~May 2012~

Japan Travel Updates is a publication of the Los Angeles Office of the Japan National Tourism Organization.
For more information, or for promotional opportunities, e-mail: info@jnto-lax.org


Lady Gaga visits the New Tokyo Sky Tree!
On her very last day in Japan after a series of concerts Lady Gaga had just one wish, to visit the new Tokyo Sky Tree and see the night view of one of her favorite cities. She went up to the new observation floor at a height of 350 meters above the city skyline. Lady Gaga has been a fervent supporter of Japan and a big fan of the country for a long time. For all of her support she was presented with a certificate and special pair of red and blue traditional okiagari-koboshi dolls from Fukushima. The dolls are considered good luck charms and a sign of perseverance since if knocked over they return to an upright position. The blue doll of the pair was for Lady Gaga to keep and the red of the pair she signed to show her feelings towards Japan. The Tokyo Sky Tree opened to the public on May 22, by advanced reserved ticket sales.

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route reopens for the 2012 Season
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (Toyama & Nagano Prefectures) through the northern Japan Alps is most famous for its trek through huge walls of snow. Each year the road is carefully cleared down to the asphalt leaving towering walls of snow that can reach over 18 meters high! See these and other sites on the "roof of Japan" this year with an open season from April 17th till November 30th. Official page.

Wifi at Fukuoka Bus Stops
Many areas in Japan are working hard to expand free public wifi connections. The Nishi-Nippon Railroad company in Fukuoka City (Fukuoka Prefecture, Kyushu) is one group that is now offering a new program to expand free wireless hotspots. The rail and bus company has launched a pilot program in cooperation with phone & data carrier Softbank to provide free wireless hotspots at some bus stops in the city. The program started April 23rd and offers a public wireless hotspot at 10 bus stops around the city. (The stops are all marked with a large visible Softbank wireless spot sticker or poster.) This way travelers and commuters can use their wait time to browse the internet on their smartphones and look up the next fun thing to do in the city! [Press Release (Japanese)]

New Asakusa Tourist Information Center Open!
The new Asakusa Culture Tourism Center has finally opened in Tokyo. It is located in a brand new purpose built building that is a tourist attraction all on its own! Located just across the street from the famous Kaminari Gate and Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, travelers and locals alike can take advantage of all the new facilities and information being made available free of charge to the public. For example, from the 7th floor view terrace tea room deck you can take great shots of the surrounding area including postcard views of the new Tokyo Sky Tree. You can also get walking maps of the area and buy tickets for local theaters or museums at the tourist information counter. There is even free wireless LAN available on the 2nd floor. The fantastical building itself has garnered lots of interest from architecture enthusiasts. It was designed by renowned Japanese Architect Kengo Kuma who won the TIC center design contest held in 2008 (he also designed the Suntory Museum of Art).

New Free Publication: Shibuya Tatsujin Magazine
The Tokyu Corporation has released a new free web and print magazine for travel around Shibuya ward in Tokyo City and the surrounding neighborhoods. The publication is called "Shibuya Tatsujin" and is available in these language combinations; Chinese - Japanese, Chinese - English, & Korean - Japanese. You can either read it online or pick up a print copy for yourself. Print copies can be found at various locations around Shibuya, including at Shibuya Station and even at the brand new Shibuya Hikarie building! Content includes everything from new building/shop open information, walking routes, sightseeing information, entertainment venue information and even introductions to some of the locals who make Shibuya such a great place to visit!

New Facility Openings in Tokyo!
This spring has brought a host of new building openings and renewals in Tokyo. So many more places for travelers to enjoy and explore! Here's a short list of some large facility openings:

DiverCity Tokyo Plaza: Opened 4/19. "DiverCity Tokyo Plaza leverages its great setting in Tokyo Water Front City, one of the foremost Japanese tourist spots, to become a new Tokyo landmark. With its theme of "Theatrical City Space", the facility provides not just shopping opportunities but a full range of entertainment, relaxation, surprises and uniqueness." Services such as currency exchange, English & Chinese language assistance, duty free shopping and even overseas delivery are available at this great new shopping and entertainment location. For anime fans there's even an 18-meter tall Gundam statue in the front of the building, the perfect anime photo op!

Tokyu Plaza Omotesando/Harajuku: Opened 4/18.

Shibuya Hikarie (Japanese): Opened 4/26. Built on what was the Tokyu Cultural Performance Center the new building will have shops, restaurants and a theater & hall that will host a variety of events and performances. The Tokyu Theater Orb will officially open in July with performances by the national tour of West Side Story straight from Broadway.

Kiddy Land Harajuku Flagship Store Renovated: Grand Opening 7/1.

Tokyo Sky Tree: Don't forget the new Tokyo Sky Tree & Tokyo Sky Tree Town will open to advance ticket holders on May 22nd. Day tickets will be available to purchase from July 11th!

Ishikawa Travel Guide Android Phone App
Ishikawa Prefecture has come out with a new travel app for the Android marketplace! The app is available in five languages, including English, and has a ton of useful & fun features for travelers. The main functions will have information on tourist facilities, accommodation, restaurants and other locals around the prefecture. The app is also GPS enabled. Not sure what to do or see? There is a function for that in the app, you can search sights by theme or genre to find something to do that's right up your alley. For something on the fun side, you can also use the app to decorate your travel photos using the various mascot characters from around Ishikawa!

Yokohama Starts English Facebook!
Yokohama Convention and Visitors Bureau has begun an English Language Facebook page for all of its English speaking fans. Please be sure to stop buy and 'like' this fledgling fan page. It has only been open for a little while but Yokohama has already put a lot of varied content up. Just recently they posted a picture of the annular eclipse that happened on May 20th. Yokohama was lucky to be right on the central path of the eclipse so they had views of a full eclipse! Be sure to keep up with all of the most recent Yokohama News with this new source. Yokohama Visitors Guide Facebook.

JNTO Global Site April WebMagazine Up
The JNTO Global website has updated its fantastic bi-monthly travel magazine! Be sure to visit the JNTO Global page often for the newest news, event, destination and travel information. April's webmagazine feature is Kagoshima Prefecture. The timing is very apt as we are hearing more and more everyday about people interested in traveling the Kyushu Area of Japan. Also the area is even more accessible with the completetion of the Kyushu Bullet Train network last year.

Traveling by rail in Japan is definitely the fastest and most convenient option available. However, the cost can add up over a long trip. One way for visitors to save money is to purchase a rail pass. The most popular option is to buy a Japan Rail (JR) Pass. The only problem with this is that sometimes it can be hard to tell if purchasing a pass will actually save the traveler money or not. Also, there are quite a few different passes available so choosing the right one can be confusing.

So this month in our feature, we're going to learn all about the various Japan Rail passes and all neat places you can go see on the fast and slow rail lines of Japan! All the information is laid out is hopefully easily understandable tables for quick reference at later times.

**NOTE: To receive or use any JR Pass travelers must present a non-Japanese passport with a temporary visitors' stamp. In some cases, Japanese Nationals living permanently in foreign countries or married to non-Japanese (& not living in Japan) can use JR Passes if written proof of residency is given at time of voucher exchange. If proof is not show or is unclear the pass may be denied by the clerk. Those with Japanese passports or other short-term/long-term stay visas are not allowed to use these JR passes even if they are visiting with those that have temporary visitor stamps. Please be absolutely sure of your eligibility before purchasing a pass or exchange voucher (terms vary depending on pass).

***NOTE: There are many many other rail/bus/transport passes available in Japan, many not just for tourists. From local day passes to region passes, please start your search on the JNTO transportation page!

JR Whole Country Pass JR Hokkaido Pass JR East Pass
JR East Kanto Area Pass JR Central (No Pass) JR West Kansai Pass
JR West Sanyo Pass JR West Kansai Wide Pass All Shikoku Pass
JR Kyushu All Kyushu Pass JR Kyushu Northern Kyushu Pass JR Sanyo-Shikoku-Kyushu Pass

JR Pass (Whole Country Pass)
Area Coverage: All of Japan [except Okinawa] Trains Covered: Japan Rail operated train lines, including bullet trains. Some JR busses and the JR Miyajima ferry.
Valid Periods: 7 - 14 - 21 days Pass Exceptions: Cannot be used for Nozomi or Mizuho Bullet Trains. Full validity & exceptions is listed on this webpage.
Prices: Yen Prices (local price will vary with current exchange rate). Purchase: Exchange voucher must be bought from an authorized seller or travel agent BEFORE entering Japan or Purchased Online.
Reservations: Generally seat reservations are not necessary for most trains. However, during heavy travel seasons you may prefer to reserve a seat for bullet trains to reduce your wait time. This can be done at JR offices, service windows or at travel centers. Please see the JR website for more details.
Notes: This is the pass that most travelers will purchase. Here's a typical trip break down example to see if this pass is a money saver or not. For the typical traveler spending about a week seeing both Tokyo and Kyoto. Narita Airport Express to Tokyo Station = 5,880Y round trip. Bullet Train (Hikari non-reserved) fare from Tokyo to Kyoto = 25,420Y round trip. Total just for the major trains (not counting local JR trains and busses used) is 31,300Y. A 7-day JR whole country pass is 28,300Y, current savings of 3,000Y or about $37 at the current exchange. A traveler could expect to save a $100 or more on just this trip if local JR train & bus travel is calculated. If going to further flung locals such as Hiroshima the savings is even larger.
~Sample Trip~

Arashiyama Park or Uji River, Kyoto - Take a break from modernity and view a traditional fishing technique that utilizes the natural abilities of Cormorants.

From Tokyo, take the Tokaido Bullet Train line to Kyoto Station, then either take the JR Saga Line to Saga-Arashiyama Station and walk 15 minutes to Arashiyama Park or take the JR Nara line to Uji Station and walk 15 minutes to the river venue. Arashiyama info page. Uji River info page.

At both rivers you can either watch for free(!) from the river banks or pay a fee to ride a boat on the river near the fishing activities. Watch master cormorant fishers use techniques handed down over the generations to control up to 12 birds on leashes. The birds dive on command to catch fresh water trout for their owners.

JR Hokkaido Pass
Area Coverage: All of Hokkaido Prefecture Trains Covered: JR Trains and some JR busses within Hokkaido
Valid Periods: 3 - 5 - 7 days or Flexible 4-day Pass Pass Exceptions: There may be extra charges for sleeping cars & carpet cars. Some JR busses not covered. See brochure for more info.
Prices: Yen Prices Purchase: Before leaving for Japan or In Japan (website).
Reservations: Reservations can be made at JR Hokkaido Ticket counters.
Notes: - JR Hokkaido does offer passes for foreign students and those on working holidays (not just those travelers with a 90-day visitor stamp), see website for details.
- Rental Car discounts at Eki Rent-a-Car available to pass holders!
~Sample Trip~

Visit Japan's Northern Most City - Wakkanai (if you are super lucky you can see the Northern Lights in this area of Hokkaido).

From Sapporo take the Ltd Express Soya Train to Wakkanai Station. It's a beautiful and comfortable 4 hour ride though the country-side of Hokkaido, perfect for photo ops.

There is plenty to do in the Wakkanai area to keep you busy for a few days. Visit the many national parks in the area; take a short jaunt to the northern most point of Japan at Cape Soya. Or visit the natural beauty of Rishiri and Rebun Island National Park by ferry. At the ferry dock be sure to take pictures of the unusual Breakwater Dome. Built out of concrete the columns and arches mimic ancient Roman architecture, it was built to protect the harbor from the harsh winds and winter ice drifts.

JR East Pass
Area Coverage: Japan, Honshu east of Tokyo to Aomori (see map here). Trains Covered: JR East lines, Narita Airport Express, local JR lines in Tokyo, Tokyo Monorail.
Valid Periods: 5 - 10 day or Flexible 3 - 4 day Passes Pass Exceptions: Not valid for Tokaido Bullet Trains (between Tokyo and Kyoto) or JR busses. See this page for details.
Prices: Yen Prices Purchase: Before leaving for Japan. Online. In Japan.
Reservations: Reservations can be made online through the JR East website or at Japan Rail ticket counters & travel centers.
Notes: Many travelers mistakenly think that this pass can also be used to travel on the bullet train between Tokyo and Kyoto because the pass can be used on local trains within Tokyo. This is not the case so please be careful!
~Sample Trip~

Join a JR East Eki-kara Hike (Hiking from the Station) to explore local areas and receive special commemorative presents! One hike this month explores the beautiful natural scenery around Koiwai Farm in Morioka, Iwate! For details please see the hike specific JR page, all hikes require a reservation (at no charge, all events are free.)

Hiking events from stations and bus stops have recently become a popular way for people to get out and see new, interesting natural areas around Japan. They are very popular with Japanese people since most are easily done as day trips on the weekend. (Most organized hikes/walks are planned on the weekends for convenience.) If your clients have extra time in Japan, please check the webpages of the local train and bus companies for hiking events in their area!

See the JR East Destination page for more destination ideas. Keep an eye on the JNTO Global site and the JR East front page for more Eki-kara Hiking events.

JR East Kanto Area Pass
Area Coverage: Tokyo Metropolitan Area and surrounding areas (covers most popular day trips from Tokyo). Trains Covered: JR East lines, Narita Airport Express, local JR lines in Tokyo, Tokyo Monorail and others.
Valid Periods: 3 Day Pass Pass Exceptions: Not valid for Tokaido Bullet Trains (between Tokyo and Kyoto) or JR busses. See this page for details.
Prices: Yen Prices Purchase: In Japan.
Reservations: Reservations can be made at Japan Rail ticket counters & travel centers.
Notes: This is the most convenient Japan Rail pass for travelers that are just planning to stay with-in Tokyo and maybe do a day-trip or two.
~Sample Trip~

Karuizawa, Nagano - Bask in the mild climate and natural beauty only an hour from Tokyo.

Take the Nagano "Asama" Bullet Train from Tokyo Station up to Karuizawa Station to enjoy the highlands. Trains run 2 to 3 times an hour during normal hours.JNTO Practical travel guide. Karuizawa Town website.

Karuizawa, began as a post town on the Nakasendo trade route in the Edo period, it eventually became one of the first inland summer resort towns. The movement to summer homes, spearheaded by A. C. Shaw, a Canadian missionary, who said the area reminded him of his childhood summer vacations back home. He eventually built a summer cottage there and invited many friends out to get away from the summer heat in Tokyo. The whole area is known not only for the beautiful natural scenery but also a relaxed & sporty atmosphere. Karuizawa has even hosted portions of previous summer and winter Olympics.

JR Central (NO PASS)
Area Coverage: Tokyo west to Kyoto Trains Covered: NA
Valid Periods: NA Pass Exceptions: NA
Prices: NA Purchase: NA
Reservations: NA
Notes: JR Central does not offer a JR Rail Pass. They however do have discount tickets and special travel packages. Please see their website for details.

JR West Kansai Pass
Area Coverage: Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Himeji Trains Covered: JR local and rapid express trains, Kansai Airport Express
Valid Periods: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 day passes Pass Exceptions: Cannot be used for Bullet trains and selected express tickets. See website for details.
Prices: Yen Prices Purchase: Before leaving for Japan. Online. In Japan.
Reservations: Reservations not taken for trains/seats covered by this pass.
Notes: Rental Car discounts at Eki Rent-a-Car available to pass holders!
~Sample Trip~

Akashi Town, Hyogo Prefecture - Enjoy fresh seafood and a down home feel in this quintessential Japanese town.

From Osaka Station take JR Special Rapid Service line to Akashi Station. Enjoy the Akashi Park & Akashi Castle north of the station or Uontana Fish Market just south of the station.

Akashi is a small town near Kobe in Hyogo Prefecture. Located on the Inland Sea it is famous for a few reasons. The Akashi Municipal Planetarium is used to determine Japan Standard Time. The city is also famous for its particular type of takoyaki (octopus ball) that is eaten dipped in a thin soup. The best place to try this local delicacy is at the Uontana Fish Market where it is made with fresh octopus caught right from the Akashi Strait! Stop by this little gem to get a feel for small town Japan.

JR West Sanyo Pass
Area Coverage: Osaka to Hakata Station (Fukuoka) Trains Covered: JR West local, rapid & bullet lines between Osaka & Hakata Station. JR Miyajima Ferry.
Valid Periods: 4 - 8 days Pass Exceptions: Not valid for Tokaido Bullet trains between Tokyo and Osaka. See website.
Prices: Yen Prices Purchase: Before leaving for Japan. Online. In Japan.
Reservations: Online or at JR West ticket counters/service windows.
Notes: Rental Car discounts at Eki Rent-a-Car available to pass holders!
~Sample Trip~

Shimonoseki City, Yamaguchi Prefecture - Visit the westernmost city on Honshu, a must stop over before hitting Kyushu!

From Osaka take the JR Sanyo Bullet Train line to Shin-Shimonoseki Station then take a the local line to the city center Shimonoseki Station.

The Kanmon Strait is an area famous in Japanese history as the place where the downfall of the Heike clan took place. Walk in the footsteps of ancient Japanese warlords or just enjoy the beautiful views of this gateway to Japan. Enjoy the rare delicacy of fugu or blowfish from the local (licensed) market vendors at Karato Market or enjoy the 360 city and water views from Kaikyo-yume (dream) Tower just a short walk from the station. Or walk under the Straits of Kanmon to Kyushu in one of the world's few under sea footpath tunnels.

JR West Kansai Wide Pass (New)
Area Coverage: Osaka, Kyoto, Okayama, Wakayama, Toyooka Trains Covered: JR local, rapid & bullet lines in the valid area. (see map)
Valid Periods: 4 day Pass Pass Exceptions: Cannot be used on any JR lines or bullet trains outside of the valid area.
Prices: Yen Prices Purchase: Before leaving for Japan. Online. In Japan.
Reservations: Reservations can be made for bullet trains lines at JR West service counters.
Notes: An extended version of the Kansai Area pass to take visitors to even more locals!
~Sample Trip~

Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture - A historical port town that still is vibrant today.

From Osaka take the Limited Express Thunder Bird train to Tsuruga station. Most sites easily reachable by local bus or ferry.

Having grown up around trade in the old days, Tsuruga City is still a prosperous port town know for its scenery of white sand beaches, clear blue water and vibrant green pine trees. Enjoy the fresh sea air as you take a relaxing walk on one of the many routes that details the city's history or relax in the famous Tsuruga Tunnel Hot Spring located high above the cityscape. Local delicacies include; Echizen crab and sweet shrimp caught in the surrounding waters. See the Fukui Tourism Guide for more sites to see in the area.

All Shikoku Pass
Area Coverage: Shikoku Island Trains Covered: Almost all rail lines on Shikoku!
Valid Periods: 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 days Pass Exceptions: Cannot be used on Sunrise Seto Trains or busses.
Prices: Yen Prices (scroll down for prices) Purchase: Before leaving for Japan. In Japan.
Reservations: Reservations can be made at ticketing/service windows at major stations.
Notes: This pass is actually arranged by Tourism Shikoku with the cooperation of JR Shikoku and the other train services on the island. Other discount tickets are available through JR Shikoku. Please see this document for details.
~Sample Trip~

88 Temple Pilgrimage, Shikoku Island - Take part in a tradition that is thousands of years old, the easy way.

Plan your route around Shikoku Island using the local train lines to see either part or all of the traditional pilgrimage route.

Even today thousands of Buddhist pilgrims complete this 88 temple route every year. Traditionally done on foot, many now-a-days can't take 6 to 8 weeks to complete the pilgrimage so they using busses and trains to get around faster. The route makes a large loop around the island hitting all four prefectures, starting in Tokushima, south to Kochi, then to Ehime and Kagawa. Check out the Tourism Shikoku page to learn more about this ancient practice and what you can see along the way.

JR Kyushu All Kyushu Pass
Area Coverage: All of Kyushu Island Trains Covered: All of Kyushu Island
Valid Periods: 3 - 5 day passes Pass Exceptions: Cannot be used for sleeper trains, Sanyo bullet Train or JR Kyushu busses
Prices: Yen Prices Purchase: Before leaving for Japan. Online. In Japan.
Reservations: Reservations can be made at ticketing/service windows at major stations.
Notes: If 3 or 5 days isn't enough time for you, you can purchase and use more than 1 pass back-to-back.
~Sample Trip~

Yakushima Island, Kagoshima Prefecture - The first Island in Japan to be named, in its entirety, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home to thousands of rare species and is sometimes called the Galapagos of the East.

From Fukuoka take the JR Kyushu Bullet Train from Hakata Station to Kagoshima-Chuo Station. Take local JR train to Kagoshima Station (city center) walk 15-20 minutes to ferry terminals. Take one of the many ferries to Yakushima Island.

Enjoy all the rich natural heritage there is to see on the island. Take part in cedar crafting activities or take a soak in the unbeatable Hirauchi Kaichu Hot Springs, which are natural springs carved in the rock on the ocean. But be quick the hot spring is only available for a couple of hours after low tide! Take one of the many sightseeing busses as a convenient way to get around the island. If you miss low tide there are plenty of natural hot springs all around the island and at many of the traditional accommodations! Visit the Kagoshima Travel Guide for more information on the area.

JR Kyushu Northern Kyushu Pass
Area Coverage: Northern Kyushu (see map) Trains Covered: JR trains in the valid area.
Valid Periods: 3 - 5 day passes Pass Exceptions: Cannot be used for sleeper trains, Sanyo bullet Train or JR Kyushu busses
Prices: Yen Prices Purchase: Before leaving for Japan. Online. In Japan.
Reservations: Reservations can be made at ticketing/service windows at major stations.
Notes: A abbreviated version of the All Kyushu pass for those only staying in the northern prefectures, Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto and Oita.
~Sample Trip~

Mt. Aso, Kumamoto Prefecture - Visit the largest active volcano in Japan (one of the largest in the world actually!)

Take JR bullet train or limited express to Kumamoto Station then take JR Hohi Line to Aso Station. Take local sightseeing bus to various spots on Mt. Aso and enjoy a ride on the ropeway on the west crater (separate fee required about 600yen).

Kumamoto Prefecture is also known as the "Land of Fire" because of its many volcanos and hot springs. The largest by far is the Mt. Aso crater basin. Mt. Aso is actually the collective name for the five volcanic peaks, the largest being Nakadake which is also the most active, regularly spewing black smoke and rumbling. Enjoy seeing and feeling the power of the earth while maybe enjoying a soak at one of the local hot springs.

JR Sanyo-Shikoku-Kyushu Pass (New)
Area Coverage: Sanyo, Shikoku, Kyushu Trains Covered: JR Bullet, Express, Rapid and Local train lines in the valid area & JR Miyajima Ferry
Valid Periods: 5 day pass Pass Exceptions: Cannot be used outside valid area, or on Tokaido Bullet train between Shin-Osaka and Tokyo.
Prices: Yen Price Purchase: Before leaving for Japan. In Japan.
Reservations: Reservations can be made at ticketing/service windows at major stations. Or other travel service locations
Notes: This is a new pass put together by JR West, Shikoku & Kyushu to cover travelers interested in spending their time in South West Japan. Has two versions one that covers all Kyushu and one that only covers northern Kyushu.

Upcoming Festivals and Holidays
More Information on these events can be found here.
June 9th - 16th Sanno Matsuri Hie-Jinja Shrine, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo - Sanno Matsuri is probably one of the most widely know festivals in all of Japan that is attended by hundreds of thousands of tourists and locals. Hundreds of participants parade through the heart of Tokyo in traditional costumes and carrying mikoshi (portable shrines), floats and all manner of instruments. For a traveler it's a great opportunity to experience many traditional arts that are on display during the festival week at surrounding venues.
June 14 Otaue Rice Planting Festival Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine, Sumiyoshi, Osaka City - This is an ancient prayer event held to ensure a rich rice harvest in the fall. There are many dances and songs performed as the rice paddies are planted. Similar festivals and events can be seen all over Japan.
July 7th Tanabata (Star Festival) All of Japan - This is the annual celebration of the stars. All over Japan people write poems or wishes on strips of colorful paper and tie to bamboo branches set up in gardens or at shrines to wish for better skills or pretty much anything. This day also kicks off the summer festival season (unofficially).
July 22nd - 24th Warei Taisai Festival & Uwajima Ushi-Oni Matsuri Warei-jinja Shrine, Uwajima City, Ehime Prefecture - Youths carry huge portable shrines through the dark waters of the to the mouth of the Sukagawa River at night and dance in front of Warei0jinja Shrine. In the day time huge floats shaped like the Ushi-Oni (a legendary monster) are carried through the town. Many other festivities are held at during the matsuri.
Mid-July to Early September Gujo Odori Dance Performance Gujo City, Gifu Prefecture - Gujo Odori, which is famous for the song starting, "When you leave Gujo Hachiman, even if it is not raining, your sleeve will be wet from tears of sadness..." is one of the three most famous traditional dance festivals of Japan, together with the Hanagasa Odori (Flower Hat Dance) of Yamagata and the Awa Odori of Tokushima. This festival, dating back some 400 years, is designated today as a significant intangible folk cultural asset* of Japan.
August 16th Daimonji Gozan Okuribi (Daimonji Bonfire) Kyoto City (All) - The Daimonji Gozan Okuribi (Daimonji Bonfire) is an event held on the evening of August 16th, when gigantic Chinese characters and other motifs are depicted by fires lit to illuminate the surroundings for patrolling on the slopes of the mountains surrounding the Kyoto Basin. It is a famous for evoking the image of a Kyoto summer. (Part of Obon Festival celebrations)
August 26th - 27th Dai-Chochin Matsuri (Giant Lantern Festival) Suwa Shrine, Isshiki Town, Aichi Prefecture - This festival features enormous chochin (paper lanterns), also known as "amazingly gigantic lanterns," which measure over 5 meters in diameter and 10 meters in length. The 12 sets of paper lanterns appearing at the festival are depicted with pictures and Chinese characters which embody all kinds of meanings and stories. The scene of the Dai-Chochin Tsuriage when the huge brightly-colored paper lanterns are hoisted up very slowly is just breathtaking.

Upcoming Large Conventions
Please visit the individual Conference Websites for more information.

June 20th-22nd Manufacturing World Expo Tokyo - A large manufacturing industry event hosting multiple expos at the same time. Held at Tokyo Big Sight there may be some issues booking hotels around the venue. Expected Attendance: 80,000+
October 12th-14th IMF and World Bank Group 2012 Meeting Tokyo - The Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group, held in the autumn of each year, are formal gatherings of the Boards of Governors, the highest decision-making bodies of the two organizations. Held in Tokyo, there should not be too much impact on hotels in the area, though one or two near the convention center may be full. Expected Attendance: 20,000+

Summer is upon us! Send you clients away for a fantastic summer vacation to Japan this year!

All Japan Tours
Japan in Depth Summer Tour & Best of Japan - Kyoto Gion Summer Festival 2012 - Commissionable

Asian Pacific Adventures
Rural Japan: Castles & Country Home Stay & Samurai Legacy: Japan - 10% Agent Commission

Destination Japan (HIS)
Climbing Mt. Fuji 2012 & Tokyo Maximum - Tokyo Game Show 2012 - 8 & 10% commissionable (respectively)

IACE USA
7th Okinawa Youth Exchange Program Commissionable. For the details, please contact with IACE TRAVEL Visit Asia Division.(Toll Free: 1-866-735-4223, Email:info@iace-asia.com)

Inside Japan
Japan Unmasked & Essential Honshu

JapanQuest Journeys
The Essence of Japan & Contemporary and Traditional Japan - 12% commission available.

JTB USA
9-Day Highlight of Japan & 6-Day Japan Golden Route - Commissionable

Pacific Delight Tours
6 Day Touch of Japan Tour - Save $800 per couple if booked before Aug 31st.

SuperValue Tours
Get a taste of Japan in a week: 7-Day Kanto Tour & Take the trip of a lifetime: 9-Day Japan Classics - Japan Welcomes You! Special promotional for travel agents. Book between 05/14 - 05/31 to qualify for a 10% commission special (8% standard rate). Call 877-388-1777 to book or visit supervaluetours.com for more details.

Hotel Okura Co., Ltd. & JAL Hotels Co., Ltd.
Hotel Okura Co., Ltd. and JAL Hotels Co., Ltd.,have announced that, starting on April 10, 2012, they will implement a global reservation booking system to serve all 79 hotels in their chains: Okura Hotels & Resorts, Nikko Hotels International and Hotel JAL City. The global network of 19 reservation centers and an online booking engine will streamline reservations and enhance guest services. "We are taking a big step towards globalizing the entire Okura group and strengthening our global sales network. Our impeccable services begin when a guest starts making a reservation, and we are constantly trying to improve in this area," said Toshihiro Ogita, President of Hotel Okura Co., Ltd. Full Press Release (pdf download).

Imperial Hotel Tokyo
The Imperial Hotel Tokyo is pleased to announce that it will now be offering complimentary, secure Wi-Fi service to all guests. Upon check in guests will receive a unique ID and password to log in to the service on their preferred electronic device. The Wi-Fi service will be available in all areas and facilities in the hotel excluding the parking structure and the Plaza shopping mall. English usage and log-in instructions will be provided to each guest to ensure the most secure and seamless use possible. Press release (pdf download).

Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo
Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo is offering a very limited time luxury pricing campaign. Valid period June 1-July 6 and August 26-Sep 30, save big on both the New Deluxe and Plaza Premier Rooms! The discounted rates are good for any 2 (or more) night stay and include complimentary breakfast and other luxury perks! For further details about this promotion or reservations, please contact the Keio Plaza Hotel Los Angeles Office at 1-800-222-5346 or reservation@keioplazahotel.com. Rates are subject to a 10% commission.

The Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo is also pleased to announce the opening of its new restaurant "Duo Fourchettes". Keio Plaza Hotel is now the only hotel in Japan to offer both world class French and Italian cuisine at the same restaurant!

Palace Hotel Tokyo
The Palace Hotel Tokyo reopened May 17th after 3 years and $1.2 billion in renovations. The building site has been home to luxury hotels since 1947. The newly renovated hotel will have many high-class facilities including one of only two evian Spas outside of France. The evian Spa Tokyo will be located on the 5th floor to offer fabulous city views to patrons. There will of course be many restaurants on site as well as retail outlets in the basement levels. The basement level also houses a walking passage to Otemachi subway station which will open in spring 2013. Tokyo Station is within walking distance. As well, of course, across the street from the Palace Hotel Tokyo is the Imperial Palace, the tranquil heart of this bustling city. Reservations can be made on the Palace Hotel official website.

Tokyo Station Hotel Now Accepting Reservations for October Reopening
After 5 years of extensive preservative and restorative renovations both inside and out, the storied Tokyo Station Hotel will reopen its doors on October 3rd. The Tokyo Station hotel opened in 1915, not even a year after the completion of the express Tokaido Train Line. It welcomed travelers from Japan and abroad for over 90 years before the temporary closure in March of 2006. As the hotel's hundredth year anniversary approaches soon after the reopening of the grand facility the staff and group owners hope to provide yet another 100 years of the upmost hospitality in this cultural landmark. Reservations start from May 8th and can be made by phone, fax, email or on the official hotel website(Japanese only). The full press release and reservation information available here.

All Nippon Airways

ANA Introduces Premium Economy Service
ANA, Japan's largest airline, is introducing further improvements to its Premium Economy service on the long-haul international routes. From June 1, 2012, the routes where Premium Economy is already available (Narita=Chicago/Washington, D.C./Munich and Haneda=LAX) will start offering sparkling wine and soup in addition to the regular Economy Class meals and drinks. From September, the new Premium Economy seat products will debut sequentially on the international routes on which the upgraded Economy Class is not currently available (Narita=JFK/London/Frankfurt/San Francisco/LAX/Paris).
Priority check-in service, lounge service and priority baggage handling service are also available to Premium Economy Class passengers. For more information, visit ANA website.

Japan Airlines

Japan Airlines Launched First-Ever Nonstop Flight Between Boston and Asia; Debuted Scheduled 787 Dreamliner Service to the United States
Japan Airlines (JAL) demonstrated the strategic use of the state-of-the-art Boeing 787 Dreamliner with the official launch of the first ever nonstop service between Boston Logan and Tokyo, Narita. Press Release.
Japan Airlines Announces Delivery Date of its First 787 Dreamliner, Reveals Cabin Interior
It took delivery of its first Boeing 787-8 on March 25, 2012, and the aircraft was flown from Seattle, Everett to Tokyo, Narita by JAL pilots the following day. Press Release.
Japan Airlines Strengthens US East Coast Network with New JetBlue Airways Codeshare Agreement
Japan Airlines (JAL) and JetBlue Airways have reached a codeshare agreement that place "JL" flight indicators on select JetBlue-operated flights that connected New York and Boston with 21 destinations in the US from April 22, 2012. Sales and reservations began from April 18, 2012. Press Release.

Malaysia Airlines

Special pricing on direct route LAX - NRT
Malaysia Airlines is proud to announce direct service from Los Angeles to Tokyo (4 times a week). Special debut pricing of $866.00 (all-in) for travel between May 1st - Jun 9th, Jul 16th-31st, Dec 1st - 9th & Dec 25th - 31st is now available. Even better pricing is available for travel between Aug 1st and Nov 30th, round trip for only $843.00 (all-in). Planes depart four times a week each way on Mon, Wed, Fri & Sun. For more details please contact your nearest Malaysia Airlines office!

Upcoming Events in the US!

July 1st Los Angeles Dodgers Japan Day JNTO & JTA are proud to be the official sponsors of the 2012 Dodgers Japan Day. JNTO will be at the stadium on July 1st promoting tourism to Japan and Eastern Japan to all the fans. As well there will be special promotions concurrently with the Japan Day event so keep an eye on the JNTO webpage!
September 8th - 9th Seattle 2012 Aki Matsuri Seattle, Washington - Celebrate the 15th annual Aki (fall) Matsuri at the Bellevue College Main Campus just across Lake Washington from Seattle. Join the Eastside Nihon Matsuri Association for a weekend of Japanese cultural events performances and learning fun.

Hello Everyone! I am Yasuyuki Harada and I'm a new Director at the JNTO Los Angeles Office since this April. It's my first time to come to the United States and I am thrilled with working and living here under the blazing California sun!
I was born and raised in the northeastern part of Japan, in Yamagata-city which is famous for the 'Snow-monsters' at Mt.Zao and for an abundance of natural hot-springs (Onsen). In university, I majored in Portuguese language and also studied Spanish language by myself.
I experienced of working and serving overseas travelers coming to Japan in a Japanese hotel during my university days. Since then to share the wonderfulness of Japan with people from all over the world is one of my greatest satisfactions.
So please feel free to contact me hear at JNTO Los Angeles office if there is anything you need. I'm looking forward to working with you!

Hello! My name is Cocoro Morimoto, and I am one of the newest members of the JNTO Los Angeles office.
I am a second-generation Japanese American, born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and I recently graduated college with a major in Japanese. During my junior year, I studied abroad in Japan for one year at Sophia University which turned out to be one of the best experiences I've had in my life. Studying abroad in Japan gave me the opportunity to learn more in depth about Japan and its language and its culture, fostering within me an ever deeper appreciation and love for the country than I've ever had before. Because of my wonderful experience abroad, I am passionate about introducing Japan and its unique culture to more people around the world and now find myself here, working at JNTO. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions regarding Japan travels! I look forward to speaking with/meeting you soon.

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.
You can also contact our office for travel brochures and language handbooks. Please e-mail info@jnto-lax.org for more information.

JNTO is here to help! We can provide you with updated information, advice, brochures, and more to make yours a trip to remember. If you have any questions, feel free to contact our office between 9AM and 5PM Pacific Standard Time. We look forward to assisting you!

JNTO Hotline: (213) 623-1952

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THE FINE PRINT/LEGAL STUFF
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 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