2007.10-15
In this Issue:
News Updates...
- New Landing
Procedures...

- J.R. Online
Reservation
System...
Winter Festivals and Events...
Japan Tour Updates...
Hotel Updates...
All About Luggage...
Winter Activities...
Local News...

New Landing Procedures
Beginning November 20, 2007, all foreign nationals landing in Japan (excluding special permanent residents, persons under the age of 16, and others specified as eligible for exemption) will be required to submit fingerprints and have their photo taken. Fingerprints and photos will be taken electronically. A video explaining the procedures and the reasons behind it is available online in these three languages

JR East Pass purchases made easier!
As of August 20, 2007, travel agents can now use the Internet for the sales of the JR East Pass by accessing the "RailNet" page of "AccesRail", in addition to GDS (Global Distribution System). Agents using this website can also print the Exchange Voucher of JR East Pass for their customers.

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New Years Day     Jan. 1
On New Years Eve, it is more common in Japan to visit a shrine or temple than to go to a party or bar. This important visit, the first of the year, is called hatsumode and it allows people to make wishes for the New Year and share a good time with friends and family. Many dress in kimono or other traditional clothing for this occasion. Those who prefer to be asleep at midnight need not fret; hatsumode is possible through January 3rd. Almost all other tourist attractions, however, and many other restaurants and businesses are likely to be closed for the New Year holiday, and transportation is very crowded during this time (similar to Golden Week and O-bon).
Those in Tokyo on January 2nd can see the emperor give his annual speech at the Imperial Palace.


Toshiya Archery Contest in Kyoto     Jan. 13
20 year-olds (20 marks entry into adulthood in Japan) come from all over Japan to witness this long-distance archery contest at Kyoto's Sanjusangendo Temple. Kimono-clad women shoot at a target 60 meters (nearly 200 feet) away in a contest that dates back to the 12th century. Admission is free on the day of this ceremony.



Shikaribetsu Lake Kotan (Igloo Village)     Jan. 26 - Mar. 30
Here in winter, gone in spring, this Kotan (village) is built every year on Shikaribetsu Lake in Shikaoi Town in western Hokkaido. There are igloos, ice buildings, an ice bar (with ice glasses) and an outdoor hot springs right on top of the frozen lake. See pictures here



Sapporo Snow Festival     Feb. 5-11
Japan's largest snow festival attracts 2 million visitors each year. It is part ice-sculpture contest, part snow playground, part culinary experience, part festival, and all fun. Due to the festival's popularity, hotels, flights and train tickets fully book well in advance, so it's important to make reservations early. There is a schedule of events and a wealth of information on their English website. Other snow festivals in Japan include Yokote City's Kamakura Snow Festival (Feb 15-16), Sounkyo Ice Waterfall Festival (Jan 26 - Mar 24), and many more.


Tokyo Marathon 2008     Feb. 17
The Tokyo Marathon saw over 100,000 applicants this year. The race will go from Shinjuku to Odaiba, passing by several famous Tokyo landmarks on the way. There will be an accompanying Tokyo Marathon Expo (Feb. 14 - 16) again this year, to be held at Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba

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IACE Travel Backroad of Japan
Experience the beauty of Kurobe Canyon and try painting your own Wajima Lacquer
  Tohoku Nature in Autumn Scenery
R&C Hawaii Tour Hokkaido Snow Festival Tour
Participate in the famous Sapporo Snow Festival
Travel Ways Autumn in Okinawa and Kyushu
US Lion Travel Kansai Tour
Visiting Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto
Pleasant Holidays Cherry Blossom Festival
Visiting Tokyo, Hakone, Mt. Fuji, Kyoto, and join the Hanami (Cherry Blossom viewing) party
Get $150 off for your booking! (Starting 10/7/2007)
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New Otani Hotels
Hotel New Otani Tokyo is proud to announce the official opening of The Main Building. This newly renovated Executive Superior Room is situated on the Executive Floor, which provides the highest standards of quality in every detail; the premier luxury and comfort is incomparable. The special room rate is 44,000 yen per night for New Otani Club Members until December 30, 2007. For reservations, call 1-800-421-8795.


The Peninsula Tokyo
The Peninsula Tokyo, opened on September 1, 2007, is superbly located in the prestigious financial district of Marunouchi, opposite the Imperial Palace and a three-minute walk to the shopping capital of Ginza. Modern and contemporary with Japanese accents, this gracious freestanding hotel offers spacious guestrooms, breathtaking city views, extraordinary dining options and impeccable levels of personalized service. For reservations or more information, please contact your travel professional or visit peninsula.com

Mitsui Garden Hotel Ginza, Novotel Associate
This stylish, 4-star hotel, designed by renowned Italian designer Piero Lissoni, has recently joined the Accor Hotel Network in Japan as a Novotel Associate hotel. Mitsui Garden Hotel Ginza is the only high-rise hotel in the Ginza area, with rooms starting from the seventeenth floor, embracing the beautiful Tokyo cityscape. Its convenient location allows tourists and business travelers to have easy access to this metropolis. Rates start at 18,000 yen per room, per night.

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Luggage is not such a problem in countries where rental cars and taxis are the norm, but in train-dominated Japan, it pays to study up on the alternatives to luggage lugging

Limousine Buses
These buses go from the airports straight to major hotels, and offer a space to store luggage. The only downsides are that they are not covered by the J.R. Pass like the express trains are, and they generally take slightly longer to get into town.

Luggage on Trains
JR's official restrictions on luggage are within what's allowed by most airlines, but physical restrictions make carrying luggage on trains difficult for some. There are no porter services or luggage cars on any trains in Japan, and the only trains with plenty of luggage space are the airport trains. Transfers can also be difficult; more and more stations are being equipped with elevators, but in some instances people will have to carry their luggage up and down stairs when changing trains.

On shinkansen trains, there is no space to store luggage except for the small overhead bins, which can accommodate small backpacks or purses. There is space for 4 suitcases toward the back of each shinkansen car, but other passengers sometimes take this space. As a last resort, passengers may have to store their suitcases in other cars out of sight or in front of their knees. It is much more convenient to send one or both pieces of luggage to the next destination using the courier service.

Takuhaibin (Courier Service)
Courier service in Japan is very fast and cheap in comparison to the same in the U.S. To send a single piece of luggage (25 kg, 160 cm) overnight a distance of 500 kilometers (300 miles) from Tokyo to Kyoto using Yamato Transport's takkyubin service (takkyubin is a brand name, takuhaibin is the generic term) costs 1,890 yen. Luggage can be sent from hotel to hotel, to and from the airport, or even from a convenience store. Many people opt to send one suitcase ahead of time and take a smaller one with them on the train. Delivery times and costs vary by distance, and there is a surcharge for sending luggage to and from the airport. Here are links to delivery services at the international airports
Narita Airport: http://www.narita-airport.jp/en/guide/service/list/svc_05.html
Kansai Airport: http://www.kansai-airport.or.jp/en/service/baggage/index.html#_03
Chubu Centrair Airport: http://www.centrair.jp/en/service/sv-luggage/index.html#1174592

Coin Lockers and Luggage Storage
Oftentimes, the most convenient thing to do is leave luggage in one place and travel around blissfully hands-free. Major airports and train stations have coin lockers large enough to hold suitcases. On average, they charge about 500 yen per locker per calendar day (less for smaller lockers) and take coins only. In general, hotels do not hold luggage after checkout, but many will hold luggage before check-in. Airports also have luggage holding services, which cost about the same as the coin lockers.

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Ski & Snowboard
Japan's slopes are quickly becoming recognized as some of the best in the world. Those who want to remain close to Tokyo may venture to Nagano, home of the 1998 Winter Olympics and the popular ski resorts of Hakuba and Shiga Kogen. Yuzawa, home of the famous Naeba Ski Resort, is also just a short train ride from Tokyo. Farther north in Iwate Prefecture is Appi Kogen, a modern resort with excellent snow and fewer crowds. Zao, the volcano and hot springs resort that straddles Miyagi and Yamagata Prefectures, is a surreal place to ski down hills through the ice-covered trees, called snow monsters in Japanese. The island of Hokkaido is also home to a variety of ski resorts, most notably Niseko. For more information on skiing and snowboarding in Japan, see Snow Japan and Outdoor Japan's section on winter sports. JNTO also has an attractive Ski Japan brochure, available to travel agents upon request.

Hokkaido Ice Floes
Ice Floes (Drift Ice) in the Okhotsk Sea north of Hokkaido can be seen from icebreaker boats from late January to early spring (March/April). Both companies require advance reservation.
Okhotsk Garinko Boat: Located in Mombetsu City, Eastern Hokkaido. 3,000 yen (children 1,500 yen) Jan. 20 - Mar. 31, 2008, 5-7 times per day. Schedule here (in Japanese)
(Tel: 0158-24-8000, Fax: 0158-24-4040)
Aurora Icebreaker Vessel: At a similar cost and dates of operation, but running out of Abashiri City. See their English website for details and contact info.

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Japan Showcase
Mark your calendars! JNTO's Los Angeles office will be holding Japan Showcase educational seminars at the following six cities. These seminars are an excellent opportunity to learn more about Japan and make important connections with suppliers (Airlines, Hotels, Tour Operators, Destinations, etc.)

November 7, 2007 Houston, TX
November 8, 2007 Denver, CO
January 23, 2008 San Francisco, CA
January 24, 2008 Seattle, WA
February 11, 2008 Los Angeles, CA
February 13, 2008 San Diego, CA

Invitations with more details will be sent out by post approximately one month in advance of each showcase, so watch for yours. Please do not RSVP before receiving a paper invitation by mail. If you do not receive one by two weeks before the showcase date, please contact us and we will fax one to you. Participation is limited to two persons per retail agency.
If you are not near any of the above cities, do not despair, as we vary Japan Showcase locations every year in order to reach as many agents as possible. In the meantime, please take advantage of our online educational JTS program (see below)

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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.
* A CD-ROM containing JTS educational material is available by request. Please contact JNTO's Los Angeles office at 213-623-1952 or email info@jnto-lax.org for your copy.

 

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 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