Japan Travel Updates
2009.10-03
In this Issue:
News Updates
Events & Festivals
Snow Festivals
Quick Review of Japan Rail Pass
Japan Tour Updates
Hotel Updates
Introduction to SIT
Local Events
Register as a Japan Travel Specialist

Yokoso Japan Sweepstakes Starting from September 1st, 2009
Want to win a trip to Japan? The year 2010 is the big year for Visit Japan Campaign as this is the year we strive to reach are target of attracting "10 million foreign tourists to visit Japan by the year 2010." Starting from September 1st, 2009, you could win the trip of a lifetime by writing an essay about your dream to visit Japan within 2010 letters, or by uploading a photo and writing a caption within 201 letters. For more information please go here.

Find us on Facebook and Twitter!
JNTO has recently established our page on Facebook and Twitter! Check out both of them and become our fan or follower to receive the latest news on Japan!

The Michelin Green Guide Japan is now available in English!
Originally published in French in 2009, this Michelin Green Guide Japan is now available in English. The English version has the same content as the French one, which features information on Japanese culture, on traveling to Japan, and on the destinations. Various sightseeing spots/cultural assets are rated from the perspective of their recommended levels with stars assigned for “worth a journey (★★★), “worth a detour (★★)", and “interesting (★)”. You can find it in major Japanese bookstores or even online!

JR East Pass Special Discounts
In conjunction with "Niigata Destination Campaign", East Japan Rail Company is offering the "JR East Pass Special" from 1st of September to 1st of December (travel must be completed before 31st of December). This special pass offers unlimited rail travel on any three days within a one-month period on the JR East Region at only 10,000yen! It is half of the price of the regular JR East Pass (5 consecutive days or 4 flexible days) so don't miss this opportunity! For more information on JR East Pass coverage area, pricing information, and other details, please see here.


Kyoto Winter Special The popular Kyoto Winter Special is coming back again this year! From the 1st of December 2009 to 31st of March 2010, visitors can enjoy the Kyoto in winter in many special ways – Visit the hidden treasures in temples and Shrines, enjoy the romantic illumination and Hanatouro at night, have a taste of Kyoto's traditional cuisine, and participate in a tea party with Maiko as well! For details of the campaign, please visit the website here.

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Yamayaki (Grass Burning on Mt. Wakakusayama) Kasugano-cho, Nara City January 10th, 2010
This event starts when a torch is lit at Kasuga Taisha Shrine. And the fire is carried down to shrine at the foot of the hill by a parade of Buddhist monks. The hill is then ignited with the fire by members of Kofuku-ji, Todai-ji and Kasuga Taisha. Then 200 fireworks are launched and the hill continues to burn for about 30 minutes. This fire spectacle can be seen from the surrounding towns, but Nara City which faces the hill offers the most beautiful views.

Tokyo Auto Salon Show Makuhari Messe, Chiba January 15th-17th 2010
This biggest custom car and car-related product show in Japan will be held January 15, 16 and 17(Fri. – Sat. – Sun.) inside the International Exhibition Halls at Makuhari Messe in Chiba City. The new show will showcase and introduce custom import cars and related products. Attendees can view both shows with the same admission ticket. For more information please refer to our North America website and here.

Toh-shiya (Archery Contest) Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City January 17th, 2010
This contest marks the first shooting of arrows in the New Year and is held at Sanjusangen-do Temple, which is the world longest wooden structure in Kyoto City. Many advanced archers come from all over to compete to hit the 3 foot wide target that is 180 feet away. Also during this tournament, rows of females dressed in kimonos who have turned twenty, celebrate this coming of adulthood by drawing their bows, making an unforgetable site to see.


Setsubun Mantoro (Lantern Festival) Kasugano-cho, Nara City February 3rd, 2010
In Nara City at Kasuga Taisha Shrine in Nara, more than 3,000 lanterns are lit up three days a year, namely on February 3rd and August 14th-15th, between 18:30 and 21:00. February 3rd marks the transition from winter to spring known as Setsubun, when beans, good luck charms and a votive picture of a horse, which are items for securing a long life, are sold from early morning. If you have a chance visit the shrine during the daytime so you can get a chance to see all these shrines before the sun goes down. If you can't make it during the this time, come back during the summer, where you can enjoy watching the performance of dancers dressed in ancient kimono.

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Snow Festivals Feb 5-11
One of the great things about winter in Japan are the annual snow festivals that are held in the most northern regions of Japan. The most notable festival is held in Sapporo, which is Japan's largest snow festival that attracts over 2 million visitors during the one-week event. The main attraction is at Odori Park where visitors come and see the many ice and snow sculptures that align park. You can also see the Ice sculpture festival along the streets of Susukino located on Ekimae-dori (Station Avenue) located between South 4 and South 7. Also while in Sapporo, make sure you sample some of Sapporo's famous ramen, which will for sure give you a new appreciation for ramen and not to confuse it with the ramen you at while you were a university student. 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 tourists 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(2009)

Uesugi Snow Lantern Festival - Yonezawa, Yamagata Feb.8-9 (2009)

Kamakura snow festival - Yokote, Akita Feb.15-16

Iwate Snow Festival - Shuzukuishi, Iwate early to mid Feb

Tokamachi Snow Festival - Tokamachi, Niigata Feb.20th-22nd (2009)

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In past newsletters we have written about the Japan Rail Pass and we felt it is always good to review regarding the Japan Rail Pass.

First, the most important thing, the Japan Rail Pass MUST be purchased outside of Japan and cannot be purchased in Japan. Second, only tourist with a tourist visa stamp, and Japanese Nationals that are either: a) permanent residency status in a foreign country, or b) married to a foreign national are able to get the Japan Rail Pass.

For those who don’t know what a Japan Rail Pass is, it is similar to the Eurail Pass in Europe. For the Japan Rail Pass you two different classes to choose from the Ordinary Pass or the Green Pass (1st Class) you then have three options for the length of the pass, 7, 14, and 21 day passes. These days are consecutive, so once your start the pass it will be day 1, if even you started at 10pm. You cannot use this pass as a flexible pass, so please keep this in mind when making travel arrangements. You wouldn’t want to have a Japan Rail Pass just for you from the Airport to Tokyo and back and be only staying in Tokyo for 7 days. If you are going to Tokyo and Kyoto and back within the 7 days of the rail pass, it will be worth it. If you want to figure out how much it would cost to get from point A to point B, an also where you may need to transfer trains, please go to this site here.

So where to buy the pass?
Please go here to find the nearest distributor in your area to order the pass.

I got the voucher what do I do now?
Once you got the voucher in hand you will need to exchange it a major station in Japan. Most major train stations offer a place to exchange your voucher. You will need to bring your passport and also the voucher, so that the staff can verify all the information and check your visa stamp. You can also exchange this voucher at the airport's train station and would recommend doing this even if you are not going to start the pass that day. You can tell the staff you want to start the pass on any day you would like, so please keep that in mind.

I got the pass, now what?
Now is the fun part and that is traveling throughout Japan! If you know your schedule you can start making train reservations for the bullet train and some express trains at this point, and is highly recommended during the peak holidays of Japan (Golden Week the beginning of May, Obon Holiday, in the middle of August, and New Year's).

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AMPAC Tours - Japan Backroads – Backroads Adventure Tour (10% commission available)

AsiaLuxe Holidays - Japan Holiday - Tokyo Hilton and Tokyo Treasure (10% commission available)

E.S.I. Tours - Yuzawa Ski Packages and Hokkaido Ski Packages ($120 flat Commission available)

Geographic Expeditions - Kyoto: the Soul of Japan and Kansai Explorer (10% commission available)

IACE Travel - Ultimate Value Package and Sapporo Snow Festival Tour (10% commission available)

Kobayashi Travel Service - Spring Nihon Kai with Sado Island (Commission available – Call agency for more details)

Royal Adventure Travel - Spring in Japan and 2010 Honshu Shikoku Cherry Blossom Tour (Commission available, early booking discounts available)

Samurai Tours - Winter Wonderland (10% Commissionable, book before 1st of December 2009 to enjoy 5% discount)

Ten Thousand Waves Tour - Ten Thousand Waves Ski and Soak Japan Tour 2010(10% commissionable available)

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Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo
Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo is offering their new “Sake Sampler Package” – Stay at the heart of Shinjuku and have a taste of the famous Japanese sake! Room rates start from 18,000yen* (Single) and 26,000yen* (double), including daily breakfast and also a sake sampler voucher for Amanogawa (sake bar). This promotion is valid until the 11th of February 2010 and 10% commissionable to agents. For more information please contact the Keio Plaza Hotel Los Angeles Office at 800-222-5346 or e-mail. There are so many hot springs in Japan that it would be almost impossible to name them here. Here are just a few to take note of and possible mark down on where you might want to go after a long day of sightseeing in Japan.

*Rates are subject to applicable 10% service charge, 5% sales tax, and 200yen city tax.


Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu
Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu is now offering some great savings until the 30th of December with single room starting at 12,000yen* (regular rate: 19,480yen) and double room starting at 14,000yen* (regular rate: 24,242yen). This property is located in front of subway station and only a few stops away from Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ginza, and Roppongi! Rates are also 10% commissionable to agents. For more information and reservation, please contact Tokyu Hotels Reservation Center North America at 800-42-TOKYU (86598) or by e-mail.

*Rates are subject to applicable 10% service charge, 5% sales tax, and accommodation tax.


Hotel New Otani Tokyo
Hotel New Otani Tokyo is now offering their special rate for standard rooms in the Garden Tower Building and The Main Building. Stay for 1 night at 22,000yen* in the Garden Tower Building (rack rate: 31,000yen), and the more you stay, the more you save (16,060yen*/ night for 5 nights stay!), or stay for 1 night at 23,800yen* in The Main Building and enjoy the great savings of 21,000yen*/night for 5 nights stay! This program is valid until 30th of December 2009 and 10% commissionable. For more information and details on the discount please contact New Otani Hotels North America Sales Office at 646-216-2186 or e-mail.

*Rates are subject to applicable 10% service charge and taxes.

Kaichoro
Located at Ikaho Onsenthe famous hot spring area in Gumma Prefecture, Kaichoro is a luxurious ryokan with rich history but modern touches to it. The rooms are a fusion of Japanese Zen simplicity with futuristic controls and flat screen TV. Each room also has its own open-air hot spring bath for your clients privacy, and guests can also enjoy the exquisite French Kaiseki dinner prepared by top chef with the best organic ingredients. For more information about agent bookings and commission please refer to their website and by dialing +81-3-3263-6093 (or e-mail).



Prince Hotels & Resorts
Transportation between Haneda Airport and the Shinagawa-Takanawa area has become even easier with new bus services to Shinagawa Prince Hotel, The Prince Sakura Tower Tokyo, Grand Prince Hotel Takanawa, and Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa via Airport Limousine Bus! On top of this, the Airport Limousine Bus Narita Airport route also serves the above hotel, making traveling a breeze for everyone! For more information please contact 800-542-8686.



Okura Hotels & Resorts
Okura Hotels & Resorts is now offering discount rates for Hotel Okura Kobe and Hotel Okura Tokyo. Moreover, the group is also offering incentives to guests who sign up to become new "Okura Club International"(OCI) members, so please don't forget to mention this to your clients!
Their partner hotel group Rihga Royal Hotels (Rihga Royal Hotel Osaka, Rihga Royal Hotel Kyoto, Rihga Royal Hotel Hiroshima, Rihga Royal Hotel Tokyo) also has great rates available – All of the above rates are 10% commissionable and the discount rate is good until 31st of December, 2009. For more information on the specific rates of the hotel or on the details of the OCI membership program, please contact the Okura Hotels & Resorts Sales Office at 800-526-2281.


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Winter is around the corner, and winter sport is one of the hidden treasures of Japan!

Japan is relatively mountainous and has 4 distinctive seasons, which makes this country a great place for skiing or snowboarding. Some of the famous spots in Japan include:

Niseko – Niseko is very well known around the world for its powder snow. Located up in Hokkaido, the ski season can last from late November to early May, with a variety of courses and parks for skier and boarders of all levels. Access from Sapporo or Chitose Airport is also very convenient during season, and don't forget to immerse yourself in hot spring after a day of fun on the mountains! For more information please see here.

Zao – Zao is located in Yamagata Prefecture, and it is one of the locations with easy access from Tokyo, great food, and famous hot springs. Lodging ranging from pension houses or bed and breakfast to hotels or Ryokans (Japanese Inns) is available, and the mountains are easily accessible from there. Food in Yamagata is especially famous – such as Yonezawa beef, cherries, pears, and much more! Not to forget the famous Zao hot springs and the local pubs (Izakaya) in the area – For more information please see here.

Hakuba – Hakuba is located in Nagano Prefecture and was one of the venues for Winter Olympics 1998, hosting the downhill skiing and giant slalom events. With 12 ski resorts and more than 200 runs spreading across the Japan Alps, Hakuba offers skiers and boarders with exciting trails for novice to experts. Besides winter sports, visitors can also enjoy a choice of cuisine from all over the world, relax in hot springs, and visit the Hakuba Ski Jumping Stadium and the Winter Olympic Memorial Museum. For more information please see here and here.

Shiga Kogen – Located also in Nagano Prefecture, Shiga Kogen is the biggest snow resort in Japan, catering skiers and boarders from all levels. Shiga Kogen is also blessed with great snow quality comparable to Niseko and easily accessible from Tokyo. Don't forget to see the snow monkeys bathing in hot springs in Jigokudani as well! For more information please see here. There are plenty of other great ski resorts in Japan (which we can go on and on without reaching the end!), such as Nozawa Onsen, Naeba, Myoko, and much more! Please visit our JNTO North America website for more details!

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JNTO is excited to announce the upcoming events that JNTO will be attending. If you have a chance, come by and say Hi, take some brochures/maps, and ask us any questions you may have regarding traveling to Japan.

DEMA (Diving Equipment & Marketing Association) November 4th-7th, Orlando, FL
This is the largest scuba diving related show in the United States and this year will be held in Orlando, FL. The dates will be from November 4th-7th JNTO will be there along with Okinawa Prefecture to promote diving in Japan. With the clear warm waters of Okinawa, you'll have a chance see to a variety of coral and sea life, the lost ruins of Yonaguni Island, and explore some of the wreck sites in Okinawa. There are also many other places on Japan's other islands that offer superb diving with such places as, Izu peninsula area that offers some of the best diving closest to Tokyo, Kyushu and Shikoku Islands, which are not as popular as Okinawa but offers a place to have a relaxing dive with some of the same diving conditions as Okinawa.
Not only does Japan over some great places to dive but also offers the diver a chance to experience Japan's unique culture, food, and also see first hand some of the beautiful sites you have seen in travel guides and magazines.

Stop by our booth at #1870 and plan your next diving adventure to Japan!

ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages)November 20th-22nd San Diego, CA JNTO will be at the San Diego Convention center attending a 2-day convention for foreign language teachers. At this event, JNTO will have a booth explaining about educational travel and school matching possibilities within Japan.

Luxury Travel Expo 2009 December 1 – 3 Las Vegas, NV
The Signature at MGM Grand | Host Hotel
Las Vegas Convention Center | Exhibit Hall and Conference Sessions
MGM Grand Conference Center | General Sessions and Pre-Event Accreditation Workshops

Japan, a marvelous blend of East and West, welcomes travelers to explore its unique, luxurious, cultural experience. Japan National Tourism Organization is attending the Luxury Travel Expo 2009 with Kyoto City; All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd; Japan Railways Group; JTB USA, Inc.; IACE Travel; Keio Plaza Hotel, and Okura Hotels & Resorts / RIHGA Royal Hotels, on behalf of the Visit Japan Campaign. Please join us for the one-hour seminar (Dec. 1st from 3:00pm ~ 4:00 pm) and visit our Japan booth (Booth #143) at the trade show, and explore how Japan can be your client's next luxury destination.

More information will be coming so remember to check back in with us!

Office Relocation

JNTO Los Angeles has relocated to Little Tokyo, with the address 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) remain the same. For any questions please contact our office.

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FIND YOUR NEAREST JAPAN TRAVEL SPECIALISTS
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.

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Information is provided in this Japan Travel Updates 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
340 E. 2nd Street, Suite 302, Los Angeles, CA 90012
email: info@jnto-lax.org
website: www.jnto.go.jp or www.japantravelinfo.com