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Cool Japan / Japan enlists foreign bloggers to revive tsunami-hit tourist biz

Japan enlists foreign bloggers to revive tsunami-hit tourist biz
The Register - Feb 9, 2012

The Japanese government is trying to get foreign bloggers to do PR for it by inviting them to earthquake- and tsunami-hit areas to write compassionately about the progress being made in reconstructing the ravaged north-east of the country. The Foreign Ministry thought up the idea in a bid to revive the disaster-hit nation's ailing tourist industry, which has been understandably affected by the events of last March, according to the Mainichi Daily News. Advertisement Perhaps more optimistically, it also wants the bloggers to let their readers know that the tsunami- and quake-affected areas around Sendai are still appealing holiday destinations. The report reveals that the foreign bloggers have been arriving thick and fast, with a total of 10 invited to the Land of the Rising Sun. (The Register)
Japan's amazing snow monsters on the prowl
CNN - Feb 9, 2012

When Hilary Wendel, a Tokyo-based photographer and good friend, asked me to tag along as she photographed "Japan's scariest monsters," I was apprehensive at first. Fortunately for us both, the Snow Monsters of Zao in Yamagata Prefecture are more impressive than terrifying. They are actually Aomori fir trees that have been coated with extremely wet snow and ice carried by a cold Siberian Jetstream that also freezes them almost solid in some of the most peculiar shapes I've ever seen. And they're easy to reach from Kanto too -- tickets from Tokyo Station to Yamagata by Shinkansen cost \21,800 round-trip and the train takes 150 minutes to get there. If you're skiing and not just snapping, you might want to consider sending your equipment and luggage ahead by Japan's extremely convenient takkyubin service so as not to start the trip off with a sardine-can experience on the subway. (CNN)

Getting married in Japan
huffingtonpost.com - Feb 8, 2012
Getting Married In Japan
(A picturesque wedding garden overlooking the beach in Japan.)

Some couples are content to tie the knot at the courthouse down the road. But for those who are more adventurous, a destination wedding -- and an international marriage -- are a must. Nonresidents of Japan can marry in the country. There is no waiting period. Couples do not have to post intents to marry in Japan. In fact, they are married the same day they apply for a marriage license. Acquiring a marriage certificate through the municipal government means the couple is legally married. A wedding ceremony does not have to take place in Japan in order for the marriage to be legal. Once a couple obtains a marriage certificate at the municipal government office, they are legally married. (huffingtonpost.com)

Jetstar Japan to start domestic flights in July
AFP - Feb 9, 2012

(Jetstar Japan said it plans to offer short-haul international services to key Asian cities starting in 2013)

Budget airline Jetstar Japan, part-owned by Australia's Qantas, said Wednesday it will launch domestic flights serving five major destinations as Japan's aviation industry enters a period of change. The new service, slated to begin July 3, is the latest chapter in a bid to open up a market that has traditionally suffered from high prices because of dominance by two major carriers, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways (ANA). "The launch network of Tokyo (Narita), Osaka, Sapporo, Fukuoka and Okinawa will be serviced by an initial fleet of three new A320 aircraft," said Jetstar, a joint venture between Qantas, Japan Airlines (JAL) and Mitsubishi Corp. Japan's major airlines were behind global rivals in terms of entry into the low-cost sector, but ANA last year set up budget airline Peach Aviation with a Hong Kong investment fund. Flights are scheduled to start in March. (AFP)

Foreign visitor target set at 18 million by 2016
Japan Times - Feb 9, 2012

Japan hopes to boost the annual number of foreign visitors to 18 million by 2016 by repairing the country's damaged reputation as a safe travel destination in its next five-year tourism plan. The Cabinet is expected to endorse the plan to be implemented from fiscal 2012 possibly in March, according to a draft obtained by Kyodo on Tuesday. The number of foreign visitors to the country, which hit a record high 8.61 million in 2010, is estimated to have dropped to 6.22 million last year following the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and the ensuing nuclear crisis. The nation had previously set a target of 10 million foreign tourists annually by 2010. (Japan Times)

Japan continues reaching out to tourists
Channel NewsAsia - Feb 8, 2012

Almost a year after the March 11 disasters struck Japan and hit its tourism sector, authorities are still finding ways to draw tourists back. Koreans and Singaporeans have consistently ranked among the top 10 inbound tourists to Japan before the March 11 disasters, when a 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami, which knocked out the cooling systems of the Fukushima plant's reactors. Almost a year after the disasters hit, fears of a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant still linger in the minds of would-be tourists, making travel to Japan a less attractive option. That's a concern tourism authorities are trying to tackle. (Channel NewsAsia)

Japanese food: use your noodle
guardian.co.uk - Feb 7, 2012
Jamie Lafferty eating Wanko Soba noodles in Hiraizumi
(Eating Wanko Soba noodles in Hiraizumi.)

Few countries are as passionate and proud of their food as Japan. Each of its 47 prefectures is fiercely tribalistic about one dish or another, and noodles are particularly contentious. In Shikoku they argue about who produces the best udon (fat, chewy wheat-flour noodles), while on Kyushu ramen (slobbery Chinese-style wheat noodles) is the most popular. When it comes to soba (slippery, often cold, buckwheat noodles) almost every prefecture in northern Honshu claims to be its authoritative home. As an uninitiated gaijin (foreigner), it's impossible for me to say which is the best, but this much I know: eating soba is never more fun than in Iwate - specifically, when ordering the unfortunately named wanko soba. There are several theories about the origins of wanko soba, but one of the most likely is that a gluttonous feudal lord dropped in unexpectedly on some local peasants. Without much in the pantry, they sheepishly offered cold, plain soba noodles, fully expecting the lord to fly into a rage. But he loved them, asking for more and more and piling up small bowls as he wolfed the food down. (guardian.co.uk)

Hula girls revive quake-hit Fukushima town
Bloomberg - Feb 7, 2012

A Hawaiian theme park that propped up the economy of a rural Japanese town in Fukushima prefecture for 45 years was forced to close after the March 11 earthquake. Almost a year later, the hula girls have returned. The Spa Resort Hawaiians in Iwaki will open its indoor pools and host wedding parties and Hawaiian luaus in a new hotel from Feb. 8. Structural damage from the magnitude-9 temblor and concerns about radiation leaking from the Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant 60 kilometers (37 miles) to the north closed the resort, a semi-roofed complex six times the size of Tokyo Dome and surrounded by rice fields and hot springs. The spa, featured in the award-winning 2006 film "Hula Girls," offers a rare example of a community bouncing back from a catastrophe that left almost 20,000 dead or missing in the Tohoku region of northeast Japan, and forced about 160,000 to evacuate areas within 30 kilometers of the plant. The disaster accelerated a trend toward shrinking and aging populations in the countryside even as big cities grow. (Bloomberg)

Japan's surprising geisha revival
salon.com - Feb 6, 2012

With a few hesitant steps and the swoosh of kimono against a tatami-mat floor, it isn't long before Awagiku finds her rhythm, moving with what comes close to perfection by the end of another exhausting practice session. Global PostBut Awagiku can be forgiven the occasional loss of timing. She is one of three young women who are just months into their careers as aspiring geisha. There is a lot riding on their success: if they make the grade they will not only have fulfilled a personal ambition to enter the "flower and willow world" of Japan's traditional entertainers. They are also part of an ambitious project launched by the town of Shimoda to use public money to prevent the local geisha tradition from disappearing. Shimoda, a hot spring resort on Japan's Pacific coast, was home to about 200 geisha in the 1950s. Now just five are left in the town which, like other seaside towns along this picturesque stretch of coast, has fallen victim to the era of cheap foreign travel and declining interest in geisha life among young Japanese women. (salon.com)

Narita airport awards tokens to 800 millionth passenger
Japan Times - Feb 7, 2012

The number of passengers who have passed through Narita airport, Japan's largest international gateway, passed 800 million on Monday, the airport's operator said. The timely travelers were Fuminori Ogiso, 38, and his wife, Yuki, 44, of Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture. They were leaving on an eight-day tour of European countries, including Germany and the Czech Republic. "Many people have used this airport, so we were happy to be selected (for the congratulatory gifts)," they said. Narita International Airport Corp. presented the couple with tokens for wine produced in 1978, when the airport opened in May, and a pair of wine glasses. (Japan Times)

A taste of old Japan in a mountain ryokan
guardian.co.uk - Feb 04, 2012

The Japanese clearly value tradition, yet for one reason or another - fire, natural disaster, the second world war, an enthusiasm for progress - there aren't many towns left that truly encapsulate the way things were. Kyoto has its temples, but in between them is a thoroughly modern city. Takayama is different - an old castle town in the mountains of central Japan. You can still see the ruins of the 17th-century castle in the town's Shiroyama Park, but Takayama is much better known for its townscape of narrow lanes and low wooden buildings stained the colour of espresso. With its steep hills the town couldn't produce much rice, so it produced artisans instead. Many were carpenters, who would go on to work on the palaces and temples in Kyoto, then return to construct their signature lattice-front buildings for local merchants. (guardian.co.uk)

Ice sculptures, snow slides at Hokkaido fest
Japan Times - Feb 3, 2012

The City of Sapporo will be hosting the 63rd annual Snow Festival this month. The event is considered a "must see" for tourists and about 2 million people visited the festival last year. The main draw is a collection of sculptures created entirely out of snow and ice. This year, organizers say that 222 sculptures will be on display. The festival is held at three different sites in the city. The main site is at Odori Park, which is in the middle of downtown Sapporo. The site will feature 136 sculptures, and stages that will host a variety of performances scheduled to take place throughout the week. (Japan Times)

By TS on Feb 12, 2012
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Author:T. SATOH