Posts Tagged ‘tourism’

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.

 

‘GeGeGe’ birthplace becomes tourist magnet

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

NHK's morning drama GeGeGe no Nyobo

In pursuit of ghostly fun and games, visitors flocked to the city of Sakaiminato in Tottori Prefecture during the recent Golden Week holidays (April 29-May 3). A shopping arcade in the hometown of quirky cartoon artist Shigeru Mizuki was the main attraction for day-trippers hoping to catch a sighting of their favorite “GeGeGe no Kitaro” characters. Despite a general drop in domestic travel due to the March 11 quake, visitor figures recorded by city’s sightseeing association, were up dramatically when compared the same period last year, according to MSN news.

The city is still riding high on a craze for “GeGeGe no Kitaro” that’s been sweeping the nation recently. Many fans have had their interest in the artist piqued by “GeGeGe no Nyobo,” a NHK TV drama that aired last year from March 29 to Sept 25. Based on the autobiography written by Mizuki’s wife Nunoe Mura, the drama details the couple’s life after their arranged marriage, and the struggles and hardships before Mizuki’s career really took off.

As the wife of a one-armed war veteran many year’s her senior, Mura at first finds it difficult to understand her work-obsessed husband. However, the couple grow to accommodate each other’s foibles in the gentle asadorama (morning drama) series. The same story was told in a movie of the same name released in Japanese theaters in November 2010.

“GeGeGe no Kitaro,” Mizuki’s biggest success, was a manga that featured various yokkai (spirit monsters) and retold the story of “Hakaba no Kitaro” (Kitaro of the Graveyard), which originally appeared as a kamishibai (paper play) in the 1930s. Over the holidays, bisitors to Sakaiminato’s Mizuki Road were able to enjoy a nostalgic kamishibai performance of the story as well as visit the famous kappa spring and view statues of GeGeGe no Kitaro characters.

 

Anime fan pilgrimages help boost tourism

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

A new anime set in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, seems set to revitalize the city’s flagging tourist industry. Since the anime “Yosuga no Sora” (above) went on air Oct. 4 the local government and tourist office of Ashikaga have been deluged with enquiries about visiting the city. But it isn’t the first case of popular anime sparking a boom in local tourism, as Kuki, Hakone and Kyoto have all become popular destinations among hardcore anime fans.

Perhaps the biggest success story is Washinomiya, a beautiful shrine located in Kuki, Saitama Prefecture, that provided the backdrop for “Lucky Star.” The surge in tourists has revitalized the town, partly thanks to sales of  “Lucky Star” branded souvenirs. Even the mikoshi at a local festival this year was decorated with “Lucky Star” characters.

In November the area will host a special matchmaking event called otakonkatsu” (organized dating for otaku), providing an opportunity for single shy anime fans to hook up. Interest in the event saw daily visits to the chamber of commerce and industry’s website rise from around 500 to over 10,000, though some men were peeved that women could attend for free whereas men have to shell out ¥8,000 to participate.

Though already a popular tourist spot, Hakone is getting an extra boost from “Evangelion” fans who often make a pilgrimage to the area to view places featured in the smash hit anime. There’s now an official map of the area especially for fans called the Hakone Hoken Map.

Kyoto, featured recently in both the hugely popular “K-On” and in the cult hit “The Tatami Galaxy,” is another well-established tourist destination that’s profiting from otaku tourism. Earlier this year we reported that “K-On” fans were putting up ema plaques at a shrine featured in an episode depicting a “K-On” school trip. (If you’d like to visit these spots yourself check out The K-On Guide to Kyoto.) More recently, “The Tatami Galaxy,” which is set entirely in Kyoto, was featured in the travel issue of Spoon magazine, which included a travel guide to the sites shown in the cartoon.

Tourism tie-ups aren’t limited to anime/manga. As Pulse, and everybody’s blogging brother, reported in August,  fans of Konami’s virtual dating game Love Plus got a chance to live out their fantasy dates in Atami (the latest version of the game Love Plus + featured an option to go sightseeing in the seaside resort town). Fans who went on the tour could take augmented reality photos of their Love Plus girlfriends, fill in a special stamp book at sightseeing spots and buy Love Plus/Atami souvenirs. The augmented reality photos, available to iPhone customers, superimpose an image of your virtual date onto the actual background, though it was noted by Game Watch, that there were some proportional glitches. In one instance, the digital girlfriend appeared to be as tall as a building in the real-world backdrop. Bug or a programmer’s private joke – you decide.

“Ryomaden” romanticizes (and monetizes) history

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Every year NHK, Japan’s broadcasting behemoth, pours money into a year-long historical television series known as the “taiga drama.” The subject this year is Sakamoto Ryoma,  a 19th-century samurai often credited with bringing Japan into the modern age. History often portrays Sakamoto not only as a vital component in the country’s unification, but also as a “Renaissance Samurai,” a forward thinker who embraced new inventions (Smith & Wesson pistols, western-style boots) and new ideas (industrialization, the democratic process). By the end of the year, his image will be burnished even further, since the series’ starring role is being played by Masaharu Fukuyama, a handsome and extremely popular celebrity known for his clean-cut image.

Pairing Fukuyama with Sakamoto will prove to be a lucrative mix, and many in the tourism and entertainment industries have been prepping for a windfall of Ryoma-related commerce. The official Sakamoto Memorial Museum in his native Kochi prefecture has been inundated with hundreds of licensing requests, and regional tourism agencies have projected over 20,000 fans signing up for package tours of famous sites from his life. Telecommunications powerhouse, Softbank, recently used Sakamoto imagery in their very popular commercial series (granted, Softbank’s been a fan for years). And let’s not even get started on the video games, theme restaurants and custom-made boots that already trade on his name.

Yes, “Ryomaden” will help push 2009′s “samurai boom” into the next decade. From undergarments to soda to high-street fashion houses, echoes of Japan’s feudal past continue to convince a large – and increasingly female – audience to open their wallets. Does this stem from a national longing for heroes, a reaction to Japan’s evolving gender identity issues or something else? Hard to say, but at this pace we should expect boy bands sporting chonmage by summertime.

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