February 2013

Meet the New Japan Campaign!

The Japan Tourism Agency is pleased to announce a new promotion in Japan for travelers. Meet the New Japan in Tokyo! This two month campaign features special events, discounts and presents for all travelers who present their passports to select locations around the metropolitan area. Campaign ends March 31st. They are even offering day tours in various areas. This Tokyo campaign is just one of many slated for the Meet the New Japan Promotional series. Please see the Meet the New Japan website for campaign details.

Free Wifi Services in Japan for Foreign Travelers
Based on the results of a traveler survey conducted by the Japan Tourism Agency, the Japanese government is pushing for more free public wireless internet to be available for overseas visitors. As part of this effort, JNTO has produced an information page about what free wifi services are available. This includes everything from a list of popular hot spots to even a 14 free use of one of the largest wifi networks in Japan! Please take a moment to read the helpful article on the JNTO Global Webpage.

Try 500 types of Sake at over 90 breweries in Niigata

Niigata Sake no Jin is a thoroughly established two-day event full of highlights and flavor. The 90 sake breweries located in Niigata Prefecture all bring their best sake to one location. If you purchase a sake tasting ticket (2,000 yen in advance, 2,500 yen at the door), you can enjoy over 500 types of refined sake to your heart's content. Get your fill of delicious, distinctive Niigata sake along with Niigata foods that pair well with sake. See the event website for all of the details!

Odakyu Hakone and Cherry Blossom Campaign

Odakyu Electric Railway Co., Ltd. will hold the "Let's go to Hakone using the Odakyu Line! SAKURA Campaign" from March 20th (Wednesday, holiday) to April 21st (Sunday), 2013 for overseas visitors. During the campaign, a free gift of cherry blossom chopsticks will be offered to foreign customers who purchase tickets including those for the Hakone Freepass, the Limited Express "Romancecar" and other Odakyu Line tickets at the Odakyu Sightseeing Service Centers in Shinjuku or Odawara stations. We will also offer a booklet that lists information on recommended cherry blossom spots in the Hakone area, where there are many cherry blossom viewing spots, times of bloom, and souvenirs associated with cherry blossoms. Please see the full informational PDF for all of the details.

ICOCA Special Airport package and Hello Kitty Card

One of the easiest ways to get into Osaka and Kyoto from the Kansai International Airport is by the Kansai-Airport Express "Haruka" train. JR West which operates the Haruka is no offering a special combined package featuring a discounted ride on the Haruka and a special pre-charged ICOCA transit card. Just like the Suica Card in Tokyo, this pre-paid transit card can be used to pay for transport on all trains lines (Japan Rail and Private) within the Kansai Area. For those also heading to other regions the ICOCA card can be used anywhere you see Sucia or Pasmo logos as well! For this special package please see the information PDF.

New Tokyo Feature - Anime & Manga Map

The Tokyo Convention and Visitor's Bureau keeps adding more and more great information to their official website. This month their special feature is a great introduction to touring Tokyo for Anime and Manga (comic) Fans. The new feature has information on everything from where to shop, museums and even the biggest anime event of the year, the Tokyo International Anime Fair! If anyone you know is interested in Japanese animation or comics direct them to this site for all of the basics!

Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival

The Cherry Blossom season is almost here! One of the most popular places to view cherry blossoms is in Kawazu (Shizuoka Prefecture). It is famous for the contrast of pink cherry blossoms with the brilliant yellow of rapeseed blossoms. There are over 8000 cherry trees in the area, most of the "Kawazu-zakura" variety which are among the earliest blooming cherry trees. Every year the Kawazu area hosts "The Kawazu-zakura Cherry Blossom Festival" and invites millions of Japanese and foreign tourists to enjoy the beauty of spring. Please see the official Festival website for details.

Great Resources List
Please use these resources to vamp up your webpages and advertisements or help your clients!
JNTO Free Photo library Make your free account for High Quality images, use on websites or print materials!
JNTO Youtube Channel Embed the videos on your website or link to your clients.
JNTO Brochure Archive Print the pdfs as many times as you need!
JNTO Accommodation Search Find hotels or ryokan across Japan.
Meetings & Incentives Planner Find all the latest on MICE planning for Japan here!

Okinawa

Your humble editor (Tina) recently had the privilege of traveling to Okinawa. I assisted with a diving trip sponsored by the Okinawa Prefecture and Okinawa Convention and Visitors Bureau. So this month I will share a special feature about the wonderful islands of Okinawa!

Our first stop after a quick overnight in Naha was Yonaguni Island the western most island of Japan. On a clear day you can see Taiwan from Yonaguni! After checking into the hotel and having a quick lunch, it was time for the first dive of the trip. Not being a diver, I got to hang out on the boat and enjoy looking at the island scenery from the water while the participants got wet.

That night we enjoyed a nice meal and some local beverages at one of the few izakaya (Japanese style pubs) on the island. Yonaguni only has a population of about 1700 people (there is only 1 stop light on the island and that is to teach children about traffic signals!) Even with only a few restaurants the variety of dishes was surprising and delicious. We even had no issue feeding the vegetarians in our group. Of course all of the local staff everywhere we went were lovely and so inviting.

The next day it was up early for diving with hammerhead sharks! The group got lucky and saw a very large school almost as soon as they hopped in the water. (Sorry I don't have any pictures of the sharks but keep an eye out for them in most of the large scuba diving publications out later this year!) Most of the day was spent diving, though the group did take a quick jaunt between dives to visit the Agarizaki Lighthouse (right next to the marina) and see some of the Yonaguni wildlife.

On out last morning on Yonaguni we had a meeting with one of the local dive shops. This was special because we met Mr. Aratake, a local and long time diver who discovered the Yonaguni Underwater Ruins (which the group dove the first day). He told us in great detail how the ruins were explored and the many scientific studies that have been done and are being done still. However, there is still some debate as to whether or not the ruins were from an ancient civilization. Mr. Aratake believes from the research of his colleagues and from spending so many year diving the ruins that the structures are at the very least man-modified. After the meeting we took a quick bus ride to see the Western most lighthouse in Japan at Cape Irizaki and to visit an Awamori (the local distilled rice liquor of Okinawa) distillery to buy some souvenirs.

Then it was back to Naha for an afternoon of sightseeing. We had a late lunch at a wonderful organic buffet where all of the food had a picture & description of what local farm it was sourced from. This place was a huge hit with all of the participants who appreciated the local approach to good food (and that it was all you can eat was a bonus!) After the filling lunch we ventured to the must-see Shurijo Castle which overlooks Naha City. The castle is the remnants on the Ryukyu Dynasty which ruled the Okinawa Islands before they were annexed to Japan in the 1800s. The photographers in our group had a field day here; they loved all of the brilliant colors and textures. Everyone else enjoyed learning a bit more about the history of the Okinawa Islands.

That night in Naha we enjoyed a dinner show featuring traditional Okinawa dancing and singing.

The next morning it was off to the ferry docks to take a boat ride to tiny Tokashiki Island. We all enjoyed the quick ferry and were met at the docks by the staff of our hotel. Tokashiki Island is very small, with a population of around 700 people. However in the summer the island is a very popular resort and weekend getaway. Based on the view from our hotel I can see why it is so popular. We were even able to see whales jumping out in the channel while sitting on the resort's beach. Being winter, we mostly had the place to ourselves so the group rested up well and spent the next few days diving in the local waters seeing soft corals, sea snakes(!) and cuttlefish among others. The diving boat was too small for me to go along, but with the hotel being right next to the beach I was able to enjoy the beach while waiting for them.

The last morning on Tokashiki one of the locals took us around to see some of the sights including the highest point on the island and to the other popular beach & town. The driver/tour guide was such a fun lady and we learned a lot about the island and the locals. They were also preparing for their annual "Island Marathon" which would be happening the day after we left, so all of the locals were busy setting up for the event. The resort was expecting hundreds of people to be staying and eating during the event (many visitors come from other islands and the rest of Japan to join in the marathon.)

Then it was back on the ferry to Naha for our final night. In Naha we enjoyed a World buffet for dinner and the participants had a ball celebrating a birthday on Naha's famous Kokusai Shopping street. They found a fun bar themed on old school American Rock and the owner showed them a fabulous time for their last night in Japan. Some also took the time to explore the Maishiki Public Market and do a little souvenir shopping. The next morning it was off to the airport and we all said a sad goodbye to Okinawa.

I hope you all enjoyed this little peek at Okinawa. There was so much that we didn't get to explore but I had a great time (it was my first time there!) I hope I will be able to go back soon and see even more next time. If you would like more information on tourism in Okinawa please visit the Okinawa Convention and Visitor's Bureau Website.

Upcoming Events in the US!
Be sure to check with your local Japan Consulate or Japan-American Association for events in your neighborhood!

March 27 Japanese for Travel Join JNTO and the Japan Foundation for a special one night seminar teaching the basic Japanese useful for travel in Japan! The seminar is only $10 and includes a sushi bento for dinner!

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!

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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
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email: info@jnto-lax.org
website: www.jnto.go.jp or www.japantravelinfo.com