Well it’s about time I wrote something new in this space… so I’ll dedicate this time to writing about an interesting way to plan for your next trip to Japan. Sure, you’ve read tour books and you’ve done your research on the Internet… but have you looked at ALL of the places yet?
One interesting way of bringing the Japanese culture to you is by viewing video presentations. Whether it’s through the Japanese Government, various Prefectures throughout the country, or by looking through how people live in and travel around Japan by searching YouTube… you’re bound to find ways that will make you crave more for a visit to the land to the rising sun.
There are various ways to go about finding such videos. We’ll start at the top, with the Japan National Tourism Organization, or JNTO for short. They just started a big campaign for visiting Japan in the year 2010. Yes, 2010 is a special year in Japan… particularly in the ancient city of Nara, which was founded way back in 710 AD… so Nara is celebrating its 1300th birthday this year. JNTO’s “Visit Japan Year 2010” campaign features a video series called “Revalue Nippon” featuring former professional football (that is, soccer) player Hidetoshi Nakata, as well as “Love Japan 50”, brief video clips from 50 residents around the country explaining why they love Japan. You can view more at http://www.vjy2010.jp.
JNTO also maintains a Youtube channel showing regular tourism videos highlighting destinations around the country: http://www.youtube.com/user/visitjapan
Now let’s go to the next level, the prefectural and city governments. Prefectures may or may not have websites dedicated to tourism, which in turn may or may not have videos, so it’s wise to use two methods of search: First, the Wikipedia article where you can find a list of all of Japan’s prefectures, and then Google to search those prefectures out. And of course you can do the same search for Japanese cities.
Here are a few that I found: Yokohama’s Convention and Visitors Bureau has flash videos featuring the famous harbor city’s main attractions. Kochi prefecture, which covers the southern part of the island of Shikoku, has two promotional movies on its site. There are many movies on the website for the Hokkaido Tourism Organization which feature how Japan’s northmost island changes with the seasons.
As I mentioned earlier, Youtube is an excellent resource for videos from people living in Japan, and from foreigners visiting Japan. Naturally I have to plug here my 21-chapter Jose in Japan video series, which details the highlights of my October 2008 trip. But there are many others videos that you can look at… one of my favorites is Cam Switzer, who has been video-blogging his life in Japan for several years and continues to post updates on a regular basis.
And of course you have to watch out for some nook-and-cranny websites like Channel J, which houses many tourism videos… slightly outdated by now, but nevertheless it’s a wonderful resource, particularly for videos featuring western Japan. You can easily spend an entire day enjoying all of the videos that branch out of their tourism video page.
Are you looking for hotel accomodations in Japan? If you search on Japanican, many of the major hotels and resorts offer brief video tours of their facilities. These videos are only in Japanese but at least you get a feeling for what to expect in individual accomodations.
The number of foreign tourists visiting Japan in 2009 dipped 18.7 percent from the previous year – the largest drop in 40 years – thanks in part to the economic downturn. This means that Japan will try harder – I hope – to bring more tourists into the country over the short term. So, armed with some knowledge about Japan – especially through Tourism videos – why not make 2010 the year you’ll pay a visit?
On a final note, here are some specials being offered for travel to/within Japan in the short term:
JTB USA continues to offer its $899 + tax deal which covers round-trip airfare on Continental Airlines from Newark-Liberty Airport, near New York City, to Tokyo, plus four nights’ hotel accomodations (double occupancy) and a half-day tour of Tokyo. You have the option of purchasing additional tours and additional nights while you are there. Round-trip airport transfers are NOT included.
JTB is also offering an Anime Otaku land package tour in March for $800 + tax which includes a 5-night stay at the Grand Prince Hotel Takanawa, and daily trips to highlights of Otaku culture. Stops will be made at such places as the Ghibli Museum, Akihabara, Nakano Broadway, and of course the topping on the cake: The Tokyo International Anime Fair. Airfare is NOT included but round-trip airport transfers ARE included.
Learn more about these and more JTB tours by visiting http://www.jtbusa.com
So if you need airfare only, Japan Airlines is offering the following economy class specials: New York to Tokyo $751 + tax, San Francisco – Tokyo $651 + tax, Los Angeles – Osaka $656 + tax, Chicago – Nagoya $656 + tax. Tickets must be bought by February 5 with return no later than 30 days after departure (45 days if traveling from New York). All Nippon Airlines (ANA) is selling Economy Class tickets to Tokyo starting at $705 + tax from Los Angeles, $805 + tax from Chicago and $855 + tax from New York. Travel must be purchased by January 31 and travel must be completed by September 30. And if you really feel giddy, Delta has a fare sale ending today from Portland, Oregon to Tokyo costing $918 round-trip, with all travel needing to be completed by March 18.