Posts Tagged ‘tourism’

New Japanese tourists: have social network, will travel

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Users post original ideas for adventurous holidays on Trippeace to find new traveling companions

Fancy learning how to ride an elephant in Laos? How about shouting your New Year’s dreams from the top of Ayer’s Rock in Australia? Trippeace, a “social travel service,” is helping a new generation of Japanese travelers make their wildest vacation dreams a reality. Since its launch in August last year, the site has picked up over 20,000 members, over a thousand of whom have taken part in group vacations.

The project is the brainchild of Ian Ishida, a 22-year-old university student, and the idea is to enable young Japanese to experience a different kind of vacation. Members post ideas for a holiday and via Facebook, Twitter or Google+, they can discuss the details with other interested parties. Once a concrete travel plan has been made, Trippeace acts as a travel agent, making all the travel arrangements for participants. With a 10 percent commission on these arrangements, according to an article in Nikkei Trendy, Trippeace had made ¥200,000,000 by June this year.

It’s a remarkable achievement, seeing as this generation of young Japanese is much less adventurous when it comes to traveling abroad than the previous generation. Immigration statistics compiled by the Ministry of Justice show that overseas travel by young Japanese has fallen significantly from a peak in the mid-’90s.

Ishida isn’t the only one to come up with this concept. A similar service called Grvel was launched in December 2011. The name is pronounced “guruvelu,” a mash-up of “group travel.” But although Grvel made a selling point of offering group discounts to users who got together for a proposed trip, the lack of recent activity on the site seems to suggest that the scheme isn’t taking off in the same way as Trippeace. For those who want to cut out the middleman and book trips themselves, Taviko, a service that has been running since 2011, focuses on helping users find fellow travelers for whatever destination they have in mind via Facebook and Twitter. But again, it hasn’t seen anything like the level of traffic as Trippeace.

Canny marketing seems to have contributed a great deal to Trippeace’s success and the website is currently offering to pay the travel expenses of the first group to recruit 100 participants for a trip idea. Ishida is hoping this helps get 100,000 people registered for the service by October this year, with a view to possibly taking the service global in the future.

Take the kids back in time this summer

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Lunch at Ubusuna House, part of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale. (Rebecca Milner photo)

Last week, NHK ran a story on a “Showa Lifestyle” exhibition at a shopping center in Mito, a city two hours northeast of Tokyo. The exhibit wasn’t aimed at baby-boomers — Showa refers to the historical period from 1926-1989 — but rather their children and grandchildren.

The Mito City Museum, which put on the event, set up a mock living room circa the 1960s. Here kids could experience sitting at a low table on floor cushions, turning the dials on a black-and-white TV, many of them likely for the first time. They could also see what it was like to use an old rotary phone, a foot-pedal sewing machine and even a few pairs of take-uma, bamboo stilts, a popular amusement from an era of few luxuries.

For kids weaned on mobile phones, there may be no greater novelty than the past. They can also get an inkling of how different their world is from that of previous generations.

While the Mito event has already ended, there are plenty of other places where the family can get a taste of Showa life. At this summer’s Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, in rural Niigata prefecture, visitors can eat and sleep inside country homes and schoolhouses dating from the early to mid-20th century.

Many such structures outside of cities around Japan have lost their original usefulness on account of the country’s aging population and lack of attractive job opportunities there for young people. Countless such sites have been lost forever; however, there is a growing trend to label them heritage buildings and turn them into museums or hands-on learning centers.

Continue reading about the Showa nostalgia kick →

Today’s J-blip: Japanese are traveling where?

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Angkor Wat, the No. 1 travel destination for Japanese, according to a recent poll

Trip Advisor polled its Japanese users on their favorite overseas holiday destinations — and the results are not what you might expect. Sure, perennial favorites like Lanikai Beach, Hawaii (#3) and Florida’s Walt Disney World (#4) make the top five, but they rank below more exotic locals like Angkor Wat (#1) and Machu Picchu (#2). And while western Europe gets plenty of nods, so does eastern Europe. Destinations in Asia and the Middle East, along with some oddly specific locales — like Los Angeles’ Griffith Observatory and Barcelona’s Camp Nou Stadium — all make the top 50.

Are Japanese tourists getting more adventurous? Taking advantage of the strong yen? Are the survey results naturally skewed? What do you think?

Photo by cornstaruk/Flickr

Rickshaws roll back into style

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Handsome “onisan” are part of the attraction of a jinrikisha ride for the ladies

Slightly cheesy and very pricey, a ride in a jinrikisha (hand-pulled rickshaw) around Asakusa is Tokyo’s equivalent of a spin around New York’s Central Park in a horse-drawn carriage. And thanks to the opening nearby of Skytree Tower, this anachronism is still fighting fit in the 21st century as jinrikisha companies cash in on the hordes of tourists who flock to Asakusa to check out Tokyo’s newest landmark.

Skytree Tower tours don’t come cheap. A 70-minute Skytree Tower Course with Kurumaya Asakusa, which takes you from Kaminarimon in Asakusa through the streets of downtown Tokyo, costs ¥12,690 for two. That price rises to ¥18,000 if you opt to travel in a rickshaw that has been custom-made to resemble the tower itself. The newly unveiled Tokyo Skytree Model lights up at night and comes complete with a tiny Skytree Tower at the back.

The surrounding scenery is not the only attraction of a jinrikisha ride. Many women also enjoy checking out the hunks whose job it is to cart customers around town. On April 4, a show on Nippon Television Network introduced the ikemen  jinrikisha oniisan (good-looking jinrikisha guys) who are admired by female visitors to Asakusa for their fit bodies. These companies obviously know that their stables of young men are all part of the attraction; the websites of Ebisuya Asakusa and Jidaiya jinrikisha companies both have profiles of these charismatic rikshaw pullers, called shafu, for potential customers to check out.

Back in the Showa Era, the jinrikisha was not the only form of transport available for sightseeing around Asakusa. Elegant pedicabs, called rintaku, as a short form for “wheel taxi,” were also pedaled along the streets. Those interested in the history of transport in Tokyo can check out a collection of latter-day carriages in the lobby of the Asakusa Central Hotel. The vehicles are kept in working order and are available for hire for special occasions. The site says that in 1947 a ride was ¥100 per hour. A wedding rental now can cost 100 times that, at ¥30,000 for three hours.

Just can’t get enough? We suspect Kurumaya’s sales target is jinrikisha companies, but we don’t know if there’s anything stopping them from selling their two-wheelers to the general public. The Skytree model three-seater is a trifle at ¥2 million. And no, that does not include a handsome driver.

Photo: Jon Rawlinson, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Pulsations (06.23.12)

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

  • How to Spend 3 Nights in Tokyo All Included on ¥10,000 ($US125) (from Tokyo Cheapo): While some tourists in Japan spend at least ¥10,000 a night for a hotel alone, others prefer to spend the same amount for their entire stay in Japan. Impossible? Well, these guys claim they have a plan for spending three days in Tokyo for just ¥10,000, everything included!
  • 1929 Japanese animation “Kobu tori” (from Japan Sugoi): Here is your chance to see the 1929 Japanese anime “Kobutori” by Chozo Aoji and Yasuji Murata. It is a 10-minute piece featuring two old men with large lumps, the “kobu” in the title, on their faces. They encounter similar situations, but one has a good temper while the other has an evil one.
  • Pots made from radioactive soil collected from within the Fukushima exclusion zone (from Spoon & Tamago): That’s the fascinating but radioactive idea Hilda Hellström had for her senior thesis show at the U.K.’s Royal College of Art. The project indeed is historical as the artifacts will always remind us of the most serious nuclear disaster in human history.
  • Lesbian invisibility in Japan (from Japan culture blog): Lesbianism is not as widely discussed as male homosexuality in Japan, where women are expected to be primarily good wives and wise mothers. Ramona Naicker explains how three decades ago, plenty of lesbian activist groups emerged seeking change but were forced to shut down due to lack of support.
  • Why Do Japanese People Wear Surgical Masks? (from Tofugu): I have been asked several times why so many Japanese people wear masks in public spaces. I did not know how to answer this question until I stumbled upon this post on Tofogu. Find out if you should be wearing one, too.

A former Australian rugby captain puts his unique skills to use on a rush-hour Tokyo train.

Japan puts out a big welcome mat for wealthy Chinese tourists

Friday, December 9th, 2011

This month sees the launch of Japan Premium, a brand new free magazine targeting wealthy Chinese visitors. A collaborative project between KNT! travel agency and Kadokawa magazines, the publication is an attempt to tap into this desirable demographic by featuring stories on shopping and travel within Japan.

Japan Premium targets wealthy Chinese tourists

Glitzy and up-market, the first issue includes a feature on Tokyo Disneyland and shopping in Ginza. Editorial content and advertising is compiled in Japan, but the magazine itself is translated, printed and distributed in China. The first magazine of its kind, it’s yet another sign that Japanese businesses are beginning to actively target China’s new super rich citizens.

Recent years have seen upscale department stores throughout Tokyo begin to broadcast announcements in Chinese as well as in English and Japanese, and other service industries are now getting wise to the power of the yuan too. Take Mazda Car Rental, for instance, which announced this month that it’d just given its website a facelift which includes multilingual support for Chinese customers. The company stated that it took this move in the recognition of the increasing numbers of Chinese tourists.

According to Bloomberg, the numbers of foreign tourists in general dropped by 63 percent after the quake, but since then the numbers of Chinese visiting Japan have bounced back and even exceeded pre quake levels. Figures recorded by Japan National Tourism Organization show that compared to October last year, visitors from Hong Kong were up by 17 percent and those from Taiwan by 2.6 percent.

Though Western tourists are still hesitant to visit Japan due to a combination of fears about radiation and the high value off the yen, Chinese visitors have proved themselves resilient to these concerns. Bloomberg’s article suggests that visitors to Japan from China will continue to increase as the Chinese economy grows ever more powerful. In the face of these developments we expect to see a lot more Japanese companies who cater to wealthy clientele take measures to attract this rapidly growing demographic.

Campaigns urge foreigners to pleeease visit Japan

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Japan’s tourist industry is in dire straits. In May, figures collected by JNTO (Japan National Tourism Association) showed that the number of foreign tourists visiting the country had dropped by 50.4 percent compared to last year. Though that’s a slight improvement on April, during which numbers were down by a massive 62.5 percent, it’s not as if foreigners are flocking back to Japan in droves. Fears of seismic activity, tsunami and, of course, radiation, are all keeping the numbers of overseas visitors down. So what’s it going to take to lure visitors back to the land of the rising sun? Here are few of the current “pleeease visit Japan” campaigns.

To increase the numbers of bums on airplane seats between Japan and Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific launched their “We Love Japan” campaign last month. Giving away 500 flights between Hong Kong and Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka and Sapporo, the company hoped to boost numbers of tourists as well as restore the confidence of Hong Kong citizens in Japan.

Another way of getting people back into the country is to demonstrate how safe it is, and that’s the modus operandi of the “Travel Volunteer in Japan” campaign. Created by Magellan Resorts travel agency, the competition offers the chance for one lucky winner to travel the length and breadth of the country for a total of 100 days. Reporting back on the experience to the world, the traveler will hopefully show just how safe Japan now is for tourists. Open to all non-residents, the closing date is July 31.

Though these campaigns by private companies really seem to be on the right track, Japan’s own tourism agency appears to be at a bit of a loss when it comes to bringing the tourists back. A campaign video titled “Message From Japan” (see above), which was shown in over 133 countries at airports, embassies and even in New York’s Times Square, features boy band Arashi extolling the joys of their native country. Japan Probe quite rightly pointed out that Arashi, while well-known in Asia, are completely unknown in other parts of the world. We agree that choosing native artists with an international profile, or at reasonable handle on English, might be a better approach. Luckily, last month Lady Gaga flew into Japan to lend her support, which probably did a lot more good than this this costly Arashi promo.

What do you think? Are you ready to visit Japan?

Japan, you look like you could use a long vacation

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

KNT is offering holidays of up to 22 days

The buzzword for this summer among  travel agents is ロングバケーション (long vacation). KNT, ANA airlines and JTB have all recently launched campaigns to encourage Japanese to take longer holidays than normal. Facing a long hot summer of possible power shortages, it’s likely that many customers might take the bait.

While JTB is offering long vacation package holidays for up to 15 days, KNT travel has trumped them with a selection of holidays of up to 22 days. All locations offered are overseas, allowing stressed-out Japanese to put a bit of distance between themselves and the ailing Fukushima nuclear reactor.

If the concept of long holidays does appeal to Japanese, it remains to be seen which locations will be popular. Both relaxing beach vacations in locations like Hawaii, Bali and Guam are being offered alongside trips to cooler climates. To appeal to those desperate to escape the heat, KNT has also launched a range of クールバカンス (cool vacations) and locations include Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Japanese summertime is wintertime for southern hemisphere climates, so it’s even possible to go snowboarding in New Zealand.

For those who want to stay in Japan, ANA is offering packages holidays to Hokkaido, Kyushu and Okinawa for up to 14 days from June 1. Hokkaido’s summers are nice and cool whereas Kyushu and Okinawa offer many beautiful locations suited to beach bums. Despite the heat down south, power saving strictures will not apply, so you won’t be made to feel guilty for turning on the aircon in your hotel room.

Typically, it’s rather hard for Japanese workers to get their bosses to agree to long vacations. This season, however, might be different, according to Kyodo News, Toshiba has just announced that it is introducing two-three week summer holidays for employees so it can cut production and meet government power saving goals. Rather than facing opposition from their boss, employees, at least those working in industries that are looking to meet power saving targets, might be actively encouraged to embrace the incipient long vacation trend.

 

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