Japan Travel Journal Cafe
Vol.4 2009 July
First Course
- News Updates
- Upcoming Events in Japan
- Hot Deals
Main Course
- Ride the Shinkansen Bullet Train! It's Awesome!
- Luxe Guide for Women: Feast your eyes & stomach on world famous fashion brands in GINZA!
- Great Hotels You Haven't Seen in Travel Magazines: Sado Bellemer YH
- Anatomy of Travel: JNTO Staff Survey
- Practical Info
- Events in the US: Save the Date!
- Quiz: Where in Japan?
- Useful Words When Traveling in Japan: Lemon-hi or Lemon-sour
- Farewell Note From Editor-in-Chief
First Course

News Updates
Culture: Haruki Murakami's New Novel Sells 680,000 Copies
Haruki Murakami, one of the most important novelists of modern Japan, published his first new novel in 5 years on May 29. Fans were anxiously awaiting this release, so the publishing company printed 680,000 copies; far more than a normal first print number. Murakami's best work, Norwegian Wood, sold 2.4 million copies in 1987, the second highest sales recorded in Japanese publishing history, and will become a movie in 2010. Most of his works are translated into English, so add this author to your 'must read' list!

Culture: Special Exhibition: National Treasure "Ashura"
The Tokyo National Museum in Ueno, Tokyo, drew in a huge crowd of over 800,000 for its special Buddha statue exhibition from March 31 to June 7. This is the third largest turnout for an exhibition in the museum's history, following and attendance of 1,500,000 for the Mona Lisa in 1974 and 1,290,000 for Tutankhamen in 1965.

Sport: Sumo Updates
Sumo Wrestling: In January, two Yokozuna (top-ranked title) tied with 14 wins and 1 loss, while Asashoryu (literally meaning Morning-Blue-Dragon) beat Hakuhou (White Phoenix) at the play-offs. During the March Tournament in Osaka, Hakuhou won the 15-day tournament with 15 straight wins. In May, during the tournament in Tokyo, Hakuho tied Harumafuji, who was ranked as Ozeki (second-ranked title), with 14 wins and 1 loss. During the playoffs, Harumafuji upset Hakuhou and got his first tournament win.
There are three more tournaments in 2009: July 12th-26th in Nagoya, September 13th-27th in Tokyo, and November 15th-29th in Fukuoka. Please visit on the Grand Sumo Tournament Schedule & Ticket Information for booking your ticket. So it is still hard to say who will win. So far this year all three champs are from Mongolia, so we just want to see more hustle from the Japanese sumo wrestlers!

Anime: The 7th World Cosplay Championship at Nagoya
Have you heard of cosplay? It is when someone dresses up as an anime character to celebrate their favorite character or show and experience the world of anime. The 7th World Cosplay Championship will be held August 1-2 in Nagoya, where cosplayers who won during the qualifying stage get together from all over the world to compete. From the U.S., Elizabeth Licata and India Davis passed the qualification stage at the New York Anime Festival in October of 2008, and they are thrilled to go to Japan this summer. August 1 is Parade Day, and August 2 is the competition. Brazilians won the 2008 title; let's see which country will win this year! For more information about World Cosplay Summit, visit: http://www.tv-aichi.co.jp/wcs/e/

Anime: Gundam Tokyo Project
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the popular anime series"Gundam," the real Gundam will land in Shiokaze Park in Odaiba, Tokyo, on July 11. The Gundam statue will be the same size as the original anime character and made with iron framing and reinforced plastic, and will emit light and fog. This project is hosted by "Green Tokyo Gundam Project Executive Committee" and you can see photos of the building process of this fascinating statue at: http://www.gundam30th.net/event/real-g.html (available only in Japanese).

Movie: Hayao Miyazaki's Film Comes Back!
"Departures," a 2009 Academy award winner, finally opened in major cities across the US.  The film sold $230,000 during its first 3 weeks, which means more than 20,000 people went to see it in theaters. The film delivers beautiful landscapes of Japan and some essence of its culture. (Watch "Departures," then depart for Yamagata!) This summer, the great anime creator Miyazaki's new anime, "Ponto On The Cliff," will open in many US theaters. What better way to prepare for your dream trip to Japan than to see a beautiful Japanese film first?

Food: Delicious Summer Food in Japan
Summer is officially here! In the US, BBQ, ice cream and corn on the cob come to mind as great summer eats. What are the top summer foods in Japan? According to an online survey, #1 is watermelon, followed closely by #2 hiyashi chuka (cold ramen noodles), then #3 kakigori (shaved ice with sweet syrup), #4 somen (thin wheat noodles), #5 unadon (teriyaki eel over rice), and lastly #6 mugicha (barley tea). Just hearing the mention of somen or unadon brings back the smell of the hot and humid summer days of Japan. But my personal number one is mughicha. There was always ice cold mughicha in the fridge after I played outside in a hot summer day. Ahh, to be young again!

Food: Travel Through Time to the 1850s
Have you heard of an American navy commander named Matthew Calbraith Perry, of Newport, Rhode Island, who was famous during the 19th century? Commodore Perry visited Japan with a squadron of four war vessels in 1853 and negotiated the Treaty of Kanagawa in 1854, the first treaty between the United States and Japan, thus ending two centuries of Japanese isolationism. The vessels were called as the "Black Ships," the Japanese term for foreign chips back then. People still commemorate his deed and celebrate Black Ship Festival in Newport, RI.
Then why is this topic about food, you ask? Based on a historical document, the Yokohama Gastronomy Association re-created in limited quantities the meal which the Edo Shogunate government served to Commander Perry in the 1850s. The price of the meal is $1,000, and all 28 meals have already sold out! For more information on this celebration, read Hillside Events To Start on July 4th in Yokohama! in the upcoming event section.

Upcoming Events in Japan

July 4-Sep. 27 Hillside Events To Start on July 4th in Yokohama!
The celebrations for the 150th Anniversary of the Opening of the Port of Yokohama have already started in the Bayside Area, but more events are coming to the Hillside Area. Join us for hands-on exhibits, a powerful spectacle performance, and more while experiencing the history and modernization of Yokohama and Japan. Don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
July 26-Sep. 13 Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale The festival exhibits the artworks created in rice paddies, abandoned houses, and closed schools by collaboration and exchanges between local residents and artists, as a result of a long-term project. Tokamachi-City and Tsunan Town, Niigata
August 16-18 Earth Celebration 2009 The taiko drumming performance group Kodo leads this international art festival to create new earth culture. Sado-Island, Niigata For more.
September 1-3 Owara Kaze-no-Bon Festival Streets decorated with paper lanterns, men and women wearing traditional hats dance to melancholic music. Toyama-City, Toyama
September 14-16 Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine Annual Festival Entertainment to praise the gods, tea ceremony and horseback archery at an 800-year-old shrine. Kamakura-City, Kanagawa
September 19-
November 23
Hamamatsu International Mosaiculture 2009 Flowers become world-renowned paintings and sculptures! Hamamatsu-City, Shizuoka
September 24-27 Tokyo Game Show 2009 Chiba-City, Chiba Special package tour available
November 3 Hakone Daimyo Gyoretsu Parade (Feudal Lord's Procession) ‘Down, down, the lord comes!' in a hot spring town. Hakone-cho, Kanagawa
November 2-4 Karatsu Kunchi Festival 14 giant floats race and brave shouts. Karatsu-City, Saga
November 12, 24 Tori-no-ichi (Rake Fair) Gorgeous rakes are sold by lively vendors until midnight, wishing good luck and business prosperity. Taito-ward, Tokyo
December 1-
March 31
Kyoto Winter Special 2010 4-month special tourism campaign in Kyoto: Hanatoro, historical shop fronts and cultural heritage sites are lit up by Japanese lanterns. This winter it will be accompanied by the Kyoto Restaurant Winter Special too!
December 2&3 Chichibu Night Festival Floats lit-up with countless lanterns at night. Chichibu-City, Saitama
December 17-19 Hagoita-ich (Battledore Fair) Colorful and traditional wooden paddles are sold to pray for the health and growth of girls. Taito-ku, Tokyo
December 15-18 Kasuga Wakamiya Onmatrusi Solemn and attractive series of rituals including horse riding, horseback archery and sumo. Nara-City, Nara
December 31 Omisoka (New Year's Eve) Celebrating the last day of the year, people listen to 108 peals of the temple bell which ring out the old year and ring in the coming year. Throughout Japan people visit local shrines and temples.
January 1-
March 31
Hatsumode The first shrine/temple visit of the New Year in Japan. Throughout Japan people visit local shrines and temples.
Yokoso! Japan Weeks 2010 For 2009 Campaign information

Hot Deals

Special Package Tour

H.I.S. International : Tokyo Maximum 2009 (Tokyo Game Show 2009)
IACE Travel : World Heritage Tour
Artisans of Leisure : Traditions of Japan
Walking Softly Adventures : Heritage of Japan
Club ABC Tours : Passage Through Japan 14 Days, 12 Nights
Super Value Tours Inc. : Japan Tokyo 5 days, Japan Classical 9 Days
NWA WorldVacations : Highlights of Japan 8 days, 7 nights

Discover Asia Now and Win a Free Trip to Asia!
Japan is sponsoring Discover Asia Now Campaign and one Grand Prize winner will receive a trip for 2 people to Asia! The winner will be announced in August 2009. In this campaign, Club ABC Tours offers "complimentary one-year Club ABC Tours travel club membership" and Gate 1 Travel offers $100 discount per person if you book an escorted tour or cruise to Asia by July 30, 2009 with valid for departures through 5/31/10.

Special Online Airfares from US to Japan! (Update by July 2, 2009; through September 31, 2009)

  From NY to Tokyo From LA to Tokyo
Japan Airlines $ 686 USD + tax ~ $ 746 USD + tax ~
All Nippon Airways $ 887 USD + tax ~ $ 767 USD + tax ~
American Airlines $ 798 USD + tax ~ $ 738 USD + tax ~
Continental Airlines $ 798 USD + tax ~
(from Newark to Tokyo)
$ 752 USD + tax ~
Delta Airlines $ 798 USD + tax ~ $ 738 USD + tax ~

Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel Tokyo 2009 Summer Promotion
Availability June 1, 2009 - September 6, 2009
Special Room Rates
Standard Twin Room (398 sq.ft.)
City View (19-24th Floor): 19,000 yen ($195 USD)
Sky View (25-34th Floor): 20,500 yen ($211)
Standard King Room (398 sq.ft.)
City View (19-24th Floor): 22,000 yen ($226)
Sky View (25-34th Floor): 23,500 yen ($242)
  * Flat rate for Single & Double use
  * High speed internet is available for 1,000 yen
  * Subject to 10% service charge, 5% tax and 200 yen accommodation tax
  * Conversion rate $1 = 97 yen (June, 2009)

Hotel New Otani Tokyo Garden Tower GDS Promotional Rate
Special Rate
Garden Tower Standard Room (288 sq. ft.)
Stay 5 nights and get a discount: 15,400 yen ($158 USD)
Stay 2 or 3 nights and get a discount: 16,500 yen ($170)
Stay 1 night and get a discount: 22,000 yen ($226)
(Rack Rate 31,000 yen ($319)
  * Rates may occasionally vary due to the date, availability and any other reasons.
  * This rate is not including breakfast, and per room, per night.
  * Above rate is excluding 10% service charge, and taxes.
  * Conversion rate $1 = 97 yen (June, 2009)

And more….
Frequent Flyer Programs: You can get mileage points with AA, UA, NWA and more.
New Otani Club: You can register for membership on our website for free. http://www.newotani.co.jp/en/group/noc/join.html
For members, we offer a discount on breakfast, and you will receive points for various benefits at New Otani. The outdoor pool can be used free of charge. (Located within the historic Japanese Garden, the New Otani pool is an oasis within the Tokyo metropolis.)

Main Course

Ride the Shinkansen Bullet Train! It's Awesome!
A train ride is not only a means of transportation, but also an experience in itself. Riding the Shinkansen bullet train is definitely a ‘must do' during your next trip to Japan.

Shinkansen, literally meaning ‘new trunk line,' started operation in 1964 between Tokyo and Osaka (320 miles) and has expanded its network to 1300 miles nationwide.

Shinkansen's merits are: Speed, Punctuality, Frequency, Comfort, and Safety.
The maximum speed of the Shinkansen was 130 miles per hour in 1964, but now it is 190 miles per hour. This speed allows you to go to Kyoto from Tokyo (300 miles) in just 2 hours and 20 minutes. (Compare this to Amtrak's Acela service from New York to Washington, D.C. --225 miles-- taking 2 hours and 50 minutes.)
The trains run from 6 am to just before midnight and every 10 minutes during the daytime, departing and arriving on time to the minute. The reclining seat is comfortable and the seat pitch is wide enough, but if you want more comfort, the green car (first class) is the choice that gives you all the business class comforts. In addition, since its inauguration in 1964, there has been no fatal accident involving passengers.

With this speed, you can visit Kyoto as a day trip from Tokyo (though I'm not recommending it as Kyoto is not a place you can fully enjoy in a day). The first Shinkansen leaves from Tokyo at 6 am arriving at Kyoto at 8:11 am. If you get on the last Shinkansen from Kyoto at 9:34 pm, you can return to Tokyo at 11:45 pm. From Kyoto, Hiroshima, famous for its A-Bomb Dome, and Miyajima Shrine, both World Heritage sites, are within easy reach. It takes only 1 hour 40 minutes one-way, and you'll have an ample 11 hours to explore Hiroshima.

During the ride, you may not have time to sleep because beautiful scenery unfolds from metropolis to countryside. When you go to Kyoto from Tokyo, I strongly recommend you take a window seat on the right hand side so that you won't miss a stunning view of Mt. Fuji approximately 40 minutes after leaving from Tokyo.

Although there is no restaurant car on the Shinkansen, cart service is available for you to buy food and beverages. However, I suggest you buy ekiben at the station before boarding. Ekiben means lunch box and costs $10-20 USD. Ekiben have so much variety that it is hard to choose one.

Between Tokyo and Kyoto, there are three types of Shinkansen trains with lovely names: Nozomi (meaning Hope), Hikari (Light), and Kodama (Echo). Nozomi, the fastest, makes only 3 stops taking 2 hours 20 minutes; Hikari trains stop at 5-7 stations taking 2 hours 50 minutes; and Kodama trains make 14 stops taking 3 hours 40 minutes. From Tokyo to Kyoto, the fare is $135 USD (approx.) each way.

Shinkansen-type high-speed trains are now more than ever attracting global interest since they are not only convenient and speedy but also environmentally friendly. President Obama announced in April that the U.S. government would invest in high-speed passenger rail lines to reduce traffic congestion and improve the environment.

For travelers taking railway trips throughout Japan, Japan Rail Pass is a convenient and reasonable option. There are several types based on class and duration as follows:

  Green Car (First Class) Ordinary Car
7-day 37,800 yen 28,300 yen
14-day 61,200 yen 45,100 yen
21-day 79,600 yen 57,700 yen

*The above prices are yen and the actual cost in local currency is calculated at the time the Exchange Order is issued.

The pass is valid for all the Japan Rail (JR) lines and some private railways, EXCEPT Nozomi trains. (You can take Hikari and Kodama.) Fees are payable for seat reservation (approx. $5-7 USD) and sleeper services (fee dependent on routes and sleeper categories).
You need to buy a Japan Rail Pass voucher before you leave the U.S. at designated travel agents and exchange the voucher for the Rail Pass at major JR stations in Japan and validate the starting date.

No time to go to Kyoto? Why not try a 20-minute ride to Shin-Yokohama from Tokyo? It costs only $13 USD (approx.) each way. Getting off at Shin-Yokohama, you may want to walk to Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum (http://www.raumen.co.jp/ramen/) where you can choose your favorite local ramen noodle dishes from 9 shops.

Get onboard!

For information on the Shinkansen, its timetable and Japan Rail Pass, please visit: http://www.japanrail.com.

Luxe Guide for Women
Feast your eyes & stomach on world famous fashion brands in GINZA!
With Gucci, Armani, and Shiseido to name a few, Ginza is widely known as a shopping heaven for fashion lovers! But how many of you actually know that these international brands no longer design merely their fashion items in Ginza, but also some beautifully decorated dishes in stylish restaurants today?
In Ginza, also known as Tokyo's Fifth Avenue, you can feast your eyes and stomach on the exquisitely made world's top designer dishes which you cannot not find anywhere else in the world!

Giorgio Armani's flagship store in Ginza presents the world's first Armani / Ristorante on its 10th floor with a spectacular view of the city. The lacy gold-mesh screens divide the space into pods of tables, and Armani-attired waiters march back and forth with perfect service and elegantly decorated dishes. The restaurant offers original Italian cuisine by Enrico Derflingher, former personal chef to Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Ease yourself into a fantastic dining experience with glossy black-lacquered tables, gold finishes, and delicious Italian food filtered through Japanese aesthetic, and you will feel the beautiful mixture of Japanese culture and Italian cuisine.

Gucci Café is located on the fourth floor of Gucci Ginza building. Opening up to a grand view of the Ginza cityscape, this world-famous brand also provides an elegant environment in which to relax in between your shopping trips. Gucci Ginza is the first ever Gucci flagship store to be housed in its own building, conceived specifically to compliment Tokyo shopping culture. Gucci lovers should be fascinated by the menus covered with Gucci leather and their food… served with the Gucci logo on top!

Getting full with all these luxurious meals & settings? Save space in your stomach for the exquisitely made cakes and chocolates served by Shiseido Parlour, owned and operated by the Japanese cosmetic giant Shiseido. Having a great reputation with its lunch and dinner menu on the 4th & 5th floors of the Shiseido building, it is also very famous among sweet lovers for its wonderfully decorated desserts served at Shiseido Salon de Café, located on the 3rd floor of the same building. The artistically decorated sweets with seasonal fresh fruits will heal your legs, undoubtedly tired from strolling for hours around this huge shopping heaven of Ginza!

Great Hotels You Haven't Seen in Travel Magazines: Sado Bellemer YH

Have you ever heard of Sado Island? In my opinion, the island is one of the best places to experience rural Japan. Located in the Sea of Japan with over 1,000 years of history, farmers and fishermen on the island are still living in their unspoiled village. In recent years, however, the island was chosen as the stage for the international triathlon for the past 21 years in a row. Many athletes come back again and again to this island because of the island's unique charm. Artists are drawn to the island, too, such as Kodo, well-known taiko drumming performance group. On August 16th-18th, the 22nd Earth Celebration 2009 is lead by Kodo so please check their website!
Sado Bellmer Youth Hostel is located on the western edge of the island. You need to cross the island and drive up the coast line to get there, but this place deserves a visit. Pine forests meets the Sea of Japan, and the hostel is just on the pier. In the summer, walk the backside path of the hostel to the sea at night. Under a sky full of stars, stir up the surface of the sea so you will see glistening noctiluca. At dawn, you'll see numerous lights of squid-fishing vessels. The sunset view from the hostel is one of the best in Japan, and here fried squid, grilled bearded clams and grilled fish are served with rice, soup and salad, prepared with the heart-warming hospitality of the host family.

To Sado Island, take a bullet train or coach from Tokyo to Niigata, and ride a ferry from Niigata-port to Ryotsu-port in Sado. From Ryotsu-port, you can take a bus or drive an hour to the hostel.
Price: YH member 5,380 yen ($56 USD*) w/ breakfast and dinner. Also open to non-YH members.
Address: 369-4 Himezu, Sado-City, Niigata-Prefecture 952-2134 JAPAN
Tel: +1-259-75-2011 Fax: +1-259-75-2071 Email: yh@sado.bellemer.jp Website: http://sado.bellemer.jp/ (Available only in Japanese) or http://www.visitsado.com/en/05plan/03accom/inn-find-id.php?id=a030083
(* Conversion Rate $1=97 yen (June, 2009))

Anatomy of Japanese Travel: JNTO Staff Survey
Are you interested in knowing how much Japanese travel in Japan and what places we like most? We conducted a survey on the best destinations in Japan among the JNTO staff. In this issue, we will show you the result of the survey, for your reference for planning your next visit. In this issue, let us start with Tokyo and discuss shrines and temples.

What places do you like best? Tokyo-version.
Ginza wins first place, narrowly over Shinjuku, and the relatively unknown town of Kagurazaka surprisingly secures third place! We surveyed thirteen people on the JNTO staff and asked them to pick their three favorite areas in Tokyo. Here are the results:

Small street of
#10 Shimokitazawa

#1 Ginza 8 votes
#2 Shinjuku 7 votes
#3 Kagurazaka 4 votes
#4 Shibuya 3 votes
#5 Omotesando & Aoyama tied with 3 votes
#6 Odaiba, Yanesen (Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi), Ameyoko, Shimokitazawa 2 votes
#10 Ogikubo, Kanda used book stores, Tsukishima, Hiroo & Azabu, Komazawa, Meguro, Ueno, Tamachi, Kichijyoji

Editor's Choice:
#1 Ginza
For Japanese people, Ginza has been a special place for a long time, as it is the most sophisticated downtown area in Japan (or probably in the world). Even in this diversified era, going out to Ginza still creates status. Recently, Ginza has been changing rapidly with waves of luxury brand stores, but you can easily find good old Ginza once you start walking around. Small restaurants and shops are indispensable charms of this town along with big department stores and theaters.

#2 Shinjuku
Which train station has the largest number of passengers in the world? The answer is Shinjuku, which is a big hub for more than 7 lines. While Ginza has a single united image of a sophisticated town, the charm of Shinjuku is its diversity and energy, with high-rise office buildings in the west exit, bustling night life in Kabuki-cho, department stores, anarchic small pubs in Golden-gai, or the slum taste of Shonben-yokocho (Pee side street). What chaos!

These are Shinjuku!

#3 Kagurazaka      
Have you ever heard of Kagurazaka?. It is a hidden gem and it is a surprise to me that this town wins third place. In other words, good job, JNTO!
What makes Kagurazaka unique is the steep slope of its single main street, maze-style narrow paths with traditional houses, and several small, family-owned restaurants preserving Geisha culture. You can easily bump into a traditional Japanese restaurant which was transformed from a residential house or small African food restaurant. And yes, sento (public bath) is available.

Narita-san Shinsho-ji

Have you ever been there? Temple/Shrine version.
No doubt about Golden Pavilion!
The second most recognized symbol of Japan next to Mount Fuji is…I guess everybody agrees….Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion). And it is true, 14 out of 14 of those surveyed have been here. After Golden Pavilion, other popular shrines & temples include Senso-ji (Tokyo), Kiyomizu-dera (Kyoto), Meiji-jingu (Tokyo), Ryoan-ji (Kyoto), and Ise-jingu (Mie). Izumo-taisha's location is not the most convenient, but still half of us visited there. Well, we are in the travel industry, after all.

Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion, Kyoto) 14/14
Great Buddha of Kamakura
(Kotoku-in, Kanagawa)
Senso-ji (Tokyo) 13/14
Horyu-ji (Nara) 12/14
Miyajima (Hiroshima) 11/14
Zenko-ji (Nagano) 9/14
Narita-san Shinsho-ji (Chiba) 7/14
Hiraizumi Chuon-ji (Iwate) 7/14
Koyasan (Mt. Koya, Wakayama) 5/14
(Katsura Imperial Villa, Kyoto)

Editor's Eye
Ise-jingu (Mie) is the most famous shrine in Japan, as it is the headquarters of countless shrines all over Japan. Ise-jingu has an interesting background. In the Edo era or even earlier, farmers were prohibited to travel beyond feudal state boundaries. But there was one exception to this rule: a pilgrimage to Ise-shrine. Imagine, no cars, trains, airplanes, expedia.com or Google map in Edo era, so traveling to Ise was a once-in-a-lifetime dream and challenge for many farmers, and border guards would let them pass if they claimed they were going to Ise. Yokozuna sumo wrestlers often pay homage by visiting this shrine.

Dazaifu Tenman-gu (Fukuoka)
This is a shrine for Sugawara Michizane (845-903), a poet and scholar in the Heian Era. He was demoted and sent to Kyushu and died there. Later, he was respected as the god of scholarship. It is close to Fukuoka, the biggest city on Kyushu Island, which has been a gateway to the outside world for a long time, as it is close to Korea and China. Indeed, from Fukuoka, Seoul is much closer than Tokyo. Three years ago, the fourth national museum was opened next to this shrine, and an East Asia Summit (China, Korea, and Japan) was held in this new museum. It is a good travel destination with a new museum and old shrines next each other in the heart of East Asia.


Practical Info
Zero Fuel Surcharge
Thanks to a drop in the price of crude oil, Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) have brought down their fuel surcharge to zero. It reflects the market level of about five months ago, so it might be the best time to buy a ticket (what matters is not the day to travel, but the day to buy a ticket).

JR EAST Pass Special Campaign Ticket
JR East has announced its special price ticket, "JR East Pass Special". This pass runs for 10,000 yen for adults and is good for 3 flexible days from September 1 to December 31. A regular flex 4-day pass from JR East goes for 20,000 yen, so this is quite a good deal. More info at:
(Keep in mind, this pass is good only for JR East area, not valid between Kyoto and Tokyo.)

Miho Museum's Summer Special Exhibition
Tales of the Buddhas (North Wing)

Saturday, July 11th to Sunday, August 16th, 2009
 Well, this museum is not in Tokyo, Kyoto, nor recently hot Kanazawa, and it is unknown to most visitors. This museum of great modern architecture, designed by I. M. Pei, is beautifully located in the hills between Kyoto and Nagoya. If you enjoy landscapes on the way, accessibility is not a problem but a blessing! This summer they are bringing a special exhibition called "Tales of the Buddhas." This exhibition presents various Buddhist sutras and the images and paintings that manifest their teachings. Introduced here are many works representing the astonishing wisdom and enterprise created by Buddhism from ancient times to this day. http://www.miho.or.jp

WILLER Coach's English-Online Booking
Wherever you are, you can book a WILLER coach bus which runs from north to south in Japan. Their high-quality service and relaxing travel accommodations will satisfy your needs. Visit their English website: http://travel.willer.co.jp/bus/pc/3/top/

Events in the US: Save the Date
July 1- August 1 VAMPS Tour in the U.S., (nationwide)
VAMPS (a star duo project of Oblivion Dust guitarist K.A.Z and L'Arc-en-Ciel vocalist Hyde) are scheduled to tour the United States this summer!

July 16-19 26th Annual Black Ships Festival, Newport, RI
On July 18, meet JNTO staff at Japan Travel Seminar!

August 15-23 69th ANNUAL NISEI WEEK FESTIVAL, Los Angeles, CA
This year's Nisei Week Japanese Festival theme is "A Year of Celebrations," celebrating many centennial milestone anniversaries of community-based organizations and the golden anniversary of the first ever sister-city of the City of Los Angeles, Nagoya, Japan. Exciting and fun activities await the entire family to enjoy during the Nisei Week Festival. Included are cultural exhibits, dynamic cultural entertainment, delicious Japanese food, and traditional celebrations. Highlights of these include taiko, sumo, martial arts, tea ceremony, ikebana, odori dancing, and many more.

September 5-7 Japanese Festival at Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MS
Annual Japanese Festival presents taiko drumming, traditional tea ceremonies, martial arts, candlelight walks in the Japanese Garden and more.

September 12&13 2009 Aki Matsuri Information, Bellevue, WA
The 12th Annual Aki Matsuri: A celebration of Japan's rich cultural heritage presented by the Eastside Nihon Matsuri Association (ENMA)
     Saturday, September 12 (10 a.m. - 6 p.m.) and
     Sunday, September 13 (11 a.m. - 5 p.m.), 2009
     Bellevue Community College Main Campus
     3000 Landerholm Circle SE, Bellevue, WA 98007
     G (Gymnasium), C-Building and R-Building

September 19-20 JapanFest2009, Atlanta, GA
JapanFest, now in its 23rd year, is the largest Japanese festival east of Houston and south of Washington, DC, and the theme of this year's festival is Cool Japan. Visitors can experience an amazing array of Japanese culture such as fashion, anime, music, cuisine and technology. Meet JNTO staff at Japan Travel Seminar!

September 19 Greater Kansas City Japan Festival Kansas City, KS
Meet JNTO staff at Japan Travel Seminar!

September 25-27 New York Anime Festival, New York, NY
You won't want to miss this chance to meet new friends who are interested in anime/manga. Contests and events are also scheduled at the venue in the midst of New York City.

Where in Japan?
Quiz: Which animal is the mascot for the baseball team which calls this stadium its home? Please choose one from the following three: hawk, lion, or tiger.

Hint: Summer is finally here! This place has seen countless dramatic moments every summer. Without this place, summer in Japan wouldn't be summer in Japan anymore. Their symbolic ivy was taken away for a renovation, but new ivy was planted and it will be back in a decade: http://www.hanshin.co.jp/koshien/

Among all correct answers, five lucky winners will receive a tenugui, a Japanese traditional face towel, provided by wuhao newyork Inc. To learn about tenugi, its history and how to use it (there are more ways than as just a towel), visit their website: http://www.wuhaonyc.com/

How to enter: You can enter from July 1 to July 31, 2009, at: http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/?p=WEB229CKPDXK4B

Let's review the last quiz, which was a really difficult one. The answer to the last issue's quiz is Chokaizan (Mount Chokai). Out of 50 replies, 18 (36%) had the correct answer!

Useful Words When Traveling in Japan: Lemon-hi or Lemon-sour
Previously, we learned how to say beer in Japanese. Yes, it is "bee-ru," and for draft beer, say "nama-bee-ru," or just "nama." This time, I think I should pick a word more sophisticated. Let me introduce another, more important word for when you eat and drink in Japan. Here it is: Lemon-Hi (Osaka-way) or Lemon-Sour (Tokyo-way). This drink is as popular as beer in the Japanese casual pub scene. Mostly, it is a shochu (Japanese liquor) base. It tastes like Mike's Hard Lemonade, so it is not too sour, but it is not as sweet as Mike's, and is available in baseball stadiums throughout Japan! Enjoy!

Farewell note from Editor-in-chief
Dear Readers,

Thank you for opening this newsletter and reading it. I am leaving this office at the end of June and will be relocated in Japan. I tried to bring in more excitement to this newsletter and offer real opinions and travel tips from the locals who know best. I myself want to go to Italy, Ireland or Argentina, and if I receive travel newsletters from these destinations, I want to read something only locals know, and something beyond travel industry topics, such as what kind of TV drama is popular in Italy, what kind of songs are big hits in Argentina right now, what they drink and eat everyday, etc.

Editing and writing a bi-monthly newsletter in this small office is not an easy job, but I really appreciate your warm support for future issues.

Finally, let me add my bottom-of-the-heart recommendations for my favorite places to go in Japan:

#1. Nada Himeji Matsuri. This is from my hometown region, but there are many more grand scale festivals, such as Nebuta, Yamagasa, etc. I do not hesitate to say that every time I am there, tears well up in my eyes. Some people say we live for just these two days (Oct. 14&15), and I do not want you miss this moving festival which has all the essence of Japanese culture, beauty, magnificence, wabi-sabi, etc.

#2. Baseball games. The Japanese way of cheering in professional baseball games is so good that I always feel some frustration in Yankee stadium or Fenway Park. But what kills me most is the yelling from the losing team's fans to winning teams in a high school baseball tournament. Sometimes it might be a mindless ritual, but what sportsmanship! Tears! Maybe it sounds like I'm saying too much, but it reminds me of mu-jo, one of the most important of Japanese culture's essences, which means literally "nothing is eternal" or "a view of life as something transient and empty" by my dictionary. I also enjoy watching people who cheer the game with sake or Lemon-Hi (described earlier in the newsletter).

#3. Summit of Mt. Yarigatake. Yarigatake literally means "Summit of Spear." Do not stop at Mt. Fuji - keep going to Mt. Yari. It is a symbol of Japanese alpinism, and during the summer season it is reachable not only by expert mountain hikers, but also by leisure hiking lovers. There is a hut which serves food and has futons right below the summit. This, Japan's fourth highest summit, has a sharp spear shape and views from there are, sorry for my poor vocabulary, unforgettable. This is the Tiger Woods of Japanese mountains. Many say Yarigatake's existence can only have been done by a miracle of nature. If you visit Japan during the summer with your kids, and if you can find 3 extra days, take your kids here.

Sayonara for now,

Akihiro Obata

Editor's Note
Thank you for reading the July issue of our newsletter. We would like to share our passion for Japan with you. Please send us your comments & suggestions about this newsletter and your personal experiences in Japan. We may post your letter on Reader's Voice in the next newsletter. See you in the next issue!



Japan Travel Journal Cafe as a courtesy to readers of this newsletter. Though the 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 the JNTO nor any holder of 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.

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