Okinawa - "The Eden of Japan"
|Ocean Sports||Unique Sites||Festivals|
||Ocean Expo Park||Naha Great Tug-of-War|
|Fishing||Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium||Naha Hari Festival (Dragon Boat Races)|
||Gusuku World Heritage Sites||Summer Fireworks|
||Yonaguni & Irimote Islands||Eisa Dance Festival|
||Peace Memorial Museum||Peaceful Love Rock Festival|
Okinawa Island, the biggest in the Ryukyu Island chain located southwest of mainland Japan, has white, sandy beaches framed by the brilliant blue sea, as well as historical and cultural sites unlike anywhere else in Japan. The Island itself is home to seven of the nine "gusuku" sites scattered throughout Okinawa Prefecture, which are ruins of the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom and are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These castle-like structures are remnants of the Gusuku period of the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom, long before it became part of Japan. Okinawa is also renowned for the one-of-a-kind scuba diving opportunities it provides. Surrounded by beautiful coral reefs and a cornucopia of marine life, everyone from seasoned scuba veterans to novices have plenty of beautiful underwater scenery to view. Other marine sports, such as fishing, kayaking, water skiing, sailing, windsurfing and paragliding are also popular and easily-accessible activities.
Exotic sea life and colorful coral reefs abound
in the waters surrounding Okinawa.
|©Klaus Stiefel & Piranha Divers Okinawa/©JNTO|
Meanwhile, those who would prefer to stay on land can visit Ocean Expo Park and Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, one of the world's largest aquariums, to catch a glimpse of Okinawa's unique sea life. In addition, Okinawa boasts having the largest number of centenarians in the world and is regarded as a kind of fountain of youth - especially the village of Ogimi in the northern part of the island. The Okinawan diet is a large factor in this phenomenon, as it is one of the healthiest diets of any region in the world, comprised primarily of rice, fish, local vegetables, seaweed, and tofu. It is not a strange site to see a 100-year-old man or woman, as healthy and energetic as a 50-year-old, hiking along the road to buy groceries or complete other daily activities. Further adding to the health component that Okinawa holds dear is the fact that Okinawa is the birthplace of karate, the Japanese martial art of hand-to-hand combat. The art of karate began with the fusion of Okinawa's ancient, unique traditional martial art "Ti" with Chinese Kung Fu after the 14th century when trade with China began.
Unique Sites and Activities
The Zakimi Castle Ruins,
one of the gusuku sites on Okinawa Island.
|©Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau/©JNTOs
In addition to the aforementioned gusuku sites, Okinawa and the rest of the Ryukyu islands offer very unique sights and experiences to visitors. Off the coast of Yonaguni Island is a huge, mysterious, underwater pyramid-shaped structure, known as the Yonaguni Monument, which was discovered in 1986 and is visible when you take part in a specialized diving tour. Archaeologists and scientists are still unsure if it is of natural or manmade origin, so its creation and purpose remain a mystery. Irimote Island is another unique spot. This island in the Yaeyama chain features an abundance of diverse plant and animal life, which gives it the nickname "The Galapagos of the Pacific."
The capital city of Naha is also the site of some of the biggest events in Japan and the world. For instance, the Naha Marathon attracts over 15,000 participants and is the largest full marathon in Japan. Also, every October the citizens of the city participate in a massive tug-of-war game, using a 200 meter-long rope, called The Naha Great Tug-of-War which has set a Guinness world record for the largest tug-of-war game. Okinawa also holds various cultural festivals throughout the year. Summer sees a dragon boat race, fireworks, and a 10,000 person Eisa Dance Festival, as well as its annual Peaceful Love Rock Festival - which is made even more exciting since a large portion of Japan's recent pop and rock musical artists have come from Okinawa.
Another unique spot for history buffs is the Heiwa Kinen Shiryokan, or Peace Memorial Museum, which commemorates the Battle of Okinawa during World War II and acts as a beacon and promise for the pursuit of peace in the world. These events and locations, along with the plethora of historical sites, museums, art galleries, gardens, parks, beaches, and other seasonal happenings make Okinawa a truly unique and active destination.
Tropical Resorts and Special Deals
Due to its tropical climate, beautiful beaches and world-class ocean views, Okinawa is a natural hot bed of resort and incentive tourism. To meet the high demand for high-class, luxury accommodations for business and incentive trips, Okinawa has a number of resort properties to choose from, each with a distinct style and atmosphere for you to enjoy. For a complete list of resorts, hotels and lodging options, as well as further information on Okinawa's many islands and sights, please visit the Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau website. Okinawa's airport hub at Naha, the island's capital, is served by frequent flights from the mainland and is the gateway to sightsee other Okinawa islands. To further add to your enjoyment and experience, Japan Transocean Air (JTA), a subsidiary of the JAL Group, has introduced an easy way for tourists to explore the beautiful islands of Okinawa. The Okinawa Island Pass allows for travel on five inter-island routes for a flat fare per sector (minimum two sectors required). For more information on this pass, please click here.
The Busena Terrace resort.
Sapporo - "Blessed by Snow"
|Winter Sports & Outdoor Activities
||Winter Sports Museum||Sapporo Snow Festival
||Ainu Center||Yosakoi Soran Festival
||Sapporo Beer Museum/Brewery
||Underground Shopping Centers
||Sapporo Summer Festival
||Toyohira River Rafting Festival
Sapporo, the capital of the northern island and prefecture of Hokkaido, is a famous and well-traversed destination within Japan. Due to its reputation as the fifth-largest city in Japan based on population and a Mecca for winter sports enthusiasts, Sapporo rose to global recognition when it was chosen as the first Asian city to host the Winter Olympic Games in 1972. Ever since that
prestigious designation, world-class skiers, snowboarders and other winter sports athletes have flocked to Sapporo's snowy mountains. Even in the summer, however, Sapporo remains a prime vacation spot with is cool, low-humidity weather and plentiful wilderness activities such as hiking and mountain climbing, as well as many beautiful parks and gardens to enjoy. Hokkaido is also the last remaining home of the Ainu, the indigenous people of the Japanese archipelago. In honor of this fact, Sapporo is filled with cultural and historical remembrances to the Ainu, including the Ainu Center and a special exhibition at Hokkaido University dedicated to the history and culture of the Ainu which features, among other items, one of the oldest Ainu artifacts found in Japan - a large dugout canoe.
Sapporo's famous Ramen Alley.
Unique Sites and Activities
Sapporo is filled to the brim with sightseeing spots, unique cultural experiences and exciting activities. Sapporo Winter Sports Museum was established in 2000 to promote winter sports and exhibit documents on them and their history. The Museum is situated in Mt. Okura Ski Jump Stadium, the venue of the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics as well as many other international tournaments, including the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
For beer lovers, Sapporo is, of course, the home of world-renowned Sapporo Brewery. Its Hokkaido brewery location provides free tours with tastings. For reservations and more information, click here. Also, The Sapporo Beer Museum, the only beer museum in Japan, provides visitors with a varied knowledge of the history and nature of brewing with the aid of on-site equipment, miniature models and films. The Tasting Lounge even provides access to a wide variety of beers.
Sapporo Snow Festival, held each winter, features massive ice
and snow sculptures illuminated by colorful, festive lighting.
For naturalists and the outdoors-oriented, Mt. Moiwa (Moiwayama), a virgin forest on the edge of Sapporo City, and Maruyama-koen, a virgin woods featuring a zoo, wild cherry trees and a winter ski jump slope, provide plenty of hiking and scenery-viewing opportunities. Also, Moerenuma Park, a municipal park in the east of Sapporo, has athletic facilities, playground equipment, and various art installations built and designed by late, world-famous Japanese artist Isamu Noguchi. Hokkaido has also been growing in popularity as a golf destination. In order to attract more convention and leisure travel, Hokkaido has been renovating and improving its golf courses and facilities. It has even gone so far as to update its tourism sites with golf course listings and information and convene a "Hokkaido Golf Tourism" meeting to discuss Hokkaido's golfing appeal and foreign language capabilities.
Those interested in things gastronomic will love the Kirin Beer Garden and Sapporo's Ramen Alley, featuring a wide selection of Sapporo's famous and distinct variety of the beloved noodle dish. You'll also be interested to know that Sapporo and Hakodate (in southern Hokkaido) came in #1 and #2 respectively in TripAdvisor's 2010 Travelers' Choice Awards for Food & Wine destinations in Asia. Downtown Sapporo also features a series of underground shopping centers and malls connecting the various subway and train stations.
Finally, for those who plan on going during the winter months, there is The Sapporo Snow Festival, one of Japan's largest winter events, which has been attracting a growing number of visitors from Japan and abroad each year. Every winter, about two million people come to Sapporo to see the hundreds of beautiful snow statues and ice sculptures which line Odori Park and the main street in Susukino. For seven days in February, these statues and sculptures turn Sapporo into a winter dreamland of crystal-like ice and white snow. The Snow Festival began in 1950, when local high school students built six snow statues in Odori Park. In 1955, the Self-Defense Force joined in and built the very first massive snow sculpture, for which the Snow Festival has become famous for today. The Festival has grown from these humble beginnings to become one of the biggest and most well known of Hokkaido's winter events. For more information visit the event website. All of these spots and activities, in addition to an abundance of other art and cultural museums, gardens and more, will be sure to keep you busy during your stay in Sapporo. For more information on these events and attractions, visit Sapporo City's Sightseeing Guide, Sapporo Convention Bureau's website and Hokkaido Tourism Organization's website.
Sapporo has a spectacular fireworks display every summer.
New Convention Website
In order to attract more international meetings, Hokkaido introduced a new meetings and conventions website last month. The website is called "Hokkaido Convention Guide" and is available in five languages - Japanese, Chinese, Korean, English and Russian. It lets users search its meeting and hotel facilities by region, nearby facilities and amenities (onsen, golf, etc.), and if the place is foreign language friendly. The various facilities and accommodations will have their capacity numbers, basic fees, facility information, awards and achievements listed. It also features photos of the region and different seasons in the "Photo Library." Furthermore, to increase attraction, a number of Hokkaido's towns, cities and municipalities are publishing news about things such as meeting support packages, special deals and products, tourist spots, Hokkaido's nature, cuisine and so forth on the site.
Access to Hokkaido
Sapporo and the rest of Hokkaido are accessible via domestic flights, as well as Japan Rail train routes. There is currently a Shinkansen (bullet train) line being built to connect Hokkaido's southern port of Hakodate with Japan's main island of Honshu, which is expected to be completed in 2015. To extend it further, a Shinkansen station is being constructed in Sapporo as well, which is estimated to be done by 2020. For visitors who want to see a variety of spots in Hokkaido, JR Hokkaido offers a Hokkaido Rail Pass which allows for unlimited train rides on any JR Hokkaido line for a designated period of time (3, 4, and 5 day passes available). The pass can also get you discounts and special offers with car rentals and more. For more information on the Hokkaido Rail Pass and transportation information, click here.
Travel Agents and DMCs
To plan a unique and memorable leisure, incentive or convention trip to Japan, contact one of our travel agency or DMC supplier partners at: http://www.japantravelinfo.com/mice/dmc.php