If you've been longing to make connections with major suppliers in Japan travel - all while learning about the amazing destinations that Japan has to offer - then mark your calendars! The JNTO is proud to announce our lineup of dates for our annual Japan Showcase Seminars.

These seminars are a fantastic networking and learning opportunity. We'll be joined by airlines, hotels, tour operators, tourism representatives, and other special guests. All presentations will be done in a round table format so there will be plenty of one on one time with the suppliers!

We will be giving away many door prizes at each Showcase, including round trip air tickets to Japan!

The dates and locations for the seminars are as follows:

Salt Lake City, UT January 25 (Wed) Marriott City Center
Los Angeles, CA January 26 (Thurs) Sheraton Los Angeles Downtown
Portland, OR February 14 (Tues) Doubletree Hotel
San Jose/Santa Clara, CA February 16 (Thurs) Hyatt Regency Santa Clara
Dallas, TX February 22 (Wed) Sheraton Dallas
Phoenix, AZ February 23 (Thurs) Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort

If you are interested in attending, please contact the JNTO at info@jnto-lax.org OR by calling 213-623-1952.

You can also find the JNTO at the following shows:

We'll be visiting another show in the Los Angeles area as well: the 2012 Los Angeles Times Travel Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center next to the LA Live complex downtown.

Date: January 27-29 (Industry only January 27, Open to Public January 28-29)
Place: Los Angeles Convention Center
JNTO Booth Number: #1307


Can't make it to LA to see us? Don't worry - we'll also be visiting the 2012 Bay Area Travel and Adventure Show at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

Date: February 18 and 19
Place: Santa Clara Convention Center
JNTO Booth Number: #819


Just 2 short days after the Japan Showcase in Phoenix, the 28th Annual Arizona Matsuri will be happening. As we have in previous years JNTO will be exhibiting at the Matsuri! If you are in the area stop by and say hi while you are checking out all of the fantastic fun being had. Come see the 2012 Arizona Matsuri, February 25th and 26th at the Heritage and Science Park in Downtown Phoenix.

New Editor/Staff Introduction

Greetings all and Happy New Year! I am Tina Grindol and I've taken over editing this JNTO newsletter. This is my first issue so I hope everyone enjoys the read!

A little bit about me; I was born and raised in the southeastern part of the US but I've lived all around the US and Canada over the years. In university I majored in Japanese Language and Literature and spent time in Japan with the many friends I met through school intercultural exchanges.

I think that experiencing other cultures and different ways of thought is one of the best ways to grow as person. This is why I am so happy and excited to be working for JNTO. To be able to help others to experience something new is one of the best things in life. So please do not hesitate to call, email or write me here at the JNTO LA office if there is anything you need.

Here is to a fabulous and prosperous 2012! Cheers! ^_^

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.

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.org
website: www.jnto.go.jp or www.japantravelinfo.com