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1,000-year-old festival opens in Fukushima, defying tragedy

American Airlines to join Delta in cutting flights to Tokyo
Kyodo - Jul 23, 2011

American Airlines Inc. will suspend its non-stop service from New York to Tokyo's Haneda airport in early September because of weak demand, impacted by the March earthquake in Japan, and high fuel costs, following a decision by another major U.S. carrier Delta Airlines Inc. to halt a flight to Haneda, according to company officials. American just reopened the direct service between Haneda and John F. Kennedy Airport on July 3, after suspending it in the wake of the March disaster. American expects to resume the service in mid-2012, the officials said. Delta has decided to suspend its service between its Detroit hub and Haneda from late August through April 2012. (Kyodo)
1,000-year-old festival opens in Fukushima, defying tragedy
Kyodo - Jul 23, 2011

An annual festival that traces its roots to 10th-century feudal Japan opened Saturday in Fukushima Prefecture, featuring dozens of horsemen clad in full samurai armor and prayers for those who perished in the March 11 quake and tsunami disaster. The holding of the event was once threatened by the massive tragedy brought on by the disaster and by the ongoing crisis at a nearby nuclear plant, but the organizing committee of the Soma Nomaoi (Soma Wild Horse Chase), headed by Minamisoma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai, decided to carry on the ancient tradition albeit on a smaller scale this year. It will run from Saturday through Monday as it has been held every year. (Kyodo)

Doraemon's 'secret tools' can be experienced in Osaka exhibition
Kyodo - Jul 22, 2011

An exhibition in Osaka, western Japan, is giving visitors a chance to see real-life renderings of inventions and gadgets featured in the popular comic and animated series "Doraemon." In the long-running series, the titular cat-shaped robot from the 22nd century uses a variety of devices dubbed "secret tools" to help Nobita, a schoolboy in present-day Tokyo. Among the displays in the event running through Aug. 31 at the Shin Umeda City district near JR Osaka Station is a single-seat helicopter, said to be one of the smallest in the world, inspired by Doraemon's head-mounted "Takecopter" flying kit, albeit not quite as small. (Kyodo)

ANA, AirAsia to set up budget carrier joint venture in Japan
Kyodo - Jul 21, 2011

All Nippon Airways Co. and AirAsia Bhd. of Malaysia have agreed to establish a budget airline joint venture in Japan and begin domestic and international flights from Narita airport near Tokyo as early as next year, industry sources said Thursday. The Japanese airline known as ANA and AirAsia, one of Asia's largest budget carriers, will announce their agreement later Thursday, the sources said. (Kyodo)

Hopeful aquarium reopens after quake
Yomiuri - Jul 16, 2011

Mai Hibino, an animal keeper at an aquarium in Fukushima, used a hose to pour water over Go, an 11-year-old male walrus. "You've been very, very patient," Hibino said softly. Go galumphed his 720-kilogram body toward Hibino to snuggle up to her, then let out a roar. A long, hard journey was nearly over for both Hibino and Go when this scene took place July 9. After being closed for four months due to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the Fukushima Marine Science Museum aquarium in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, reopened Friday, thanks to the support of aquariums across the country. Most of the about 200,000 marine creatures previously kept at the aquarium died due to blackouts following the disaster, but about 200 fish and sea mammals, including walruses and harbor seals, are now back after being moved to "evacuation shelters" at other aquariums. (Yomiuri)

Oze tourism hit by N-crisis / Cancellations rife, visitor numbers plummet due to radiation fears
Yomiuri - Jul 8, 2011

Oze National Park is normally awash with people this time of year but fears of radiation from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant--about 150 kilometers away--have sent tourism numbers plunging in the aftermath of the crisis triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake. With a total area of about 37,200 hectares, the national park straddles Fukushima and three other prefectures--Gunma, Tochigi and Niigata. About 90 percent of the park falls in Fukushima and Gunma prefectures and it has been designated as being of great significance by the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental treaty that covers wetlands of international importance. Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the impaired nuclear plant, owns 70 percent of the park's central wetlands. (Yomiuri)

Himeji Castle and the richness of Kansai
moderntokyotimes.com - Jun 28, 2011

The Kansai region is the heart of Japan because you have so many places which are rich in history and the diversity of the region is amazing. Kobe is a lovely city because the city is well designed and the surrounding area is very beautiful. The city of Osaka is the economic powerhouse in Kansai and this city is vibrant and ultra-modern and ranks easily within the top ten commercial cities in the world (ranked 7th). Also, Awaji Island is very close and this island adds to the stunning diversity of Kansai and is a pleasant holiday destination. Kyoto and Nara are famous because of being former capitals in Japan and the essence of Buddhism remains strong within stunning architecture. The city of Nara is the cradle of high culture in Japan. Meanwhile Himeji and Wakayama are blessed with magnificent castles and Himeji castle dominates this city and in Wakayama you have so many places to visit and Koyasan and Kumano are stunning. (moderntokyotimes.com)

Tohoku summer festival program still on track
Yomiuri - Jun 30, 2011

Despite struggling with recovery and reconstruction efforts following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, the Tohoku region will go ahead with its summer festival program this year. Some of the festivals will be downscaled due to the impact of the March 11 disaster, organizers said, but added they want to attract as many tourists as possible to the region also affected by the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Tohoku's three big summer festivals--the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri, Akita Kanto Matsuri and Sendai Tanabata Matsuri--will go ahead as per usual years. (Yomiuri)

Retired warplanes to be displayed at Ibaraki airport to attract visitors
Kyodo - Jun 29, 2011

Two retired Air Self-Defense Force aircraft were moved Wednesday to Ibaraki Airport, northeast of Tokyo, from the adjacent Hyakuri Air Base to be put on public display for an exhibition aimed at attracting visitors to the airport. It will be the first time that an RF-4 surveillance aircraft is put on public display outside the ASDF base, together with an F-4 fighter, according to air base officials. The exhibition begins July 23. (Kyodo)

Boosting Japan's flagging tourism
Japan Times - Jun 29, 2011

In 2010, a record number 8,612,000 tourists from abroad visited Japan - up 26.8 percent from 2009 - and it was hoped that more than 10 million tourists would visit this year. But the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters dashed this hope. The news is not all bad, however. China recently lifted restrictions on visits to Japan with the exception of Fukushima Prefecture. Chinese tourists have begun once again to visit Kyushu, Kansai and even Tokyo. Even so, it is unlikely that there will be a surge of foreign tourists in coming months. In March, 352,800 visitors from abroad entered Japan - just half the corresponding number the previous year. (Japan Times)

Japan's travel agencies offer long summer vacations
Wall Street Journal - Jun 27, 2011

Japan's campaign to save energy is finally letting overworked salarymen and women to take advantage of summer in a way that has long eluded them: a long vacation. Spurred by the atypical vacation schedule prompted by the rearranged work hours this summer, major travel agencies in Japan are offering a burst of long vacation packages. Mainstream travel agency JTB group is offering a series of domestic and international long-term travel packages that are between 14 and 30 days long. But their campaign was inspired by an 11-year-old survey report by the Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare on what people say they do when they get time off. Based on this survey, the ministry proposes a two-week "L Rest," that's 'L' as in long enough to allow people to think about their life-another 'L'-away from work. (Wall Street Journal)

Travel writer gets intimate with Japan
Japan Times - Jun 28, 2011

Freelance travel writer Beth Reiber knows Tokyo inside out - maybe much more than most Tokyoites. Reiber, who lives in Lawrence, Kansas, has for more than 20 years updated the Japan and Tokyo versions of the Frommer's guidebooks - one of the best-selling series of guide books published in the United States. "I've been to about 50 cities and towns in Japan. I know Japan better than my own country," she said. (Japan Times)

By TS on Jul 29, 2011
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Author:T. SATOH