Golden Week (April 28 - May 6)

Golden Week is a period of concentrated holidays in the Japanese calendar from April 29 (Showa Day) through May 5 (Children's Day). This is one of the busiest travel times of the year, so transportation and lodging tend to be booked out long in advance. In 2007, travel is expected to peak on April 28 and May 5/6. Clients who happen to be traveling during this time should make reservations as far in advance as possible. Booking even a few days in advance increases chances of getting a seat, as does traveling during non-peak hours. If all else fails, standing room is sometimes available. Sending luggage ahead to the next hotel by courier is strongly recommended in this case. Train reservations cannot be made from outside Japan when using the Japan Rail Pass, so clients who want to be ensured a seat should be aware of this factor and may want to consider not using a rail pass for those dates.

Children's Day (Tango-no-sekku) (May 5)

Tango-no-sekku is a festival set on the 5th day of the 5th month (May 5) which was originally a time of purification and driving away evil spirits. It has since evolved into Children's Day (Kodomo-no-hi), a day for parents to appreciate children and for children to (hopefully) appreciate their parents. Households with boys will raise koi-nobori (carp streamers) and put kabuto (warrior's helmets) on display. It is also tradition to eat flavored sticky rice wrapped in various leaves (kashiwa-mochi and chimaki) on this day.


Festivals in May and June
Tokyo has 3 major festivals coming up. Click on the links for details about each festival.
Kanda Matsuri : (May 12, 13)
one of Japan's big 3 festivals
Sanja Matsuri : (May 18-20)
one of the largest Mikoshi (portable shrine) festivals
There are many other festivals going on throughout Japan at this time,
including Fukuoka's extravagant Hakata Dontaku Festival (May 3, 4)
Kyoto's elegant and highly ritualized Aoi (Hollyhock) Festival (May 15)
Nikko's Grand Festival of Spring
which includes a procession of 1000 men dressed as samurai warriors (May 17, 18)



Takigi (Bonfire) Noh Theater (May 11-12, June 1-2)

Noh is a unique type of traditional theater in that all actors wear masks, so emotion is portrayed through subtle bodily movements rather than facial expressions or voice. Takigi Noh is a performance of Noh Theater in which fires are lit around the stage to increase the dramatic effect of the performance.

Takigi Noh will be performed on May 11-12 in Nara at Kofukuji Temple for 3500 yen (5000 yen for both days) and at Kasuga Taisha Shrine. Performance details here.

Performances at Kyoto's Heian Jingu Shrine are on June 1-2 from 5:30 P.M. to 9:00 P.M., and tickets go on sale from late April. Admission fees for the 2006 performances were 3,300 yen on the day of the performance and 2,500 yen for advance tickets. Kyoto performance details here. Advance purchase is recommended for either show. Tickets can be purchased inside Japan only (at the shrine itself or at convenience stores), but some Japanese tour operators may be able to procure them for a fee.


Hotaru-ika (Firefly Squid) Sightseeing Tour
    (April 7 - May 6)

For one month only, visitors to Japan may view the fishing of Firefly Squid (a small type of squid with natural bioluminescence) from a tourist boat and see the squid mysteriously light up as the ship touches the fishing net. Firefly squid are also quite delicious and can be purchased as a snack. Sleepy guests arrive at the boat between 2:30 and 2:50 A.M., and the boat leaves shore at 3:00 A.M.

Reservations accepted on the day before (from 10:00 - 16:00) if space is still available, but they usually begin taking reservations around March so advance reservations are highly recommended.
To make reservations, please contact the Namerikawa City Tourism Association at 076-475-0100.

Dates: April 7 (Sat) - May 6 (Sun)
Adults: 3000 yen.
Students: (Elementary, Jr. High, High) 2000 yen.Small children not allowed.
8 min. walk from JR Namerikawa Station (JR Hokuriku Line) in Toyama Prefecture, about 3 1/2 hours by train from either Kyoto or Tokyo.
Click here for more information in English.


Cormorant Fishing (May 11 - Oct 15)

Cormorant Fishing, also known as Ukai, is a 1300 year-old fishing method used by fishermen of Nagara Town in Gifu Prefecture. A rope is tied around the neck of a cormorant so that it cannot fully swallow the fish that it catches. It then spits the fish out into the fisherman's bucket and begins "fishing" for more.

Ukai cormorant fishing takes place every night from May11 through October 15 except on the night of the harvest moon (September 26 in 2007), on nights with fireworks shows (July 28 and August 7 in 2007) and during times of high water levels in the river.

Boats depart at 6:15 P.M. (3,300 yen), 6:45 P.M and 7:15 P.M. (both 3,000 yen) and the actual fishing begins at around 7:30 P.M. Chartered boats are also available. Nagara can be reached by bus from Gifu Station, which is about 20 minutes by train from Nagoya.
For more details, and information on how to make reservations, please visit this English website.


Rainy Season (June - mid-July)

Japan's rainy season, called Tsuyu, is a hot and humid period in June and July (as early as May in Okinawa) that sees more rain than other months. Rains are not as heavy as monsoon rains in tropical countries, but travelers are advised to prepare with raingear and umbrellas. Those who dislike rain or steamy weather would be well advised to visit Hokkaido, since they have no rainy season and weather is quite pleasant during this time of year.

For more information on Japan's climate, including recommended clothing and average temperatures, click here.



Brendan Worldwide Vacations  (1-800-421-8446)
A Week in Japan  Tokyo - Kyoto.
Japan's Heritage  Tokyo - Mt. Fuji - Hakone - Takayama - Kanazawa - Kyoto.

Globus Vacations (1-800-221-0090)
Discover Japan 11 days
    Tokyo, Takayama, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Osaka
Discover Japan with Hiroshima Extension
    14 days - Tokyo, Takayama, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima.
Tokyo, Beijing & Shanghai 11 Days
    Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai

JTB Sunrise Tours are now offering a new series of day tours:
Toyota Motor Plant Tour
Sunrise Sumo Tour
    Tokyo, Nagoya & Osaka Tournament
Matsuri "Festival" Tours




Tours are available for the following festivals

Matsuri 1  Spring Setsubun-e-Naritasan Shinshoji Temple
Mt. Takao Fire Festival
Shingenko Festival
Narita Drum Festival
Kamakura Festival
Nikko Yayoi Festival
     
Matsuri 2  Summer Odawara Hojo Godai Festival
Nikko Spring & Autumn Festival
Narita Gion Festival
Odawara Paper Lantern Festival
     
Matsuri 3  Autumn Katsuura Autumn Festival
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine Festival
Ishioka Festival
Ohara Hadaka Festival
Sawara Grand Festival
Kawagoe Festival
Hakone Daimyo Gyoretsu


JETABOUT Asia Vacations  (1-800-348-8150)
Classic Japan  12 days/11 nights
"Scenic Japan" 6 days/5 nights also available,
contact JETABOUT for details.
Email:booknow@jetaboutasiavacations.com

Mongol Global Tour Company  (1-866-225-0577)
Treasures of Textiles Japan Tour  12 days, May 12 - 23, 2007


Ritz Tours (1-800-345-1688)
Journey to Japan 10 Days
    Tokyo - Mt. Fuji - Hakone - Kyoto - Nara - Hiroshima - Osaka.
Amazing Japan 9 Days  Tokyo - Takayama - Kyoto
Tokyo, Beijing, Hong Kong 11 Days*
Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong 11 Days*
    * Contact Ritz Tours for 2007 new departure dates.

UA Vacations (1-888-288-7170)
Japan Cherry Blossoms & Onsen 8 Days - Tokyo  Atami - Kyoto.
Tokyo Value Air & Hotel Package  5 nights
Osaka Value Air & Hotel Package   5 nights

For those who simply want to rent a number and handset in Japan, rental phone service is available from the following companies at Narita Airport, Kansai Airport, and Nagoya's Centrair Airport. Not all airports have all of the service providers listed below, so please check the respective cell phone and airport websites.

Cell Phone Rental PuPuRu
JAL ABC Rental Phone
G-Call
NTT DoCoMo
SoftBank Mobile

Moreover, some service providers allow foreign travelers to use their own SIM card or cell phone. In this case, it is possible to use one's U.S. phone number by simply inserting one's own SIM card into a rented handset. Some U.S. handsets are even compatible with the Japanese networks. See the websites of NTT DoCoMo and SoftBank Mobile for details.


Although not news, it is worth re-mentioning that foreign travelers can board most domestic flights in Japan for around $100, regardless of the flight distance. If your client's trans-Pacific flight and domestic flight are with the same carrier (or a Star Alliance partner in ANA's case), tickets become even cheaper. This can make flying a cheaper option than rail travel in some instances (for destinations such as Kyushu and Hokkaido). These discounted tickets are available through JAL and ANA, and must be purchased prior to arrival in Japan. All of these deals have a 5-flight maximum.

Japan Airlines' Welcome to Japan Fare
   12,000 yen + tax (requires two or more domestic flights be taken)

Japan Airlines' Yokoso! Japan Fare
   10,000 yen + tax (requires that trans-Pacific flight have been with JAL)

All Nippon Airways' Visit Japan Fare
   13,000 yen + tax* (requires two or more domestic flights be taken)
   *price effective as of April 1. 2007

All Nippon Airways' Star Alliance Japan Airpass
   11,000 yen + tax (requires that trans-Pacific flight have been with ANA or a Star Alliance Partner)

Information is provided in this Japan Travel Update as a courtesy to readers. 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 Tourist Organization, L.A. Office
515 South Figueroa St., Suite 1470, Los Angeles, CA 90071
email: info@jnto-lax.org
website: www.jnto.go.jp or www.japantravelinfo.com