Japan Travel Journal Cafe
Vol.2 2009 Mar
One of the Most Beautiful Times of Year in Japan is Spring!
First Course
- News Updates
- Upcoming Events
- Hot Deals
Main Course
- Take Yourself Out to the Ballgame
- Best Small Town in Tokyo ----------------------------------------- "Golden Gai" Cozy Corner of Shinjuku
- Luxe Guide for Women ---------- Depachika Surprise -The Most Uplifting Basement in the World!
- What Japanese Eat Daily
Desserts
- Practical Info
- Quiz: Where in Japan?
- Useful Words When Traveling in Japan
- Editors Note
One of the Most Beautiful Times of Year in Japan is Spring!

Every year, when the cherry blossoms are blooming, millions of people will set aside one afternoon or night and do "Hanami," or cherry blossom viewing. This is a time when co-workers and friends get together to welcome spring and say goodbye to the cold winter. When a group of people decide to do Hanami, it usually starts with someone in the group or company, depending how big of space you need, getting up early to reserve that perfect picnic spot underneath a perfect cherry tree for their co-workers or friends to do Hanami (view the cherry blossoms). As you walk through the parks, you usually will see many blue tarps underneath the cherry trees reserving a spot for a group's picnic that day. So if you have a large group, please be prepared and get your spot! It can be very crowded so get there early.

"Hanami" Package Tour Available!
JTB Global Travel Inc.: JALPAK Kyoto & Nara Spring Culture Tour
Community Travel Service: Art Journeys in Shikoku
Japan Deluxe Tour: Yokoso Japan Tour 7days Cherry Blossom Viewing
Kobayashi Travel: Tohoku Ohanami Tour
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First Course

News Updates

The Secretary of State Hilary Clinton visited Japan!
The Secretary of State Hilary Clinton visited Japan! She chose Japan as her first official visit destination as the US Secretary of State. On Tuesday, February 17, she visited the Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso at his official residence near the Imperial Palace. She also met with her counterpart, the Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone as you see in the photo.

'Show Us Your Japan Photo Contest' on Fodors.com
Japan National Tourism Organization invites you to 'Show Us Your Japan Photo Contest' on Fodors.com. Share your favorite photo from your past trip(s) to Japan with a story behind the photo. You also have a chance to win travel bags from Timbuk2! Winners will have their photos featured in a slideshow on Fodors.com. Hurry, the contest is through March 15.

Port of Yokohama Celebrates 150th Anniversary in 2009
In 1858, the U.S. and Japan signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, allowing for the Port of Yokohama to open in 1859. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of its port, Yokohama will host many events in various locations throughout the city, from April to September of 2009. 2009 is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Yokohama, as it marks a significant year in the history of U.S.-Japan relations.

No-1 Sumo Wrestler Comes Back!
Number one ranked Yokozuna (title for top class wrestler) from Mongolia, Asashoryu, had a rough 2008 and did not perform to fan's expectations. However, during the first tournament of 2009, Asashoryu made a great comeback and played well along with his rival, another Yokozuna named Hakuho. There are five more tournaments in 2009, let's see who wins.

Count Down to Total Solar Eclipse of 2009 July 22 in Kagoshima, Japan!
The last time Japan was in route of the umbra for a total eclipse was in 1963, 45 years ago. But, the eclipse was only 35 seconds. This year a very rarely long total eclipse may be seen from 5 min 40s to 6 min 2s on Tokara Islands. The eclipse may be observed South of Tanegashima Islands, Yakushima, Northern area of Amami Oshima, and Kikaishima, all in the umbra range of the total eclipse. Tour Package for Total Solar Eclipse (Kintetsu International)



Upcoming Events
Through March 31 Kyoto Winter Specials, Kyoto
March 15-29 2009 March Grand Sumo Tournament, Osaka
March 18-21 Tokyo International Anime Fair 2009,
one of the world's largest anime exhibitions
March 22 Tokyo Marathon, 30,000 runners!
March 23-28 Japan Fashion Week in Tokyo 2009
April 1-30 Miyako Odori, Kyoto, Full of elegance, performance by Geiko and Maiko
April 5 - May 31 The Sacred Ritual (Gokaicho) (Japanese only) at Zenkoji Temple, Nagano-City, Nagano
April 14 and 15 Takayama Spring Festival, Takayama-City, Gifu
April 18 - May 31 World Tottori Sand Statue Festival 'Theme: World Fairly Story' (Japanese only)
Tottori Sand Dune, Tottori
May 15 Aoi Matsuri Festival, Kyoto, Historic pageant, back to 1,000 years ago
May 15-17 Asakusa Sanja Matsuri Festival, Tokyo, Hottest festival of portable shrines!
July 1-31 Gion Matsuri Festival, Kyoto, Gorgeous floats, back to 1,100 years ago

Japanese Events in US
Through March 27 Kodo Drummers of Japan Return to North America with 29 City Tour
March 28-April 12 National Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington DC
The 49th Washington DC Sakura Matsuri (Japanese Street Festival)
April 26-April 28 Playing the 50 years of friendship between Kyoto and Boston
American - Japanese Cultural Concert Series, Boston

Hot Deals
Fujiya Hotel is now celebrating its 130th anniversary
Fujiya Hotel, established in 1878, is known to be one of the most classical and historical hotels in Japan located in Hakone area. To celebrate its 130th anniversary, Fujiya Hotel has made several upgrades and renovated the historical exhibition room. To further celebrate its anniversary, rates are as low as $130 per room until April 30, 2009. For more information about reservation please click here.

"East West Discovery" Park Hyatt Tokyo in collaboration with the Hyatt hotels in Kyoto and Hakone
In addition to stay at Park Hyatt Tokyo, where the acclaimed film 'Lost in Translation' was filmed, you can choose between Hyatt Regency Kyoto, located in the heart of Kyoto, or Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort Spa, nestled in the foothills of Goya mountains. The package includes daily breakfast, rail transportation gift to both destinations, and others. Available through August 31, 2009.

American Airlines Bonus Mile Campaign
Once you have signed up to be an American Airline member and purchase a ticket on AA.com by March 5, 2009, you could win 1,000,000 AAdvantage® miles.

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Main Course

Take Yourself Out To The Ballgame! (Part One)
If you really want to experience Japan, then you need to enjoy a sporting event with some locals. And there's simply no better way than by sitting in the stands together at a Japanese baseball game. (This is the first half of Japanese Baseball story by Bob Bavasi. The second half will be out in the next issue.)

A Homerun Experience
Japanese pro baseball is something akin to an over-the-top, big time college football game. It's so out of control that you've got to see it to believe it.

As Robert Whiting notes in his delightful book on the Japanese game, "Ya Gotta Have Wa," there are extraordinary things about their national sport: Bands that play Beethoven during opening day ceremonies; commentators who cite a player's blood type in the belief it affects performance; colorful balloon releases during the seventh inning stretch; and umpires who practice their calls in pre-game warm-ups.

Perhaps most unusual are the organized cheering groups (oendan) in the outfield bleachers. Spurred on by energetic cheerleaders and the pounding rhythm of taiko drums, horns, whistles and other noisemakers, the participants wave flags, chant, sing and yell the entire game.

A television producer once remarked after spending nine innings in the midst of an oendan of several thousand, "These people are lunatics! There's more noise here than a World Series and Army-Navy game combined."

A Bit of History About the Game
Japanese baseball dates back almost as far as it does in the United States, the game's birthplace.
Professor Horace Wilson, an American Civil War veteran enlisted by the Japanese government to help modernize education, first introduced Tokyo college students to the game in 1873.
Since then Japan has grown to be the closest rival to the United States in baseball in almost any category you choose. And on the playing field, Japan handily beat the United States a few years ago during the inaugural World Baseball Classic, a competition among the best professional players from each participating country.

The Game Today
There are 12 teams in Nippon Professional Baseball with six teams in each of the two leagues. The two leagues consist of the older, more established Central League, and the upstart, more innovative Pacific League. Champions from each league compete in October for The Japan Series crown.
Teams are comprised mostly of Japanese players, but each team is allowed a handful of foreign players. Most of these are from the United States and tend to be power-hitters and hard-throwing pitchers.
The Japanese season mirrors that of Major League Baseball with spring training games in March, the season running from April through early October, and post-season play in later October.
The stadiums are similar to those in the United States with a variety of styles and shapes. The only striking differences are that a few have all dirt infields and bullpens are often hidden from view.

For More Information
Visit JapanBall.com for online tickets, game schedules, stadium and public transpiration access maps, escorted baseball tours, and a general overview of the game in Japan. Bob Bavasi is a longtime baseball executive, principal of Bavasi Sports Partners, and editor of JapanBall.com. He is happy to answer your Japan baseball questions. You may reach him at Bob@JapanBall.com.


Best Small Town in Tokyo

"Golden Gai" Cozy Corner of Shinjuku
Shinjuku is broadly known as the biggest downtown Tokyo.

You can figure out how big Shinjuku is by knowing the fact that Shinjuku Station visited by an average of 3.64 million people each day! This fact has been entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as the busiest rail station in the world. The biggest town which has the busiest station also means the most festive amusement. Restaurants, bars and storefronts all light up during a Shinjuku festival.

In contrast to glamorous main streets of Shinjuku, Golden Gai (Golden Town) just composed of five narrow streets that are strings of small 60 years old barracks is like several match boxes in the corner of such a bustling town. About 250 bars and clubs each stand side by side in such a tiny space.

The history of Golden Gai goes back to more than 5 decades. Originally it was born as a black market and also illegal prostitution district after World War Ⅱ. Since anti-prostitution law came into force in 1958, this district transformed into the bar town Golden Gai. It has been flocked to by a variety of artists, musicians, filmmakers, novelists, journalists and so on. Even many Japanese may think it seemingly unfriendly to first-time customers because those bars look exclusive to existing patrons.

However, we can see lots of bars managed by young people with unique concepts nowadays. And actually, those new-wave bars have been diversifying the people who come to Golden Gai.

Nowhere but Golden Gai can you enjoy both retro-flavor and cutting-edge Tokyo nightlife. (S.Asano)


Luxe Guide for Women

Depachika Surprise -The Most Uplifting Basement in the World!
We know that the Japanese are very busy people and need a comfortable place to uplift their mood. Depachika is a sanctuary for us who crave something new and familiarity but are unwilling to forsake elegance, quality and style.

The origin of the word "Depachika" comes from two words, department store (Depa) and basement (chika). Acclaimed Japanese department stores in major cities all have Depachika that feature extensive eats from little red-bean sweets, fresh-baked bread to the best brand green tea. You can browse shoes, clothes and handbags on the upper floors and also grab fantastic food in the basement.

Competition between Depachikas is getting fierce and every store is really making efforts by renovating whole floors, redesigning booths, launching seasonal campaigns, creating "eat-in" corners and introducing new chef's premier products. Shinjuku Isetan which is famous for its sophisticated fashion design has exquisite French pastries by Jean-Paul Hevin. There is a door and doorman, temperature and aroma control, and the chocolates are on display like diamonds in a jewelry shop. There are trained chocolate concierges at Ginza Mitsukoshi. They can accommodate your tastes and needs within your budget. One tiny chocolate uplifts your mood so go give it a try! (T.Niimi)


What Japanese Eat Daily (Hint: it isn't Sushi!)

pork saute and
crab crochet set menu

pork cutlet set menu

sushi served at a kaiten-sushi restaurant

Is Japan too expensive and unaffordable? The answer is BIG No!
We feel that there is still a strongly-held misconception about the cost of traveling in Japan. If you have an impression without any real reasons that Japan is too expensive to visit, NOW is the time to change your mind.

You may have heard that in Tokyo melons are sold for as much as $100. It's true, but that's for wealthy people or companies. Like most of you, I cannot afford it; or I am not that foolish to buy it. We (or travelers) can buy apples and oranges at the same cost as in the U.S.

Speaking of food, I now live in New York and feel an ordinary meal is more expensive in New York than in Tokyo, where you can have a proper dinner (not deluxe, but not fast food, either; imagine a diner in the U.S.), for $10. The secret is the tax is only 5% (usually already included in the menu price) and you don't have to tip in Japan. Therefore, if you see $10 in the menu, you only have to pay $10, whereas in the U.S. you have to add taxes and tips ending up $13 in total. I may have to add that the portions of the meal are smaller in Japan compared to the U.S. It means, however, that it is good for your health and environment because there will be no doggy bag or waste.
Here are some dishes you can eat for $10 or less in Tokyo. (All come with rice and miso soup.)

For sushi, leave Michelin-star sushi bars to the wealthy. We are proud to taking you to a kaiten-sushi (sushi on a conveyor belt), where, even in downtown Tokyo, you can eat sushi for $1-3 a piece. Ten pieces are enough for most people, which means a sushi dinner will cost you only $20 including a glass of beer or sake (and again, tax is inclusive and there is no tip!).

We have created a web page(Japan On Sale) on how to enjoy a trip to Japan in an affordable way. Please have a look and it will change your mindset that Japan is too expensive to visit. Also please tell us your tips on travel in Japan on the cheap.
Japan is not a destination you can only dream of, but the one you can really visit. For various menus at reasonable prices, please click here.
(S.Kameyama)

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Desserts

Practical Info
JNTO's Official Name Changed!
Japan National Tourist Organization is well known as JNTO, has changed its official name starting from January 1, 2009. The new name is Japan National Tourism Organization, and the abbreviation remains the same, JNTO.

770,000 Visited Japan From the U.S. in 2008!
770,000 people visited Japan from the U.S. in 2008, which is down 6% from 2007. Yes, tourism in Japan has been affected by this economic crisis, but this still equates to approximately 2,100 U.S. visitors per day. Every day 2,100 people land in Japan, which need 50 buses to carry!

JNTO Launched New Websites for Budget Travelers or Anime Fans!
Welcome to the official Japanese Guide offering all the tools needed for budget travelers or Anime fans! Visit Japan On Sale for a variety of hotel and air specials as well as low cost travel tips that will make a trip to Japan really enjoyable and affordable, yet still not in a "cheap" way. Or, visit Anime Fun for exciting information for Anime events, tour packages, travelogues.


'JR EAST PASS' exchange voucher now available directly online!
For the convenience of foreign visitors to Japan, East Japan Railway Company is pleased to announce the introduction of direct JR EAST RAIL PASS voucher sales on the internet available now. This new system will make the JR EAST PASS even easier for our guests from abroad to use and enjoy. Until now overseas travelers who wanted to purchase the exchange voucher for the 'JR East Pass' before arriving in Japan had to contact a travel agency. But now that we are opening our direct sale system on the internet, all they need is internet access and a credit card in order to buy the exchange voucher directly at home.
For more information


Where in Japan?
Hint: This hot spring was said to be open 3,000 years ago, located in Shikoku island. The building represents original communal hot spring bathhouses in ancient Japan. Entry fee starts from 250 yen (less than 3 dollars) for adult. Please answer the name of this hot spring.

Prize:
Five lucky winners will be chosen among all correct answers submitted, and will receive an original Visit Japan T-shirts.


How to enter:
You can enter from March 1st to March 31st, 2009, at
http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/?p=WEB228ULVX7P5Q

Let's review the last quiz. The answer to the last issue's quiz is Himeji Castle. Out of 252 replies, 153 (60.7%) had the correct answer!)

Useful words when traveling in Japan: Eki Soba
Last time we learned Jizake (G-the-kick). In this issue, let's learn Eki-soba or Tachigui-soba. Among many Japanse products the JNTO team misses living here in the US, quick style soba noodles (bucket wheat noodles, some dark grey cooler) comes top of mind. These noodles are a great deal and convenient in busy Tokyo. You can easily find those tiny quick soba stores inside or around major stations. Usually they are stand-only and cost from 200yen to 450yen (2-5 dollars) Eki means "a station", tachi means "to stand", gui means "to eat". Now you are professional traveler in Japan!


Editors Note
Visit Japan Run in Daytona!
2009 Japan's official tourism campaign "Visit Japan" debuted in the ARCA RE/MAX Series, the subordinate car racing league to NASCAR. In collaboration with the Visit Japan Campaign, an experienced Japanese race car driver Shigeaki Hattori formed the team Hattori Racing Enterprises (HRE) with Michael Annett as a driver for the opening race of 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series. Much to our chagrin, the "Visit Japan Toyota" car was involved in another car's accident and retired on the race, while it came in forth from 40 teams on the prelim. (A.Obata)

Thank you for reading March issue of our newsletter. We would like to share our passion for Japan with you. Please send your comments & suggestions on this article, and your personal experience in Japan. We may post your letter on Reader's Voice in the next newsletter. See you in the next issue!

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JNTO

Japan Travel Journal Cafe as a courtesy to readers of this newsletter. Though the 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 the JNTO nor any holder of 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,
N.Y. Office
Japan National Tourism Organization,
L.A. Office
One Rockefeller Plaza, Suite 1250
New York, NY 10020

email: visitjapan@jntonyc.org
URL: www.japantravelinfo.com
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email: info@jnto-lax.org
URL: www.japantravelinfo.com

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