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News & Notes

Japan Appeals to Chinese Travelers

Jul 01 (Fri ), 2011

Japan Appeals to Chinese Travelers Japan has announced that it will shorten its group visa approval process for Chinese travelers, starting July 1. This is part of an effort to boost tourism into the country after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Together with this new development, Japan has also announced that Chinese tourists will be able to visit Okinawa on multiple-entry visas, effective July 1. Chinese authorities are also doing their part to help Japan. On April 29, China’s National Tourism Administration (CNTA) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have lifted their Japan travel alert. According to a report in eTurbo News, CNTA Chairman Shao Qiwei stated at the Sino-Japan tourism seminar in Japan in early June that China will implement five specific measures to help prop up Japan’s struggling tourism industry. The measure include restarting group tours to Japan, opening Shanghai-Kagawa charter flights and restarting Shanghai-Ibaraki charter flights, inviting 100 children from Japan’s quake zone to south China’s Hainan Province for a short vacation and welcoming Japanese delegations to promote their tour routes and products. [Source: PATA]

Outdoor Japan TRAVELER - Summer 2011 Issue - Online Now!

Jun 30 (Thu ), 2011

Outdoor Japan TRAVELER - Summer 2011 Issue - Online Now! Check out the new issue of Outdoor Japan TRAVELER! The Summer 2011 issue hits the streets on July 1, but, now, for the first time, readers can enjoy the entire magazine online for FREE! Outdoor Japan TRAVELER Issue 40 - Summer 2011 http://www.outdoorjapan.com/oj40_summer2011

Special Offer from the Park Hotel Tokyo!

May 25 (Wed ), 2011

Special Offer from the Park Hotel Tokyo! Only 15,000 yen per night (tax and service fee included) until Dec. 31, 2011!  

Niigata's Shirone Giant Kite Battle (June 2-6)

May 25 (Wed ), 2011

The Shirone Giant Kite Battle   A stirring contest of soaring giant kites 2011 Dates & Times: June 2 (Thu.) – 6 (Mon.), 2011 13:00 - 18:00 Location:  Nakanokuchigawa Riverbank, Minami-ku, Niigata-shi (Between the Takomibashi and Shironebashi Bridges) Access:  From Tokyo: Joetsu Shinkansen Tokyo Stn → Niigata Stn. (1) Take bus from Niigata Stn. (Shirone Line) (60 minutes) Weekdays: Disembark at Gonochou. Sat. & Sun.: Disembark at Shirone Sho Mae or Kensei Byouin Mae (2)) Take bus from Niigata Stn. (Ajikata Line) (60 minutes) and disembark at Shirone Chu. ◎ What exactly is the Shirone Giant Kite Battle? niigataFrom opposing banks of the 80-meter wide Nakanokuchi River, a branch of the mighty Shinano River which runs through the City of Niigata, groups of 30 to 40 kite flyers assemble to fly gargantuan kites of a truly breathtaking scale. Measuring seven meters high, five meters across, and weighing in at over 50kg each, they soar across the river where they get entangled in the strings (actually ropes) of the opposing side, and crash into the water below. What follows is a do-or-die tug-of-war match, with hundreds of men, women and children throwing their backs into the effort to break the rope of the opposing team. Bystanders may be enlisted to join the struggle so be forewarned! The Shirone Giant Kite Battle has been around since the middle of the Edo Period (1603-1868). Held in early summer, this annual tradition has become a symbol of the season in Niigata’s Echigo Plain—weaving its way, across the centuries, indelibly into the fabric of life there. The western side fields seven teams of kite fliers while the eastern side has six. With each team making from fifteen to thirty kites, that makes for a total of 300 spectacular giant kites dancing in the skies. One Shirone Giant Kite also achieved a Guinness world record in March of 1980 when a kite of truly epic size, measuring 14 meters across by 19 meters high, and weighing 357 kilgorams, was flown for 13 minutes 32 seconds at an altitude of 120 meters. Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Major Theodor Von Lerch Pennant The man who first introduced skiing to Japan, Major Theodore von Lerch of the Austro Hungarian Empire, observed the Shirone Giant Kite Battle in June 1911. Upon witnessing it, the awestruck Major Von Lerch declared it to be “a contest embodying Japan’s ancient martial spirit, Bushido.” He then bestowed a championship pennant upon the people of Shirone, thereby beginning the champion’s pennant system that is still followed today. As this year marks the 100th anniversary of the pennant’s bestowal, the Austrian Ambassador has been invited to attend, and a host of related events have been planned. [Related Events] Restoration of the champion’s pennant, commemorative giant kite display, Welcome Reception for the Ambassador of Austria, commemorative giant kite battle, and the Yosakoi So Odori Dance and Shirone Odako taiko drum performance Shirone Kite Museum The Shirone Kite Museum is the largest kite museum on Earth, boasting rare kites from across Japan and the world. Relive the atmosphere of past kite battles in our 3D theater, build your own kites in our workshop and then test fly them in our custom-built wind tunnel. With a folklore archive available for browsing, the Shirone Kite Museum is a unique facility where you can learn and play. Location: 1770-1 Jogesuwanoki, Minami-ku, Niigata-shi, Niigata-ken 950-1214 TEL 025-372-0314  FAX 025-372-0316 Shirone Giant Kite Battle Web sites Niigata City Minami Ward Shirone Giant Kite Battle http://www.city.niigata.jp/info/minami/ootako/index.html (In Japanese) Giant Kites & Fruits in Minami Ward Shirone Tourism Association http://www.shironekankou.jp/event/oodakogassenn.htm (In Japanese) Inquiries Industrial Promotion Division, Minami Ward Office, Niigata City 1235 Shirone, Minami-ku, Niigata-shi, Niigata-ken 950-1292 TEL 025-373-1000  FAX 025-371-0200 URL: http://www.city.niigata.jp/info/minami

Fuji Shibazakura (Pink Moss) Festival (until May 29)

May 25 (Wed ), 2011

Fuji Shibazakura (Pink Moss) Festival The Fuji Shibazakura Festival is widely known as a signature event of Mt. Fuji. Shibazakura, literally lawn cherry blossom, is a small plant with pink flowers. Approx. 8 hundred thousand Shibazakura plants fill a 2.4 hectare area in the middle of the wilderness of Mt. Fuji. They have spread out and grown bigger in the last four years, and will be spreading out a brilliant colorful carpet again this year. You can enjoy the forest full of fresh green leaves, blue sky and Mt. Fuji. The contrast of the vivid hues of nature will be a world of color from spring to early summer. 【Date】: April 23 (Sat.) – May 29 (Sun.) 【Place】: Fuji Motosuko Resort 【Inquiries】: Tel: 0555-89-3031 Fax: 0555-89-3034 (Bureau of Fuji Shibazakura Festival) 【URL】: http://www.shibazakura.jp/index.html (Japanese only)

Okinawa Starts 24-hour Multi-lingual Tourist Hotline

May 23 (Mon ), 2011

24-hour multi-lingual call center for overseas tourists To provide tourists from Japan and Foreign countries a safe stay in Okinawa. A 24hour multi-lingual call center has been set up for tourists to help ensure safe and convenient travel in Okinawa. Our multi-lingual staff answer questions in four languages. The phone numbers are as follows: 098-916-6180 (English) 098-916-6181 (Chinese) 098-916-6182 (Korean) *9:00-24:00 098-916-6183 (Japanese) Call from overseas: 81-98-916-6180 (English) 81-98-916-6181 (Chinese) 81-98-916-6182 (Korean) *9:00-24:00(JST) 81-98-916-6183 (Japanese) Okinawa2Go! Project http://www.okinawa2go.net/?lang=en

Major Train Station Aims For Eco Station

May 17 (Tue ), 2011

Japanese Rail Co. Turning Major Train Station into 'Eco-Station' East Japan Railway Company (JR East) announced on February 8, 2011, that it would start work on improving its Yotsuya Station on the Chuo Line in central Tokyo from spring of 2011, as the first model station for its "Eco-Station" project. This includes introducing environment-friendly features and technologies such as energy saving and renewable energy, as outlined in its "JR East 2020 Vision." The Eco-Station project consists of four main components: (1) energy conservation, by introducing advanced technologies; (2) energy creation, by proactive adoption of renewable energy; (3) eco-awareness, by developing facilities that enable visitors to experience an eco-friendly environment; and (4) environmental harmonization features to liven up the station area through a balanced relationship between people and the environment. Located in the richly green area of the outer moat remains of Edo Castle, the plan for Yotsuya Station is to utilize the surrounding environment for the project's aim to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent from fiscal 2008 levels. The details of the changes include energy conservation, by introducing LED lighting in platforms and concourses and rearranging the deployment of electric switches and setting electric energy meters; eco-creation, by installing a solar power generator on the roof of the station building; eco-awareness, by setting up an eco-information display board and improving the thermal environment in the pedestrian walkway; and environmental harmonization, by providing a small park on the roof of the station and the greening of retaining walls. JR East will continue promoting its Eco-Station project for implementation at other stations. The company is considering Kaihimmakuhari Station on the Keiyo Line, about 30 kilometers east of Tokyo Station, as its next model station of the project.

U.S. Embassy Japan Travel Alert (May 16, 2011)

May 17 (Tue ), 2011

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo is transmitting the following Travel Alert that was issued by the Department of State in Washington DC. May 16, 2011 This Travel Alert replaces the Travel Alert for Japan dated April 14, 2011. The U.S. Government is updating its recommendation on the safe use of the Tohoku Expressway and the Tohoku Shinkansen Railway through the 50-mile evacuation area. Using the same analysis we would use in a similar situation in the United States, the U.S. Government believes it is safe for U.S. citizens to use the railway and expressway for transit through the area. Other portions of this Travel Alert remain unchanged from the Alert published on April 14. This Travel Alert expires on July 15, 2011. Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant The assessment of technical and subject matter experts across United States Government agencies is that while the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant remains serious and dynamic, the health and safety risks to areas beyond the 50-mile evacuation zone, and particularly to Tokyo, Nagoya (Aichi Prefecture), Yokohama (Kanagawa Prefecture), nearby U.S. military facilities, and the prefectures of Akita, Aomori, Chiba, Gunma, Iwate, Nagano, Niigata, Saitama, Shizuoka, Tochigi, and Yamanashi, and those portions of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures which are outside a 50-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are low and do not pose significant risks to U.S. citizens. This analysis takes into consideration both various age groups and the classification of the severity of the situation at Fukushima Daiichi as a Level 7 event by the Government of Japan, which reflects what has transpired since the initial incident and the potential long-term effects in the area surrounding the plant. This assessment reflects inputs from our national laboratories as well as the unanimous opinion of the U.S. scientific experts on the ground in Japan. Furthermore, they are consistent with practices that would be taken in the United States in such a situation. Based on the much reduced rate of heat generation in the reactor fuel after one month of cooling and the corresponding decay of short-lived radioactive isotopes, even in the event of an unexpected disruption at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, harmful exposures to people beyond the 50-mile evacuation zone are highly unlikely, and there would be a significant amount of time to best assess any steps that might have to be taken. The situation at the plant is dramatically different today than it was on March 16, when we saw significant ongoing releases of radioactivity, the loss of effective means to cool the reactor cores and spent fuel, the absence of outside power or fresh water supply for emergency management, and considerable uncertainty about the condition of the site. Today, while the situation remains serious, and there is still a possibility of unanticipated developments, cooling efforts are ongoing and successful, power, water supply, and back-up services have been partially or fully restored, and planning has begun to control radioactive contamination and mitigate future dangers. Our coordination with the Japanese is regular and productive, and we have a greatly increased capacity to measure and analyze risks. On April 14, 2011, the Department of State lifted Voluntary Authorized Departure, allowing dependents of U.S. government employees to return to Japan. Out of an abundance of caution, we continue to recommend that U.S. citizens avoid travel within the 50-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. U.S. citizens who are still within this radius should evacuate or shelter in place. Though the U.S. Government is not currently making changes to its recommendation to avoid travel to the 50-mile radius, we are updating the recommendation on the safe use of the Tohoku Expressway and the Tohoku Shinkansen Railway through the 50-mile evacuation area. These transport routes are currently open to public use. The U.S. Government believes it is safe for U.S. citizens to use the railway and expressway to transit through the area. This updated decision is based on measurements taken by U.S. Government scientists; more information may be found at the Department of Energy website, http://blog.energy.gov/content/situation-japan/  .

Eastern Japan Support Fumi no Miyako Charity Concert Kodo x Siena Beat

May 17 (Tue ), 2011

Eastern Japan Support Fumi no Miyako Charity Concert Kodo x Siena Beat - Todokeyo Kokoro no Kodo (Let’s Send Our Heartbeats) - Bunkyo Academy Foundation has partnerships with Kodo and Siena Beat (Percussionists of the Siena Wind Orchestra) and will present a charity concert featuring both ensembles. Bunkyo Ward will send the full price of each ticket sold and all donations collected in the lobby on the day of the performance to the Tohoku Pacific Earthquake disaster area. Furthermore, while maintaining the artistic atmosphere, this concert will be presented using power-saving techniques.   Date: May 28 (Sat) Venue: Bunkyo Civic Hall Dai-Hall, Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo Appearing:     Kodo, Siena Beat     Part 1: Siena Beat (30 mins) / Part 2: Kodo (30 mins.), joint performance. (Total: Approx. 90 mins. including intermission) Doors Open:     14:30 Start:     15:00 Price:     3,000 yen (Tax inc.) Seating Details:     All seats reserved Ticket Availability:     Tickets on sale May 2 (Mon) at 10:00 am.     Civic Ticket Reservation Dial Tel. 03-5803-1111 (10:00 - 19:00 everyday incl. public hols., closed on May 15 only. )     *Operation times may be changed due to planned power outages and in case of earthquakes.     *Limit of 4 tickets per order on the first day of ticket sales. Seat selection not available.     Ticket Pia Tel. 0570-02-9999 http://t.pia.jp/ Access:     [Tokyo Metro] Take the Marunouchi or Nanboku Line to Korakuen Stn. 1-min. walk from Exit #4b or 5.     [Toei Subway] Take the Mita or Oedo Line to Kasuga Stn. (Bunkyo Civic Center Mae Exit). Connected by underground passage. 1-min. walk to the venue.     [JR] 8-mins. on foot from Suidobashi Stn. on the JR Chuo & Sobu LInes Inquiries:     Bunkyo Academy Foundation http://www.b-academy.jp/index_j.html  

Ekikara Hiking: Free Hiking Trips with JR

Jan 24 (Mon ), 2011

Ekikara Hiking (Hiking from the Station) events are one-day events starting from stations throughout the eastern Japan area that anyone can participate in easily. They consist of hiking while experiencing the historical buildings and abundant nature of the areas around the stations. Participation is free of charge. Participation in the Ekikara Hiking event is very simple! All you need to do is apply through this website and then go to the reception counter at the hiking spot on the day of the event! Web: http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/hiking/omiya/