2008.10-30
In this Issue:
News Updates
Upcoming Festivals and Events
Japan Tour Updates
Hotels
Hitting Slopes in Japan
Travel Tips - Enjoy a Great Hot Spring Experience
Introduction to Japan
Local Events
Register as a Japan Travel Specialist

Greetings from new executive director of JNTO Los Angeles
Konichiwa and Hajimemashite (Nice to meet you)!

My name is Hidenao Takizawa, the new Executive Director of Japan National Tourist Organization, Los Angeles Office. First of all, I would like to express our sincere thanks to all of you, for your efforts in informing and selling Japan as a destination to your consumers and clients as always.

I have started my career with JNTO. For over 30 years I have been promoting inbound tourism of Japan - I have been working in the headquarters for overseas promotion, and I have also served as the executive director of San Francisco Office; most importantly I have seen a lot of changes and opportunities, including the launch of "Visit Japan Campaign" (VJC) 5 years ago which aims to attract 10 million visitors by the year 2010.

The U.S. Market has always been an important strategic location for JNTO - We are amazed by how much the people of the United States are in love with Japan and the Japanese culture: from the food and the world heritages, to the modern architecture, the pop culture, anime, and the technology of Japan. We certainly believe that, by attracting the public to visit Japan it will facilitate cultural exchange and understanding, so we can bring both of us a step closer to become a world citizen.

As an Executive Director, I will continue to lead JNTO Los Angeles Office to function as an organizer and coordinator of various tourism promotional projects in the U.S., in cooperation with central and local Japanese government bodies, as well as members of the private sectors. I would also like to improve our function as a coordinator between you and Japan, so your business will continue to thrive while our country can provide an unforgettable experience with warm hospitality to your clients.

Thank you again for your support for JNTO as always.
Yokoso! Japan - We always welcome you!

Office relocation JNTO Los Angeles will be moving our office in November. We will start operating in our new office from 12th November, 2008 (please note that we will close our office from 7th to 11th of November for moving operations), the address is as follows:

340 E. 2nd Street, #302,
Little Tokyo Plaza,
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Please notice that e-mail address (info@jnto-lax.org) and phone number (213-623-1952) will remain the same. For any questions please contact our office.

Kyoto Winter Special
Kyoto Winter Special is a winter promotional event starting from December 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009. This year the scale will expand even further with more special admission to normally restricted heritage sites, winter events, special promotions, and special cultural experience in Kyoto! Visit the link here for program details.

Yokoso! Japan Weeks 2009
It's back again! Yokoso! Japan Weeks 2009 will be held from the 20th of January to the 28th of February, 2009. In continuation of last year's success, a wide range of events will be held all across Japan to welcome the many overseas visitors during winter this year as well, such as first hand experience opportunity to learn about the Japanese culture, regional festivals and features, plus campaign and discounts at various retailers! For more information please see here: the website will be updated very soon so don't miss out!

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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

Snow Festivals      Feb 5-11
Sapporo is home to the Japan's largest snow festival and attracts over 2 million visitors for this one-week event. Visitor's come and see the many ice and snow sculptures that align park and get a chance to sample some of Sapporo's great food. For those wanting to attend this beautiful festival, make sure you get your trip book well in advance, due to the fact that this festival is not only popular amongst Japanese tourists but overseas tourist as well. For more information regarding the Sapporo Snow Festival please click here. There are many other snow festivals around Japan, so if the hotels and flights are all booked for Sapporo, you still have some other options.

Some other options are:
Asahikawa Winter Festival Asahikawa, Hokkaido Feb.7-11
Uesugi Snow Lantern Festival Yonezawa, Yamagata Feb.8-9
Kamakura snow festival Yokote, Akita Feb.15-16
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GTS Globo Tours Explore Japan by Rail
JTB USA WOW Kyoto & Tokyo 8 Days/6 Nights
Kobayashi Travel Services Winter in Hokkaido
  Winter Snow Festival
R&C Hawaii Tour Hokkaido Snow Festival Tour
SITA Tours Affordable Japan
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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 released related anniversary goods, renew the historical exhibition room, plus it is now offering special staying plans for customers, such as the $130 per room rate until April 30, 2009. For more information about staying plans please click here.

Sunshine City Prince Hotel renovated rooms and new service
Sunshine City Prince Hotel, located at Ikebukuro, has renovated the guestrooms recently. New service named "Newspaper Direct" is also introduced, which allows hotel guests to read their hometown newspaper almost in real time. Guests can choose from 730 newspaper titles from 73 countries, including New York Times, Los Angeles Time, Chicago Tribune, and more. Price is 500yen for grayscale and 800yen for colored. For more information or reservation please contact 800-542-8686.

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Let it snow!!! That's right, wintertime up north in Tohoku and Hokkaido regions brings a chance for the snow lovers to get their snowboards and skies out and hit the slopes of Japan! With Japan having hosted the Winter Olympics twice, in 1972 (Sapporo), and 1998 (Nagano), these two regions offer some of the best snow that Japan has to offer.

One area in particular is Hakuba, located in Nagano Prefecture, is a world-class destination and is famous for holding the downhill skiing and giant slalom events during the 1998 Winter Olympics. This valley is also consider one of the prime places to ski in Japan and is home to 8 resorts, with 4 of them offering night skiing. After a full day of skiing, warm up and relax in some of the mineral hot spring baths (onsens) that Hakuba has to offer. Click here for a list of hot springs in the area. For more information on Hakuba please click here and we hope to see you on the slopes of Hakuba in the near future.

As for Hokkaido, it is home to a variety of resorts but the most notable area is Niseko. Niseko consists of three resorts: Niseko Annupuri Ski Resort, Niseko Mountain Resort Grand Hirafu, and Niseko Higashiyama. These three resorts make up Niseko United and provide over 50 courses to choose from along with many kinds of accommodations. Also in this area you'll find many diverse restaurants to choose from that will satisfy even the picky eater.

For more information on other resorts and skiing in Japan please visit these sites below.
Snow Japan
Best of the Classic Mountain Resort

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Winter is perhaps the best time for Onsen! Onsen, or hot springs, are located all over Japan. They can be Rotenburo (open-air baths) or set up like a communal baths. You can stretch out in the spacious bath, relax, and feel rejuvenated afterwards. This is also a great chance to communicate with others and enjoy an authentic Japanese experience. Just like other practices, there is also etiquette for enjoying onsen – It will be beneficial to know them before you go:

  • Place your clothes and personal belongings into your locker and bring two towels (one bath towel and one small towel) with you. Before entering the hot spring area, place the big towel into a basket and bring only the small towel with you.
  • You will need to rinse your body before entering hot springs. That's when the small towel becomes handy. Avoid standing up while washing so water or leather will not splash to the person next to you.
  • After rinsing, you can enter the hot spring – Refrain from wearing towels, bathing suits, or any type of clothes in the water. If you have long hair you should also clip it up.
  • Relax, and feel free to carry out a conversation if you wish!
  • After using the bath, you will take the bath towel placed into the basket earlier, then wipe off the water on your body before entering the locker room.

You can find many ryokans (Japanese style inn) around Japan, with great service and onsen nearby. At your planning stage you may also consider visiting these areas famous for onsen.

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This time we would like to introduce Hokkaido, Niigata, and Nagano to you - These areas are especially popular during winter for their winter sports activities. For those who wish to sightsee, these three areas have plenty of great spots to offer as well.

Hokkaido
Hokkaido is the northernmost island of Japan. Known for its abundance in nature, Hokkaido also has famous hot springs area, local delicacies, and major festivals. Winter sports fans also love Hokkaido because of its well developed facilities and great powder snow.

What to see: Hakodate, Otaru, Sapporo
Nature: Abashiri, Lake Akan, Furano, Kushiro (and Kushiro Marsh), Shiretoko, Lake Toya-ko
Major Festivals: Sapporo Snow Festival, Asahikawa Snow Festival
Major ski resorts: Niseko, Furano
Famous Hot Springs: Noboribetsu Onsen
What to eat: Sapporo Ramen (first ramen made with miso soup base), Genghis Khan Barbecue (lamb barbecue with vegetables), seafood, chocolate (famous chocolate founded in Hokkaido such as Royce Chocolate or Shiroikoibito), Alcohol (red, white, or rose wine, Sapporo Beer), dairy products, etc.

Niigata
Niigata Prefecture, a vertically long prefecture facing the Sea of Japan, is situated in the center of the main island (Honshu). It is a beautiful area surrounded by nature and mountains. Seafood is abundant. The rice, climate and water also make sake brewing very favorable.

What to see: Hakusan Shrine, Furumachi, Niigata City History Museum, Kasugayama
Nature: Sado Island
Major Festivals: Niigata Soh Odori Festival, Tokamachi Snow Festival, Niigata Shoku no Jin (a food festival with great food and tasting)
Major ski resorts: Yuzawa, Tokamachi
Famous Hot Springs: Tsukioka Onsen
What to eat: Seafood (Niigata is located along the Sea of Japan coast, so seafood is abundant and fresh!), rice, sake, negisoba (buckwheat noodles made with also seaweed)

Nagano
Nagano is an inland prefecture situated in the central part of Honshu that spreads across the Central Highland, also known as the Roof of Japan. It is rich in history with influences by eastern and western Japan culture. The beautiful nature also makes it one of the best places in Japan for resort areas. Moreover it has also hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics, skiers love the well-equipped facilities and the hot springs nearby.

What to see: Matsumoto Castle, Zenko-ji Temple
Nature: Kiso Valley, Kamikochi, Kurobe Valley, Tenryu-kyo Valley
Major Festivals: Zenko-ji Gokaicho (happens only once in 7 years, when you can observe the Buddha usually kept deep inside the Temple. The next one will be from March 29 to June 1, 2009)
Major ski resorts: Hakuba, Karuizawa, Nozawa
Famous Hot Springs:  Asama Onsen, Bessho Onsen
What to eat: Fruits (especially apples, grapes, pears, and peaches), soba (buckwheat noodles), oyaki (a kind of dumpling made from fermented buckwheat dough wrapped around stuffing such as Japanese vegetables, fruit, red bean paste and then roasted on an iron pan)

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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.)

Japan Showcases:
1. October 29, 2008 (Wednesday) in Phoenix, AZ
2. October 30, 2008 (Thursday) in Dallas, TX
3. January 28, 2009 (Wednesday) in San Francisco, CA
4. January 29, 2009 (Thursday) in Portland, OR
5. February 24, 2009 (Tuesday) in Los Angeles, CA
6. February 26, 2009 (Thursday) in Costa Mesa, 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 by 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)

Luxury Travel Expo at Las Vegas, NV
Visit Japan Campaign is participating in Luxury Travel Expo 08 in Las Vegas with ANA (All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd.), JTB USA, Inc., Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo, and Okura Hotels & Resorts. Please join us for the one hour seminar (3:30 PM to 4:30 PM on Tuesday, December 2), and also visit our Japan booth #1033 to meet with us, you will discover how Japan can be your next client's luxury destination at the trade show. More information will be coming so remember to check back in with us!

Luxury Travel Expo 2008
December 2 - 4, 2008
at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino
3950 Las Vegas Blvd., South
Las Vegas, NV 89119

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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