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

Hiraizumi, Ogasawara Islands up earn "World Heritage" Designation from UNESCO
In our May issue, we announced that the village of Hiraizumi in Iwate Prefecture and the Ogasawara Islands were selected as candidates for "World Heritage Site" designation by UNESCO and the United Nations. That designation was awarded in June. Hiraizumi is home to famous temples Chusonji and Motsuji, while the Ogasawara Islands (which are technically part of Tokyo) are a sparsely populated island known for their natural beauty and sub-tropical climate (see the special feature in this issue for more information). UNESCO awards the designation to sites that are deemed to "be of outstanding value to humanity."

World Leaders, Stars Voice Support for Japan Tourism
Japan has received a lot of support from all over the world in the aftermath of the March 11 disaster, but the area has also received some very high-profile support from artists and world leaders. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton encouraged tourists to return to Japan during a visit with Japan Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto. Pop star Lady Gaga also led her support, visiting Japan to perform at the MTV Awards and using her stint as guest editor of UK arts daily Metro to encourage people to visit Japan. "We're doing more harm to Japan by staying away than by going," said Gaga.

Osaka Station gets a major makeover
Located in the center of the country, Osaka has gained a reputation for being one of Japan's best places to kick back and have fun, and one major hub for that fun - the Umeda area in Osaka's Kita Ward - just got a major addition. On May 4, JR Osaka Station - the largest rail terminal in western Japan - held a reopening ceremony to commemorate completion of a new station complex that adds a mall with numerous new retail outlets, improves station access, and adds a dome roof to the station. The complex becomes yet another magnet for the Umeda area, which is already home to eateries, hotels, and one of the world's largest underground shopping areas. Development in the area is still underway; Hankyu Railway's Umeda Station is also being renovated, and is scheduled for a grand "re-opening" in Fall 2012.

In spite of the long shadow cast by the March 11 disaster, a significant number of travel agents, reporters, and other travelers made the trip to Japan over the past two months. Their mission: to see the country and share their views on how Japan is doing after the earthquake. Here are their stories, reactions, and anecdotes:

Blogger Daphne talks about visiting the resort town of Hakone near the foot of Mt. Fuji.

San Francisco-based photographer and travel writer Shawn Clover took advantage of reduced fares to Tokyo in June and brings us this gorgeous gallery of photos from his journey, along with his thoughts on Japan's recovery.

Finally, travel industry reporter and veteran Mark Murphy made the trip to Japan in June and turned in some fantastic video reports, including videos from the tsunami-stricken Sendai Airport and recently designated World Heritage site Hiraizumi. We've embedded one of his reports here - check it out!

Shangri-La Hotel Launches Support Drive
Our friends from the Shangri-La Hotel in Tokyo have also organized a support campaign of their own called "Wish for Japan." The program, organized by the hotel, uses the hotel's distribution channels to purchase food and other necessities for victims and delivers it to the Tohoku area on their own. If you would like to learn more about this program, please visit:

The Peninsula Hotels Donate 42 million yen to Japan Red Cross
In cooperation with The Peninsula Hotel Tokyo, The Peninsula Hotels raised 42 million yen during their "HOPE for JAPAN" campaign. The campaign collected donations from guests at Peninsula Hotels around the world while also raising money through a Japanese-themed "Afternoon Tea" held at the hotels. The Peninsula Hotel Tokyo is continuing these efforts through an energy-saving campaign aimed at reducing energy use at the hotel. For more information, visit the Peninsula Hotel website.

JNTO President Tadatoshi Mamiya outlines recovery plan for Japan Tourism

On behalf of the Japanese people, I would like to express our most sincere gratitude towards the material and emotional support that we received from all over the world following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. On behalf of the Japanese travel industry, I would especially like to say thank you to all the assistance provided by the tourism industry partners from all over the globe.

After the earthquake, our country has come together, working rapidly in the affected areas towards a quick recovery. With the strenuous efforts of various personnel, we have made good progress towards the reconstruction of our transportation infrastruct ure. Sendai Airport, which was struck by the earthquake, was opened again on April 13, and the entire Tohoku Shinkansen network (the high speed rail network that serves locations in East Japan) was restored on April 29. Additionally, Tokyo Disneyland reopened on April 28, and other tourist attractions and facilities are back to providing the same level of service and enjoyment that they always have.

Moreover, many top officials from various tourism industry partners around the world have visited Japan to see Japan's famous tourist sites and offer encouragement. We have also exchanged honest opinions and received positive suggestions from government officials of different countries at various events, such as the Japan-China-Korea Trilateral Tourism Minister's Meeting in Kangwon-do, South Korea and at the Japan-U.S. Tourism Export Expansion Conference in San Francisco, U.S.A. We are greatly encouraged by this support, and we believe that we can only respond to this support and solidarity by working diligently towards the goal of recovery.

In response to this support from our friends all over the world, Japan has developed the following strategies and projects –some of which are being implemented immediately.

First of all, in addition to providing accurate information about conditions in Japan just as before, we are hosting a large-scale observation tours for overseas industry and media partners, so that they can see the progress Japan has made and discover how safe Japan is. We expect to host 1,000 guests from different parts of the world starting in late May until July. We believe that by vigorously promoting the "vibrant and appealing side of Japan", it will not only leave an impression on people from overseas, but it will also become a source of support to the people and areas who have been affected by the disaster.

The next step will involve promoting Japan tour offerings so that travelers will know about them.

Outside of the areas affected by the disaster, residents are living their lives as usual, and the beauty of these tourist destinations remains unchanged. Food is also inspected and controlled by strict guidelines so they can be consumed safely. For the travelers who have visited Japan, they have been satisfied with their experience, they have said that they are glad that they visited Japan, and they are certain that they would like to come again.

Japan is a country with four distinctive seasons, blessed with beautiful nature, world heritage sites, rich culture and respected traditions. At the same time, these all co-exist together with modern high-tech attractions and pop culture. We encourage you to visit our country, and we look forward to welcoming you with omotenashi -our traditional spirit of hospitality.

Tadatoshi Mamiya, President
Japan National Tourism Organization

Reitaisai - September 14~16
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, Kamakura, Kanazawa Prefecture

Held in Kamakura, the "little Kyoto" of East Japan, the Reitaisai has it all: musical performances, float processions, traditional dancing, and more. At the center of it all is the "Yabusame" event on the 16th, where archers on horseback in full samurai regalia take aim at targets set on the riding grounds - while moving! An event not to be missed if you're in the area.

Nagasaki Kunchi Festival - October 7~9
Suwa Shrine/citywide, Nagasaki, Nagasaki Prefecture

With 370 years of history, the Nagasaki Kunchi Festival is a testament to the history of Nagasaki City. Each year, a different neighborhood in the "Odori-cho" area is tasked with performing the main dance of the festival, while all of the neighborhoods prepare their own floats and portable shrines for the festival parades and processions.

Ikegami Honmonji Oeshiki - October 11~13
Honmonji Temple, Ota Ward, Tokyo

If all you've seen of Tokyo is the skyscrapers and city lights, you owe it to yourself to check out this festival dedicated to Buddhist Saint Nichiren, who passed away in 1282 and inspired the start of the festival. The Ikegami neighborhood closes streets to traffic during the festival as lantern parades and processions of monks fill the streets. The event reaches its peak on the evening of the 12th, when the parade runs in excess of four hours and 300,000 + visitors fill the streets to eat festival food and enjoy themselves.

Nada Fighting Festival - October 14~15
Matsubara Hachiman Shrine, Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture

Yes, you read that right - fighting. In this festival, locals with portable shrines square off by running the shrines into one another. Later, local men and boys also join the madness as they wield bamboo poles and head into the battle area. The contest ends when one shrine is hoisted on top of another. As for the battle, don't expect to see the participants fight one another - the spectacle is all in good fun.

I am writing to say that I will be returning to Tokyo at the beginning of August. These three years in Los Angeles have been a very rewarding and challenging time for me and JNTO/LAX, and I have learned a lot of things. It has been a humble and memorable experience to be a part of the effort to promote Japan-bound tourism. During these years, in spite of the global economic recession and the recent disaster in northeastern Japan, we have received a great deal of emotional support from you. Without your involvement, we do not think we could have been successful as we are today. In that regard, I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude for the support and kindness you have extended to me.

My successor, Mr. Daisuke Tonai, will take office with my outstanding staff members. He previously worked at the JNTO/LAX office in 2001-2005 as a Marketing Director and I am sure that you will find him to be an excellent fit in this new position. I hope that you will extend the same support to Mr. Tonai as you have given to me.

Your cooperation will be essential to the future success of JNTO/LAX's goal and mission here in the United States.

I wish you all the best success in your future endeavors.

Arigato-Gozaimashita!  Sayonara!

Hidenao Takizawa
Executive Director
Japan National Tourism Organization, Los Angeles

Editor's Note: Our new Executive Director, Mr. Daisuke Tonai, arrives from the Tokyo office in August. We're hoping he'll introduce himself in our next issue; stay tuned!

Guidebooks are a wonderful thing - the maps, the detailed directions, the language tips that help get you out of a crisis. However, for many travelers, its those moments that we forge beyond what the guidebook suggests - or "off the beaten path" - that lead to unique views and experiences that stick with travelers long after they return home. Over the next three issues of Japan Travel Updates, we'll be looking at some truly unique, out-of-the-way destinations that the traveler can hit from Japan's major destinations. We'll be presenting these spots on two categories: "Off" the path for places that some tourists see but most skip, and "Way Off" for places where visitors are rare. First up: destinations accessible from Tokyo.

The Jogasaki Coastline, Shizuoka Prefecture
While most hiking enthusiasts gravitate towards Japan's many mountain ranges, the Jogasaki coastline on the eastern side of the Izu Peninsula offers travelers the chance to see some of Japan's most picturesque expanses of coastline. The hiking path hops along towering cliffs that are bordered by the ocean on one side and forests on the other, leading across suspension bridges and natural rock formations as the path nears Shirahama Beach to the south. A handful of local shops can be found along the path, offering cold drinks and locally produced souvenirs.
Access: 2 hours west of Tokyo; 20 minute walk from "Jogasaki Kaigan" station on the Izu Kyuko Line

Ikaho Onsen, Gunma Prefecture
Japan has no shortage of natural hot springs ("onsens"), and while most offer huge five star hotel resorts as a centerpiece, Ikaho could be called a little more "rustic." The town is centered around a set of stone steps, where travelers can stop along the way to visit old fashioned game arcades and souvenir shops that seem frozen in time. At the top of the steps, visitors pass the town shrine before getting to the large outdoor bath, which lets visitors bathe in iron-rich waters renowned for their health benefits. A great detour for killing stress.
Access: 1 hour north of Tokyo by shinkansen; 2 hours by local train. 20 minutes by bus from Shibukawa Station on the JR Takasaki/Joetsu Line.

Mt. Nokogiri, Chiba Prefecture
If the word "temple" conjures up images of orderly stone pathways and clusters of buildings, prepare for a shock. Mt. Nokogiri is home to Nihonji Temple, where the "temple grounds" consist of countless paths, stairways, and awe-inspiring sites spread over the top of the mountain. After taking a ropeway cable car up the mountainside from the fishing port of Kanaya, dirt paths lead through dense forests to a five-story kannon carved into the mountainside (see image to the right). For the brave, you can peer over the mountain edge from the "jigoku nozoki" (literally "peek into hell") overlook, or head down winding stairways that lead to the foot of the largest seated stone Buddha in Japan.
Access: Take a ferry to Kanaya Port from Kurihama, located just 15 minutes from Kamakura and 40 minutes from Yokohama.The Ropeway boarding area is a ten minute walk from the port.

Ogasawara Islands, Tokyo Prefecture
Yes, there is a chain of remote, tropical islands within Tokyo's borders. While the Ogasawara Islands (also known as the Bonin Islands) are technically part of Tokyo, they are miles away from the capital - not just in distance, but in attitude. The islands feature pristine, unspoiled beaches, indigenous wildlife that can only be found here, and a tropical climate - which explains why the islands were recently designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Only two of the islands are inhabited and there's no airport, but perhaps that is why a visit here is so special to those that make the journey.
Access: The trip to the islands takes just over a day via the Ogasawara Ferry. The ship departs from Takeshiba Pier, a 10 minute walk from Hamamatsucho Station on the JR Yamanote Line in central Tokyo.

Lots of good specials out there this month - many of which are commissionable. Let's get to the list!

Adelsman Tours - Tokyo Seven Days on a Budget Tour (August/Sept., 2011) and The Perfect Introductory Tour of Japan - Fall Colors (November 2-16, 2011) Both tours are commissionable!
AsiaLuxe Holidays - Amazing Tokyo Package for $1299 - ALL INCLUSIVE
Esprit Travel & Tours - Kyoto "Artistry in Depth" Tour (November 2011)
JTB - The 5th Uchinanchu Festival Package and Welcome to Japan 6 day/4 night Package (Both tours commissionable!)
Signature Travel & Tours - Classic Japan 8 Day Tour (8% agent commission)
Signet Tours/Super Value Tours - Revisit Japan 6 Day Kanto Tour for $999 and 9 Day Japan Classics for $1999 (from LAX)
Travel Indochina - Special "Back to Japan" Discount available - up to $1600 off per couple! For more information, visit the Travel Indochina website or contact info@travelindochina.co.uk.

Royal Park Shiodome Tower
The summer heat in Tokyo can be legendary - and we don't mean that positively. Fortunately, the Royal Park Shiodome is here to help! This summer, guests can get a tall mug of Asahi Beer - served "extra cold" from taps that keep the beer just 1 degree away from freezing - for just 850 yen. For information or reservations, please visit the hotel website.

The Peninsula Hotel
The Peninsula Tokyo is offering guests the chance to get some luxurious extras during their "Summer Splendour" campaign. Book under this plan and you'll be able to upgrade to the next room class at no charge - or receive a 10,000 yen coupon to any of the hotel's fine restaurants (Kyoto Tsuruya restaurant not available with this promotion). You can also opt for a complimentary extra bed, which comes with an extra complimentary breakfast. All that, plus the amenities one expects at The Peninsula: a free daily breakfast, swimming pool and health club access, daily newspaper, and complimentary one-way transport via the hotel's Rolls Royce and BMW fleet to anywhere within 2 kilometers of the hotel. To book the Summer Splendour room package, please visit peninsula.com, contact the Reservations Department at The Peninsula Tokyo at (81-3) 6270 2288 or e-mail reservationptk@peninsula.com.

Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo

Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo is currently offering special promotional rates until October 31, 2011 - Save 20% on 2 nights stay, 30% on 3 night stay, and 40% on 4 night stay!  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

Hilton Tokyo
Looking for a summer getaway? Hilton Tokyo has just the thing with its ‘3 Nights Break Special' package.  Stay for three nights at the Hilton Tokyo's stylish guest room and save 25% off our Best Available Rate. Whether you're travelling on vacation or on business, the hotel is perfectly located in Shinjuku with great connections across to sights, attractions, shopping and nightlife. Package includes complimentary access to the gym, swimming pool and sauna.  Rates starts at 16,800 JP per night per room (double occupancy).  For details and reservations, please contact at the Hilton Tokyo reservation office. * Rates valid until the 30th of December, 2011. Room rates include  5% consumption tax, 10% service charge and accommodation tax.

Conrad Tokyo
Celebrating six years as Tokyo's leading luxury destination, Conrad Tokyo offers guests even more of a reason to visit. Stay in one of Conrad Tokyo's four stunning Deluxe Bay View Suites offering unbeatable panoramic views over the ancient Hamarikyu Gardens and Tokyo Bay.  Make this spacious 130 sq. m elegant suite your stylish home-from-home for six or more consecutive nights and enjoy daily savings of 60% off the original price.  The package includes daily breakfast at the Executive Lounge and - as a special anniversary gift - guests will receive a certificate for one night complimentary stay at Conrad Tokyo's one and only Royal Suite on their next visit.  Rate starts 566,400 for 6 nights. (94,400 per night). For details and reservations please contact Conrad Tokyo reservations office.  * Rates valid until the 30th of December, 2011. Reservations must to be made by July 31st.

Looking to hold a meeting or party in Tokyo? Happo-en is here to help. The hotel is currently offering a party and meeting plan for anyone visiting Tokyo. Meeting space starts at 3,000 yen/person and includes 2 hours of room time, furnishings, coffee, podium, and sound system. The party plan starts at 12,000 yen/person and lets organizers choose a buffet style menu, a Japanese kaiseki course menu, or a menu of fine western dishes. For more information, visit the Happo-en website.

Delta Airlines
Planning to fly into the brand new International Terminal at Tokyo's Haneda Airport? Fly Delta and you can get more miles for your time in the air. Delta Air Lines is offering Double/Triple Miles for customers on its Los Angeles flights bound for Tokyo Haneda. To register for the discount campaign, visit the following link:

Singapore Airlines
The Singapore Airlines A380 sets a new global standard in luxury, space, and comfort. The aircraft features Singapore Airlines Suites, as well as the world's most spacious Business Class, along with an even more comfortable Economy Class. Experience travel in a new light onboard the Singapore Airlines A380. Service between LAX and NRT now underway. For more information, click here.

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.

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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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