Japan Travel Updates
In this Issue:
News Updates
Events & Festival
Ekiben(railway boxed meal)
Japan Tour Updates
Hotel Updates
JNTO Staff Corner
Local News
Register as a Japan Travel Specialist

More than just Golden Route!
Japan is more than Tokyo and Kyoto - Learn about these featured destinations and tour products on our special landing page and make your client's trip memorable!!

Kyoto Winter Special
Kyoto Winter Special is back again this winter! Enjoy the magical winter illumination, gourmet, and interact with the Maiko during the campaign period. Don't forget to submit your ideas and pictures for some great prizes! For further information please click here.

More international services to Tokyo!
Haneda International Airport (HND) is now officially opened! The new international terminal is located in the heart of Tokyo, also just right next to the biggest domestic airport of Japan, making access to the metropolitan and other locations in Japan very convenient. Services from LAX, SFO, and HNL are now available with DTW and JFK to follow in the future - For more information please refer to the website.

JR Kyushu Website renewal
JR Kyushu website has recently been renewed with sample trip, new bullet train, timetable information and much more. Please see here for more information.

The Michelin Guide Kyoto Osaka Kobe 2011
The Michelin Guide Kyoto Osaka Kobe 2011 was released earlier in October 2010 - 12 restaurants in the area are ranked as 3 stars, 44 with 2 stars, and 183 with 1 star. Consider there are only 90 restaurants in the world with 3 stars ranking, this area is certainly the gourmet heaven for everyone! Also Tokyo has received the most number of stars among all cities in the world for its restaurants 4 years in a row - The Michelin Guide Tokyo Yokohama Kamakura was also released in November 2010, so don't forget to pick one up before you go!

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!


With the spring months approaching that means one thing for Japan, cherry blossom time!

When cherry blossoms are out, people in Japan go to the parks and other areas and have a picnic with their family, friends, and co-workers under the trees know as "hanami". For those that haven't experienced Japan's cherry blossoms and hanami, you should make sure it is one of those items on your bucket list.

So when will the cherry blossoms open?

Usually the cherry blossoms start to open in Okinawa as early as the end of January, main land Japan in April, and ends in Hokkaido usually in May, leaving enough time for everyone who visits Japan during this time frame to participate and experience hanami. Of course, it all depends on the weather though but to get an idea, here is a map that shows the average dates of when the cherry blossoms open up in Japan.

Here is a list of some places to see the cherry blossoms and do hanami (please note that not all places you will be able to have a picnic, but it is still worth visiting):

Tokyo and Vicinity area: Kyoto and Vicinity area: Other areas:
Shinjuku Gyoen (Tokyo) Philosopher's Path(Kyoto)
Miyajima (Hiroshima)
Chidorigafuchi (Tokyo) Osaka Castle (Osaka) Kumamoto Castle (Kumamoto)
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine (Kamakura) Yoshinoyama (Nara) Hirosaki Castle(Aomori)
Chureito Pagoda
(Fuji Yoshida)
Tsuyama Kakuzan Koen Park
Matsumae Park (Hokkaido)


There are many festivals and events going on throughout the month of May in Japan. Such as, Kyoto's elegant and highly ritualized Aoi (Hollyhock) Festival (May 15th), and Nikko's Grand Festival of Spring which includes a procession of 1000 men dressed as samurai warriors (May 17th &, 18th).

Also in Tokyo there are a few major festivals happening in May and June as well.

Kanda Matsuri (one of Japan's big 3 festivals)
The Saturday and Sunday closest to May 15th.

Sanja Matsuri (one of the largest Mikoshi (portable shrine) festivals)
Third Sunday and preceding Friday and Saturday of May.

Sanno Matsuri (festival in which many dress up in ancient costumes)
June 10th - 16th (subject to change).

Other events going on during this time:

Hakata Dontaku Festival   May 3rd to May 4th
Where: Hakata-ku, Fukuoka City
People dressed up in unique costumes parade through the streets while clapping shamoji spoons and dance on stages and in squares in various quarters of the town. A shamoji, which is a wooden utensil for serving rice, evokes the image of a woman, busy preparing a meal, dashing out to join the parade passing in front of her house. The parade of gorgeously decorated vehicles called hana jidosha is also entertaining. Of all the Japanese festivals held during the so-called Golden Week when there is a series of national holidays from the end of April to early May, the Hakata Dontaku boasts the greatest number of spectators, with some two million people turning out every year. Visitors are also welcome, so don't hesitate to join in!

Flower Festival in Hiroshima    May 3rd to May 5th
Where: Peace Memorial Park, Peace Boulevard
From May 3rd to 5th, the Flower Festival will be held in Hiroshima, which is one of the biggest events in Japan. Each year more than 1.6 million visitors come to enjoy the festival. A spectacular parade and various performances will be held along the Peace Boulevard. In addition, there will be food market which serves local dishes of different parts of Japan. For more information please see here.


Ekiben is the bento boxes that you can find when you travel by rail in Japan. Believed to have originated in the 19th century, they are still the main type of meals that you can find in rail stations or even on mid-long distance trains. In general they feature local specialties of the stations, and some of them have become famous and pursued by connoisseurs (the very popular ones can be sold out early in the morning!)
You can find them in the stores inside the station before you board the train - They will often show you the sample so you can see what is inside (no worries if you cannot speak Japanese). Otherwise in some long distance trains (e.g. bullet trains), the staff will visit each car to sell ekiben, snacks, ice-creams, and souvenirs.

Some of the famous ones include:

Masu no Sushi - Toyama Station, Toyama Prefecture
This is a trout (masu) sushi wrapped in bamboo leaves - This menu combines all the fresh ingredients found in Toyama Prefecture: Rice cultivated by the crisp water from the Tateyama Mountains, trout caught from the Sea of Japan, and the bamboo leaves providing a refreshing taste to the sushi. Make sure you don't miss this one when you are in Toyama!

Kani meshi - Oshamambe Station, Hokkaido Prefecture
This is a bento combining the crab meat (kani) with rice (meshi). While different kani meshi can be found in many stations across Japan, this one is particularly famous with over 50 years of history and well known crabs that are available in Hokkaido. Besides Oshamambe station, you can also find it in the Marui Imai department store in Sapporo so don't miss it!

Gyuniku Domannaka Bento - Yonezawa Station, Yamagata Prefecture
This gyuniku (beef) bento features the famous "domannaka" rice from Yamagata Prefecture and the top Wagyu beef - Yonezawa Gyu. Yonezawa Gyu is named as one of the top 3 Japanese beef in Japan, and it can be expensive like Kobe beef; however with this ekiben you can have a taste at a very reasonable price (about $14USD). This is certainly something to crave for!

Sometimes department stores in Japan will have "ekiben fair" so don't forget to take a look while you are shopping.


Diving in Okinawa - Tours are now available from Island & Cruise Adventure Inc. and Pacific Dive and Travel, Inc.

Asia Journeys - Classic Japan 8 Days 6 Nights and Imperial Tokyo 4 Days 3 Nights

Asia Transpacific Journeys - Quintessential Japan

Destination Japan - Japan Bonsai Tour 2011

Geographic Expeditions - Japan's Heartland: Kansai and Japan: A Cultural Feast ($500 per person early booking incentive for the first 6 sign ups on the 2011 group departures)

Globus family of brands - Discover Japan and Monograms - Tokyo and Kyoto

IACE Travel - Tohoku Spring Tour and Alpine Hokuriku Snow Wall 2011

Inside Japan Tours - Japan Enchantment (10% discount for those who see this on JNTO website)

Journeys East - Asian Havens

JTB USA - Japan's Golden Route & World Heritage, Shirakawago and Otaku Anime Tour 2011

Kobayashi Travel Service - Shinshu no Haru and 2011 Footsteps of Sakamoto Ryoma

Royal Adventure Travel - Japan Alps, Sado Island, Niigata and the Noto Peninsula and Summer in Japan

Singapore Airlines Vacations - A380 Fabulous Tokyo Package

Commission is often available to travel agents - Make sure you call and ask!


Miyako Hotels & Resorts
Winter Sale! Explore the winter wonders of Japan with Miyako Hotels & Resorts! Tranquil, serene and stunningly beautiful! Japan offers warm and enchanting encounters wherever you go during the winter months that you won't be able to experience during any other season. Miyako Hotels & Resorts in association with Wotif.com offers you attractive accommodation packages at popular winter destinations including Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara and Kanazawa. For further information please see here.

Park Hyatt Tokyo
Park Hyatt Tokyo is offering their 3 most popular packages until the 30th of December, 2011 - Receive 10,000yen dining credit for use at any restaurants with the "Taste and Stay" plan; get healthy breakfast, access to The Park Spa and fitness Center plus late check out with the "Relaxation" plan, or even breakfast, welcome champagne, and flower bouquet welcome amenity with the "Romance at the Park" for a romantic getaway. All packages include accommodations in the Park Deluxe Room starting at 58,789yen*. For further information please contact the Park Hyatt Tokyo at +81-3-5322-1234 or refer to their website at tokyo.park.hyatt.com

(*Must book with promotional code "TYO 126" (Taste and Stay), "TYO 125" (Relaxation), or "TYO 123" (Romance at the Park). Blackout dates apply. All rates are per night and are subject to 10% service charge, 5% consumption tax, and 200yen per person, per night accommodation tax.)

Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo
Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo is currently offering special Tokyo walking tours to guests staying at the property. Tours range from pop culture, art, nightlife, history, to even ghost stories! For further information and pricing please refer to here.

Okura Hotels & Resorts
Okura Hotels & Resorts is now offering special promotions for Hotel Okura Kobe and Kyoto Hotel Okura - Stay at the Hotel Okura Kobe with rates starting at 17,670yen* (weekday rate, single occupancy), complete with daily breakfast and free newspaper. Otherwise, stay at the Kyoto Hotel Okura with rates starting at 17,800yen* (weekday rate, single occupancy). Special promotional rate is also available upon signing up Okura Club membership. Rates commissionable to agents. For more information please contact the Okura Hotels & Resorts North America sales office at 800-526-2281.

(*Rates valid until 31st of March, 2011. Rates are for standard room and does not include taxes.)


My name is Yohko Scott. Japan is a country of many faces, a dynamic and unique mixture of old and new traditions, history and high tech from world class cities like Tokyo and Osaka to the historic small towns that go back thousands of years.

As a member of the JNTO staff (Lax) I am happy to personally introduce you to Inawashiro, one of those important and historic small towns. My own family comes from there and has strong ties to the town and its history. My father's family were all simple local farmers, while my mother's side were many Buddhist priests who lived at Kanoji Temple in the town for a long time.

Inawashiro was originally its own independent village. During the Edo period in Japanese history, it was known as an important "castle town." Now it is part of Koriyama City which in turn is part of Fukushima Prefecture, located at the southern part of the Tohoku region, 125 miles from Tokyo. Fukushima is the 3rd largest prefecture in Japan.

It takes about 90 minutes from Tokyo by shinkansen (bullet train) or 3 hours by car to reach Fukushima Prefecture. This Prefecture is divided into three main regions; the Hama-dori, the Naka-dori and the Aizu regions, each with their own individual and interesting local history and culture. Inawashiro is in the Aizu region, located at the foot of Mt. Bandai. And it's also very nearby to Lake Inawashiro, the fourth largest lake in Japan. Before the current world of bullet trains, cell phones or Skype, I used to feel like Inawashiro was very far from Tokyo, almost a whole different world. A world filled with rice fields, little creeks, mountain trails, pure countryside and a simpler way of life. And it was quite exciting and a big deal to visit our grandparents there, even if that meant a long 10 hours drive or sometimes more to get there. And so I am thrilled to introduce you to the many wonders of Inawashiro and what you can do in this small town with a big heart.

In spring, the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. In Northern Japan this usually happens a month later than the rest of the country, from late April through early May. And in Inawashiro everybody loves to celebrate the arrival of the season with family picnics and drinking the tasty local sake. There is even a special non-alcoholic sake for the kids called Amazake. This is a traditional Japanese beverage made from sake kasu (sake lees) or koji (malted rice) especially for the Girl's Day Festival (Hinamatsuri) on March 3rd. So the kids can enjoy drinking this tasty treat along with their parents.

In summer, there is the Bandai Festival, a fantastic "fire festival" on the last weekend in July, and the Aizu-bandaisan dance (Bon Dance) involving a thousand people dancing for hours into the night. And our family was always one of them. You can see this local bon dance being celebrated everywhere in town, at shrines, local parks and schools. Also, Lake Inawashiro is a very popular destination for those who are fans of marine activities such as yachting, motor-boating or just bathing. My father used to own an old fisherman's boat so my brother and I used to spend hours with him fishing on the lake and then eating the day's fresh catch at our camping site.

In autumn and throughout the year people can enjoy the changing and vivid colors of Mount Bandai, but especially so in this season. It's like the mountain is wearing a cloak of red and yellow. We so enjoyed picking up the colorful leaves, and picking the mushrooms that grow wild on the mountain.

In winter, it really is a magical season for this little town. From December through March is skiing season that is enjoyed all around the area in a natural setting in many ways. You can soak leisurely in an outdoor hot spring while watching the snow falling all around you. In addition, Lake Inawashiro is host to more than 2,000 visiting swans every year at this time. It truly is a festive time in a special place.
I hope you will visit my favorite little town Inawashiro someday. Please contact me if you need more information about this town.

More information
http://fuku-tabi.jp/en/ (Sights in Fukushima, Japan)
http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/rtg/pdf/pg-205.pdf (Aizu-Wakamatsu and Bandai)


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.

Japan Showcase
Mark your calendars! JNTO's Los Angeles office will be holding Japan Showcase educational seminars at the following 5 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. January 21, 2011 (Friday) in San Francisco, CA
2. January 24, 2011 (Monday) in Honolulu, HI
3. March 2, 2011 (Wednesday) in San Diego, CA
4. March 3, 2011 (Thursday) in Anaheim, CA
5. March 8, 2011 (Tuesday) in Minneapolis, MN

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.

Please watch your mail in the coming for the invitation and hope to see you soon at one of our showcases.

Los Angeles Times Travel & Adventure Show 2011
When: March 19th-20th, 2011
The Los Angeles Times Travel & Adventure Show is the West Coast's largest travel event! Come visit the Japan booth (#1207) and meet the Japan Specialists for updated information on Japan (More information will follow soon!)

Date Saturday March 19th, 2011 8:00 am - 10:00am (Travel Agents Only)
10:00 am - 5:00 pm (General Public)
Sunday March 20th, 2011 10:00 am - 5:00 pm (General Public)

Place: Los Angeles Convention Center
1201 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, California 90015



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.

* 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