Celebrating Japan’s autumn colours
Autumn is the most colourful of Japan’s four distinct seasons. Over the centuries, the Japanese have deified, celebrated and appreciated their country’s autumn foliage, and today autumn leaf viewing remains a highly popular national pastime – as popular as cherry blossom viewing, in fact.
Starting from the northernmost island of Hokkaido, fiery crimson and golden yellow hues of maples and ginkgos, among others, gradually spread south through Japan from October to early December.
Below is a list of some popular autumn leaf viewing spots across Japan.
Northern Japan Lake Towada, Aomori Prefecture
- Best viewing: late October
- Foliage type: maple, Japanese beech, rowan
- Access: Three hours by bullet train from Tokyo then two hours 15 minutes by bus from JR Hachinohe Station.
- Located on the border of Aomori and Akita Prefectures, Lake Towada is a caldera lake in the Towada-Hachimantai National Park. It is registered as a natural monument due to its scenic beauty. Oirase Stream, the lake’s only outlet, is one of Japan’s most popular autumn leaf viewing spots. Admire the foliage from the shore, or cruise the lake on a sightseeing boat. An easy hiking trail runs to Oirase Stream.
Eastern Japan Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Tokyo
- Best viewing: late November – early December
- Foliage type: maple, ginkgo, cherry, tulip poplar, oriental sycamore
- Access: Five minute walk from Tokyo Metro’s Shinjuku Gyoen-mae Station.
- Covering 58 hectares in central Tokyo, Shinjuku Gyoen served as a garden for the Imperial Family from 1906, before being designated as a national garden and opened to the public in 1949. The garden features three distinct landscaping styles: a formal French garden, an English landscape garden and a traditional Japanese garden with teahouses.
Mt Takao, Hachioji City, Tokyo
- Best viewing: mid – late November
- Foliage type: Japanese maple
- Access: 50 minutes by train from Shinjuku (central Tokyo)
- Festival: Mt Takao Maple Festival is held annually November 1-30.
- Mt Takao is one of Tokyo’s most popular autumn foliage viewing spots. It is considered a sacred mountain and hasbeen a centre of mountain worship for more than 1200 years. The best views are from the cable car which runs to Takaosan Station, and from the summit which is a 40 minute hike from the station.
Western Japan Arashiyama, Kyoto
- Best viewing: mid – late November
- Foliage type: wild cherry, maple
- Access: Ten minute walk from JR Saga-Arashiyama Station
- Festival: Arashiyama Maple Festival will be held on November 8.
- In the 8th century Japan’s aristocrats often came to Arashiyama to admire the autumn foliage from the river which runs alongside the mountain. The romantic “Moon Crossing Bridge” (Togetsukyo) is today famous for its view of the leaves on the slopes of Mt Arashi. During the leaf viewing season, the garden at nearby Hogon Temple is illuminated at night.
Momijidani Park, Miyajima, Hiroshima Prefecture
- Best viewing: mid-November
- Foliage type: Japanese maple
- Access: Ten minute ferry ride from Miyajimaguchi Pier to Sanbashi Pier, then 20 minute walk to the park.
- Festival: Daisho Temple Maple Festival will be held November 21-29.
- Said to be the best autumn leaf viewing spot on the island, Momijidani Park is located in primeval forest at the foot of Miyajima’s Mt. Mi, in the backyard of Itsukushima Shrine – one of Japan’s three most scenic spots. The park has 1000 maple trees of five different varieties and is home to wild deer.
Autumn foliage guide www.japan-guide.com/e/e2014.html
JNTO launches Japan tour package webpage
Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) today launched a Japan Special Packages webpage on their Sydney website to introduce travel packages to Japan offered by Australian based travel companies.
The new page currently has listings for a variety of Japan travel packages, including ski tours, from five travel companies including JTB Oceania International, SACHI Tours, Skimax, Snowave, and Travelplan.
JNTO is looking to increase the number of travel companies as the page becomes more established.
The Japan Special Packages page which includes details of the various packages on offer, as well as a link to each travel company’s website, is designed to give added support and exposure to travel companies offering Japan packages, as well as to give people considering travel to Japan information about the range of tour packages available from Australia.
JNTO Sydney office Executive Director, Yukio Yamashita says the new page will help meet demand for specific information about Japan tour packages.
“Until now we’ve only provided general information about tour packages,” Yamashita said.
“However there was so much demand for information about specific tour packages that we decided to create the Japan Special Packages page.”
“The tours currently on the new page are for departures from September onwards and have been carefully selected by the travel companies offering them.”
“People considering travel to Japan can jump online and access the latest information on available tours. The link to each travel company also gives people the opportunity to contact the travel company directly for a tailor-made tour or basic arrangements such as flights and accommodation if they wish to travel independently.”
Japan Airlines’ 40th anniversary special fare
Japan Airlines (JAL) has released a special 40th Anniversary fare to commemorate the 40th anniversary of its inauguration of service between Tokyo and Sydney.
- JAL is offering return economy class flights from Sydney to Tokyo for $777.00 and from Brisbane for $767.00, plus airport taxes.
From July 1, 2009 the fuel surcharge levied on tickets will be withdrawn, bringing the applicable additional taxes down to around $130.
The fare is on sale until July 31, 2009 and available for departures until September 30, 2009.
In addition to commemorating the inauguration of the Tokyo – Sydney service on September 30, 1969, the special fare celebrates the introduction of new Boeing 777 aircraft on the Sydney flights and Boeing 767 aircraft on the Brisbane flights, hence the $777 and $767 pricing.
Tourism Minister declares travel to Japan is safe
In response to the influenza A (H1N1) pandemic, the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan, Kazuyoshi Kaneko, this morning declared that travel to Japan is safe.
Following is the Declaration of Safe Travel to Japan released by Minister Kaneko.
“The Government of Japan has made the maximum effort to minimise the health impact to the Japanese citizens and people travelling in and out of Japan and assure the safety of everyone within the country ever since the global outbreak of the H1N1 virus. Consequently, most of the infected patients have recovered.”
“Therefore, this is to inform you that there is no health concern regarding trips to Japan, and that tourism in Japan is as safe and enjoyable. One needs only to take general preventive caution for ordinary influenza.”
“Summer travel season is just around the corner, and we hope as many people as possible enjoy this year’s vacation travel to Japan as usual.”
JR East offers special rail pass deal for international visitors
East Japan Railway Company (JR East) has announced it will once again be selling its JR East Pass Special – a flexible three day rail pass exclusively for international tourists in Japan – for a limited time from September 1, 2009.
The JR East Pass Special allows unlimited ordinary class rail travel on the JR East network which covers the area from the Izu Peninsula south of Tokyo to the northern tip of Honshu, on any three days within a one month period between September 1 and December 31, 2009.
At only 10,000 yen ($125.49*) for adults and 5000 yen ($62.75*) for children aged six to eleven, JR East Pass Special offers an even greater discount on travel when compared with JR East’s standard discount tickets like the Flexible 4 Days and 5 Consecutive Days passes that cost 20,000 yen ($250.98*).
Like all JR East passes, the JR East Pass Special covers travel on all JR East lines and trains, including its five shinkansen (bullet train) lines, limited express services, including the Narita Express airport service, express and local trains.
The special pass also covers travel on JR East’s Limited Express Hakutaka, Odoriko and Super-View Odoriko trains as well as the Nikko, Spacia Nikko, Kinugawa and Spacia Kinugawa trains which operate on non-JR lines.
The JR East region includes some of Japan’s best hot spring and seaside areas with the limited express trains Super-view Odoriko and Odoriko connecting Tokyo with the famous seaside hot springs resorts of the Izu Peninsula in about three hours.
The JR East Pass Special promotion coincides with JR’s Destination Niigata Campaign, a tourism promotion focusing on the Sea of Japan coast prefecture of Niigata, from October through December 2009. Niigata City, the prefecture’s capital, can be accessed from Tokyo by the Niigata shinkansen in as little as one hour and thirty seven minutes.
Niigata Prefecture is well known for its beautiful coastal and mountainous scenery, hot springs, and quality sake and Koshihikari rice.
The JR East Pass Special is a good opportunity for visitors travelling to Japan in autumn and early winter to enjoy the autumn foliage and other sightseeing attractions offered by destinations in the JR East region.
* Australian dollar price based on exchange rate of AUD1 = 79.69 yen.
- Exchange vouchers for the JR East Pass Special will be available for purchase at the same locations as the standard JR East Pass.
- The JR East Pass Special will be available for purchase in Japan from September 1 through December 1, 2009 and exchange orders for the Pass available overseas from September 1 through November 20, 2009.
- The JR East Pass Special exchange voucher is also available for purchase online.
- There is no green car (first class) version of the pass.
- Exchange orders must be exchanged for the rail pass by December 1, 2009.
- No youth rate is available. Child rate is for children aged six to eleven years. Children 12 years and above travel on adult rate. Children under six travel free, except when a reserved seat is used by a child, then the child must travel on the child –rate pass.
JR East Pass www.jreast.co.jp/e/eastpass/
Updated forecast for Hokkaido’s cherry blossoms
The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has released an updated forecast for the cherry blossom season in Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido.
The revised forecast announced that there is a strong possibility of average or lower than average temperatures in the days ahead, meaning that the estimated flowering dates have been pushed back one to two days in many areas across the island.
Despite the forecasted average to low temperatures, the average and higher than average temperatures in the island’s various regions at the end of March mean that the cherry trees will still flower earlier than usual by between one and six days, depending on the region.
Cherry trees are now forecast to begin flowering in Hakodate on April 27, Sapporo on May 2, Asahikawa (central region) on May 6, Abashiri (north east region) on May 11, and Wakkanai (northern region) on May 15.
Hakodate’s most famous cherry blossom spot is the star shaped Goryokaku Park, the site of Japan’s first and largest western style fortress ruins. The park has about 1600 different types of cherry trees with the Somei Yoshino (Yoshino Cherry) the main variety surrounding the park’s moat.
Cherry blossoms in both Goryokaku Park and Hakodate Park will be illuminated by 500 Japanese paper lanterns every evening until May 10. The illuminations will be held from 7:00pm until 9:00pm on weekdays and from 7:00pm until 10:00pm on weekends and national holidays (April 29, May 4-6).
In Sapporo the most popular cherry blossom viewing spot is Maruyama Park, home to 1500 cherry trees and located about ten minutes by taxi from the city centre.
Asahikawa’s Asahiyama Park, located next to the city’s popular Asahiyama Zoo, is a famous local cherry blossom spot and is the only place in the city where the blossoms can be viewed at night under the illumination of spotlights.
Full bloom (no less than 80 percent of the blossoms are open) and optimum viewing time occurs approximately one week after the estimated blooming date.
The JMA advises that actual blooming dates may vary from the estimated dates by approximately 2-3 days on average.
Rain, wind and temperatures can have a major effect on the cherry blossom viewing season, such as delaying or shortening it considerably.
John Lennon Museum showcases legend’s world of love
The John Lennon Museum in Saitama City near Tokyo will be holding its 2009 special exhibition, The World of LOVE John and Yoko Created, from April 29 through December 28, 2009, coinciding with the 40th year since John and Yoko’s marriage and their famous “bed-in”.
Incorporating three themes – Love Songs, Love Arts, Love Family Art – the special exhibition will include original handwritten lyrics of several love songs penned by John Lennon (many of which will be on display for the first time in Japan), an interactive exhibit of John and Yoko’s “bed-in” which attracted worldwide attention, and pictures of places and things associated with John’s family.
Love was a very important keyword in John Lennon’s life, from his boyhood when he was starving for love, to the ardent love that came from meeting Yoko, and the peaceful love that was nurtured in the course of their family life. John’s world of love will be captured in the special exhibition.
During the period of the special exhibition, the museum is offering a special reduced admission to couples. Adult couples and high school and university student couples will be given a 200 yen ($2.80) discount, paying 1300 yen ($18.20) and 800 yen ($11.20) per person, respectively, for admission. Elementary and junior high school student couples will be given a 100 yen discount, paying 400 yen ($5.60) per person.
Additionally, during Japan’s upcoming Golden Week holiday period (April 29 – May 6), elementary and junior high school students will receive free admission to the museum.
About The World of LOVE John and Yoko Created
John rushed through his life craving affection and appealing for love. The various forms of love that he sang about will be exhibited and explained with his original handwritten lyrics.
- Original Handwritten lyrics to I’ll Be Back (first exhibition in Japan)
- Original Handwritten lyrics to Oh My Love (first exhibition in Japan)
- Original Handwritten lyrics to Instant Karma (first exhibition in Japan)
- LOVE SONGS Gold Disc, which carries John’s illustration and signature on the back
The World of John and Yoko’s Love & Arts
John and Yoko’s Love & Art activities and episodes beginning from their meeting at Indica Gallery to the time of moving to New York will be introduced via various exhibits.
- Interactive exhibit of John and Yoko’s Bed-In
- Indica Gallery/ picture and map
- John’s first private exhibition You Are Here
- Art activities in New York, etc.
- Introducing associated places and things with picture panels and descriptions.
- Mona Yoko
- Footsteps in Rizanbo, Karuizawa/ pictures
The John Lennon Museum is located on the fourth and fifth floors of Saitama Super Arena in Saitama Shintoshin (Saitama New Urban Centre).
- Access: A 35 – 45 minute train ride from Tokyo to Saitama Shintoshin, then three minutes
- walk from the station
- Hours: 11:00 am – 6:00 pm (last admission: 5:30 pm)
- Admission: Adults: 1500 yen / High school and university students: 1000 yen /
- Elementary and junior high school students: 500 yen
- Closed: Tuesday except May 5, year-end and New Year holidays
- Web: www.taisei.co.jp/museum
Airport Limousine and Tokyo Metro new discount ticket
Travel to and from Tokyo’s Narita Airport and around downtown Tokyo has become more economical thanks to a new addition to the line-up of value-added Limousine & Metro Pass tickets.
Tokyo’s Airport Transport Service Co., Ltd in conjunction with Tokyo Metro Co., Ltd has released the 2 Ways Limousine & 2 Days Metro Pass ticket which includes two one way (i.e. a return set) tickets for travel on the Airport Limousine bus between Narita Airport and downtown Tokyo, and a Tokyo Metro 2-day Open Ticket valid for unlimited travel on Tokyo Metro’s nine lines for two consecutive days.
The 2 Ways Limousine & 2 Days Metro Pass ticket costs only 6000 yen ($83.30) and is available for purchase only at the Airport Limousine bus ticket counters at Narita Airport.
With a return journey on the Airport Limousine bus between Narita Airport and downtown Tokyo costing 6000 yen and two 1-Day Open Tickets costing 1420 yen ($19.70) when purchased separately, the 2 Ways Limousine & 2 Days Metro Pass ticket can save travellers 1420 yen.
The new ticket covers the Airport Limousine bus routes between Narita Airport and major hotels and stations in downtown Tokyo, T-CAT (Tokyo City Air Terminal), Kinshicho, Toyocho, Shinkiba, and the Rinkai Fukutoshin area.
It is valid for six months after purchase and is available only as an adult fare.
The 2 Ways Limousine & 2 Days Metro Pass joins the Limousine & Metro Pass as a convenient value added ticket offered jointly by Airport Transport Service Co., Ltd and Tokyo Metro Co., Ltd.
The Limousine & Metro Pass includes a one way Airport Limousine bus ticket and one Tokyo Metro 1-day Open Ticket for 3000 yen ($41.65) and 3100 yen ($43), depending on the Tokyo destination. It is available in both adult and child fares.
Tokyo Metro www.tokyometro.jp/global/en
Airport Transport Service www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/
*$1=72 yen at 14/4/2009
Japan’s spring hotel specials
JAPANiCAN.com, a leading Japan travel website, has released new discounted rates for popular hotels in selected cities across Japan, including Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima, for stays during the busy northern spring travel season.
Running from now until the end of June, the Spring Hotel Special offers travellers up to 50 percent off normal hotel rates at 485 properties from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south. Nightly rates start from 2940 yen ($41.20*) per person.
Among the participating hotels – 63 of which are located in Tokyo – are the Keio Plaza Hotel, Shinjuku Prince Hotel, Hotel Monterey Ginza, Kyoto Hotel Okura, Hotel Nikko Osaka, Righa Royal Hotel Osaka and Hotel Granvia Hiroshima.
Rooms under the promotion are assigned on arrival.
The full list of participating hotels and rates can be found at www.japanican.com/spring_special/
*Room rate conversion based on exchange rate at 15/4/2009 ($1=71.35 yen).
Japan Tourism to launch Visit Japan Year 2010 Campaign
The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) will launch a multi-faceted worldwide strategic marketing campaign for 2009-2010 in a bid to boost inbound visitor numbers and achieve the Japanese government’s Visit Japan Campaign target of attracting ten million international visitors per year to Japan by 2010.
The Visit Japan Year (VJY) 2010 Campaign which is scheduled to be launched in the Australian market on November 25, 2009 and run through March 29, 2010, will focus on promoting Japan’s 1) affordability, 2) experiential tourism, 3) ski fields and outdoor adventure activities, 4) second golden route, and 5) cuisine and sake.
“Yokoso! ” means welcome
Strategies for the Australian market include a combination of online marketing efforts, TV and print media commercials, and the establishment of a dedicated campaign website which will host a competition offering prizes such as air tickets and accommodations in Japan.
The campaign competition will be held over two time periods; the first from November 25, 2009 through January 5, 2010, and the second from February 1 through February 28, 2010. The winners will be chosen in mid to late January and mid to late March, respectively.
Like other countries, Japan has suffered a decline in visitor numbers due to the global financial crisis.
“The major factors that have impacted on visitor arrivals to Japan are the global economic downturn, H1N1 influenza and high airline fuel surcharges,” said JNTO Sydney Executive Director, Yukio Yamashita. “The depreciation of the Australian dollar against the yen had a huge impact on inbound visitor numbers. In particular, we experienced a sharp decline in business travellers.”
However, with the gradual appreciation of the Australian dollar against the yen, Japan has started on the road to recovery.
”At the lowest point of the global financial crisis, the Australian dollar fell to as low as 56 yen, but it has made a strong comeback and is now around 83 yen. This is great news for travellers,” Yamashita said.
With the additional marketing push of the Visit Japan Year 2010 Campaign, the JNTO Sydney office is projecting a considerable increase in Australian visitors to Japan next year.
“I am confident the Visit Japan Year 2010 Campaign will attract more visitors to Japan. Japan has a diverse range of attractions. It has so much to offer the Australian traveller.”
“At JNTO we want to get more information than ever before about Japan out to the Australian market using a range of marketing strategies.”
“Through the campaign, Australians will have increased access to Japan travel information, particularly via the dedicated campaign website. I would like to invite people to visit the JNTO Sydney website as the first stop for Japan travel information and as a stepping stone to the campaign site which is scheduled to go live on November 25.”