Ritz-Carlton has opened its first luxury resort in Japan, on the tropical island of Okinawa. Okinawa has been a popular getaway for generations of Japanese visitors but remains relatively unexplored by the international luxury traveler. The island features championship golf courses and is surrounded by pristine emerald waters that are perfect for waterborne activities. The Okinawan concept of hospitality or “gusuku” which translates as “castle” or “guest house” has been carefully reflected throughout the property to give it a welcoming sense of place. The new Ritz-Carlton resort embodies this spirit through its landscaping and contemporary architectural design which extensively features the Shurijo face motifs, distinctive red clay roof tiles, white walls and holy water ponds. “We are delighted to be able to bring our first true luxury resort hotel to Japan to complement our city hotels in Tokyo and Osaka,” said Herve Humler, president and chief operations officer of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. “We have no doubt that Okinawa has the potential to be a resort island of true international appeal, attracting visitors from all over the world, whether they are visiting the island for business or pleasure. It really is a hidden gem and the opening of The Ritz-Carlton, Okinawa helps to put this destination on the map for discerning luxury travellers.” The Ritz-Carlton, Okinawa enjoys sweeping panoramic views that overlook the East China Sea and the Kise Country Club. Inspired by the spectacular scenery of ancient forests, manicured golf courses and the sea, the luxurious resort has been designed to be in harmony with its natural surroundings. Restaurants at the resort include: —Chura-Nuhji – an Italian fine dining restaurant which takes its name from the Okinawan word for beautiful rainbow. The restaurant with its own outdoor terrace overlooking the sea and the golf course is led by Executive Chef Koji Hayakawa who has been at the forefront of restaurants which have helped to popularize Italian fine dining. He previously was head chef of Ristorante La Granata Ginza and Ristoranted La Granata, TBS. —Kise, a Teppan-yaki restaurant offers local seafood and renowned Okinawan, Kuroge and Wagyu beef. —Gusuku, an all-day dining experience that serves Japanese, Okinawan and international dishes. Guests can also enjoy traditional afternoon tea and a variety of finger foods in the Lobby Lounge, in a space that offers views of the emerald green sea overlooking the golf course. The Bar serves special cocktails, international favorites and a selection of the Okinawan spirit, Awamori. Poolside guests can also relax in the Library which offers a selection of books as well as a bar and casual dining. Located a short stroll through landscaped gardens is The Ritz-Carlton Spa by ESPA, in its own separate enclave. The Spa features four treatment rooms, four dry treatment rooms, outdoor Cabanas offering Shiatsu or Thai massage. It also offers the Heat Experience (Steam Sauna, Jacuzzi hot tubs, Stone Sauna with weathered coral tiles). Two special Retreat Suites are also available (Forest Suite and Ocean Suite) with their own private decks and stone baths. The spa retreat also houses a Nail Studio, Relaxation Room, Indoor Pool, and the fitness center. Source: AsiaTravelTips.com
Beijing Considers Visa-free Travel for Transit Beijing is considering allowing foreign tourists a 72-hour window to explore the capital without a visa. Fu Zhenghua, the city's director of public security, has confirmed that authorities are mulling over the move, saying it would represent a crucial sign that Beijing is open to the world. Lin Song at the public security bureau's exit-entry administration echoed that view on Sunday. "It's expected that the project will attract more tourists from abroad." Neither the bureau nor the Beijing Tourism Development Committee, which proposed the policy, would offer more details about the visa window when contacted by China Daily. However, experts said the policy is expected to be similar to ones already being run in Shanghai (48 hours) and South China's Hainan province (21 days for tour groups). "Shanghai and neighboring cities, such as Hangzhou and Wuxi, have benefited greatly (since Shanghai introduced a visa waiver for transit passengers), as it means foreign tourists can travel during a 48-hour stay," said Jiang Yiyi, director of the China Tourism Academy's international tourism development institute. "With so many foreign people transiting in Beijing, the visa waiver program will allow many of them to tour around the ancient city." A tourism analyst, who did not want to be identified, told China Daily that Beijing officials had considered a project last year that would allow visitors to stay in the capital for seven days without a visa. However, the idea was shelved. "The newly proposed waiver would be a giant step forward, as the visa policy plays a crucial role in the country's inbound and outbound tourism development," said Dai Bin, president of the China Tourism Academy. Although China has relatively tight visa restrictions, and has few visa exemption agreements with other countries, Dai said the country has gradually loosened its visa policy in recent years. He said many cities worldwide have come up with visa waiver projects to attract more tourists, including Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur. "A tight visa policy will only wave goodbye to those potential visitors," he said. Li Xinjian, a professor of tourism at Beijing International Studies University, agreed and added that, as the number of Chinese tourists going abroad has soared in recent years, many countries, including the United States and Japan, have relaxed limits on visas to attract more tourists. Foreigners traveling to China spent 4.7 billion yuan ($743 million) more than Chinese outbound tourists in 2008, he said. However, Chinese tourists spent 4 billion yuan more than them a year later, and the difference exceeded 24.1 billion yuan in 2011. The proposed visa waiver for Beijing comes almost two weeks after the city's public security bureau launched a 100-day crackdown on illegal immigrants. Bureau director Fu said the campaign was to make sure each foreigner is aware of China's exit-entry regulations while curbing crimes by visitors who overstay or abuse their welcome. In response to complaints from some sections of the expatriate community about the policy, the police issued a statement on Friday saying that the crackdown has not changed the city’s friendly attitude toward foreigners. On the same day, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei insisted that there is no "anti-foreigner trend" in China, adding that the country will welcome and protect the legitimate rights and interests of the foreigners coming to China. Jiang said she believes there is little possibility that the visa waiver would result in an increase of illegal residents among foreign tourists. What is more important, she said, is to stimulate China's inbound tourism. "It's vital that cities come up with reforms to boost inbound tourism," she said. "Other cities can learn from the experiences as well." Wei Xiang, a professor of tourism management at Beijing International Studies University, said besides the boost to the tourism industry, the visa project will step up China's diplomacy and foreign trade with countries in the long run as well. "The policy will bring more benefits than we can imagine," he said. "The scrutiny that the city is undergoing (the 100-day crackdown) will make sure there is better security and public order in the city," Fu said. Source: chinadaily.com.cn and eTurboNews
Coca-Cola Launches Support Project for Japan's Local Water Resources Copyright Coca-Cola Japan On February 22, 2012, Coca-Cola Japan launched a campaign named "I LOHAS support project for local water resources" with its bottled spring water brand I LOHAS. With I LOHAS, obtained from seven places in Japan, the company has established a donation campaign aiming at protecting local water resources in Japan. Until 2013 on an as-needed basis, the company will give back part of its sales from between March 5 and December 31, 2012, to non-profit organizations and local governments selected by 47 prefectures for their water resource protection activities, such as cleaning and greening of wellheads, tree planting, and tree thinning. Source: JFS
Japanese Non-Life Insurance Company Supports Reforestation Efforts in Tsunami-hit Coastal Area Tokyo Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co. announced on February 24, 2012, the company's decision to support and participate in the "10-Year Restoration Project for the Coastal Forests of the Tohoku Region," initiated by The Organization for Industrial, Spiritual and Cultural Advancement-International (OISCA), from March 2012 as part of its efforts to promote post disaster reconstruction. A maritime forest in Sendai Plain, Miyagi Prefecture, used to protect local communities from drifting sand and salt, serving as an important natural levee for the region's environmental protection, but was seriously damaged by the catastrophic tsunami accompanying the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. In order to revitalize the forests, OISCA has initiated a decade-long project to not only increase production of seedlings, planting and nurturing of forests, but also restore farmlands and create employment opportunities for local citizens that will lead to comprehensive regional development and require long-term efforts. The company will take part in the initiative by providing both economic and personnel resources, in terms of a 10 million yen (approximately US$125,000) donation, fund-raising through a charity concert, and volunteer activities by employees to assist the project. Source: JFS
Japanese NPO Starts Residential Solar Co-Ownership Project Copyright Ueda Citizen Energy Ueda Citizen Energy, a non-profit organization (NPO) in Ueda City, Nagano Prefecture, Japan, started in November 2011 a unique project called Ainorikun (Japanese word meaning "car pool") for private investors to jointly install solar panels on sunny rooftop space. The NPO solicits "roof owners" to install their own panels while lending the rooftop space of their houses for "panel owners" who install the solar panels for their houses. Both parties reap benefits: the panel owner receives income from selling electricity generated by the solar panels for 10 years after installation to cover the installation costs and then some, while the roof owner acquires ownership of the panel owners' panels 12 year after installation. Income from selling electricity generated by panel owners' panels for two years before the ownership changes will cover part of operation costs of the NPO. Panel owners can also purchase part of the ownership of a system by purchasing shares at 100,000 yen (about U.S.$1,300) a unit, and at 50,000 yen for additional ownership. Ueda City is suitable for photovoltaic generation since it is one of sunniest areas in Japan. However, some residents there want to start solar generation but face barriers to doing so, such as poor access to direct sunlight, installation costs, and installation space. For them, the project connects those who want to increase solar power generation with those who want to lend their rooftop all over the country. Mayumi Fujikawa, the head of the NPO, hopes the project will help promote use of natural energy. Source: JFS
MAMMUT MONITOR GUIDE PROGRAM There is only one way to go into Japan’s backcountry – safely, and with the right equipment and knowledge. Mammut’s Barryvox Element beacon was created to be easy to use and affordable for new backcountry enthusiasts without sacrificing functionality. Two veteran backcountry guides in Japan share their impressions after using the Barryvox Element beacon with their customers this season. Bill Ross Director & Guide, Dancing Snow (Myoko, Niigata) www.dancingsnow.com “I have used Mammut’s Pulse Barryvox for a while now, after using a variety of transceivers from the good old days of analogue devices. It’s just great—I used it during avalanche training, and literally found a target in a great big field in less than 30 seconds. Much easier and intuitive than in the past. The Pulse does take a little study to know all the functions, though, so I was really pleased to have the chance to try out the Element with our guests. Its simplicity doesn’t mean it is a dumbed-down version. Rather, in quick pre-tour briefings with guests I really felt that they understood the idea behind it, how it functions, and what to do if something did happen. Makes me feel safer, because I’m the first one to ski! And the reasonable price is also a real benefit for people who are already investing a lot in backcountry gear. A really nice, attractive package that I can completely recommend. About Myoko The area around Mt. Myoko has a wide range of backcountry terrain, ideal for everyone from experienced skiers and boarders to those leaving the groomed runs and “sidecountry” for the first time. It’s serious snow country, though, so a transceiver is a requirement, as is proper gear, good group dynamics and knowledge of terrain and the possibilities of avalanches. Dancing Snow Customer Feedback “The unit is very compact, and the straps keep it close to your body and out of the way. You’re not really aware that you have it on while you’re on the hill.” “It’s really easy to figure out which way to search. All you have to do is follow the arrows and watch the distance figures go down.” “I liked the way the display shows how many beacons are out there when you switch to search, and the way you can mark victims so the transceiver stops receiving from that person, and you can move on to the next.” “It was my first time to use a transceiver, and it was very easy to understand how to use it. The switches and dials are also simple and clearly marked. I liked the fact that it was hard to accidently turn it off!’ “I’ve used other transceivers that are not as natural to switch from transmit to receive, or harder to use in an actual search. Very fast and accurate.” Paul Vanderheiden Owner, Japow Tours (Hakkoda, Aomori) www.japowtours.com “The Mammut Element is a three- antenna transceiver, which make it much faster than other beacon searches on the market. I have been using different beacons for years and have tried many companies but Mammut has made great strides in the design and simplicity of their New Mammut Element. As a Guide I feel much safer knowing that the people in my group have a quality product and they are confident in using it even if its their first time with the Transceiver. Thank you Mammut for making such an amazing life saving device.” About Hakkoda Tohoku’s Mt. Hakkoda is a backcountry playground attracting advanced skiers and snowboarders. A beacon is standard equipment for exploring these serious mountains, as is a knowledgeable guide. Japow Tours Customers Feedback “The Mammut Element Barryvox transceiver is incredibly intuitive and even tells you to turn around if you are going the wrong direction with a simple U-Turn symbol” “The simple on and off switch locks into place making each function secure and one confidant that he or she is sending or receiving the proper signal.” “The harness and housing of the Mammut Element Barryvox is actually quite comfortable and allows for easy access the to transceiver itself” “As an avid backcountry snowboarder the “Mutual burials function” is essential when traveling with larger groups.” “When practicing with The Mammut Element Barryvox vs. my friends BCA Tracker the Element was picking up a signal and tracking at least 10 meters before the BCA Tracker. When doing a speed search in the practice field, the Element Barryvox won every time.” “The Mammut Element Barryvox 3 antenna system works faster and more fluid than other beacons I have had in the past, by far the best and easiest transceiver I have every used” Mammut Online http://www.mammut.ch/ (Global Site) http://mammutstore.jp/ (Japan Site)
Japan tourism aims to top pre-earthquake arrivals record Japan’s travel and tourism industry is forecast to stage a complete recovery following last year’s earthquake and tsunami during the first half of 2012. A new report by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), its fourth and final report since the earthquake of March 11, 2011, forecasts the full recovery of international tourism demand during the first half of 2012, having initially fallen 62 percent in April 2011. According to WTTC, Japan’s travel and tourism industry is set to directly contribute JPY10,276 billion (US$129 billion) in 2012, marginally above the JPY10,246 billion (US$128.5 billion) in 2010. This followed a fall of 3.9 percent in 2011 due to the earthquake and tsunami. David Scowsill, President and CEO of WTTC said: “Japan is the third largest travel and tourism economy in the world, so its health is of crucial importance to our industry across the globe. Japan’s travel and tourism recovery has been much better than anyone could have anticipated 12 months ago. With help of a forceful marketing strategy, Japan is open and ready for business. Domestic travel recovered strongly last year, and 2012 is forecast to be the year for full recovery of international visitors. “It is particularly fitting that WTTC is holding its Global Summit in Sendai and Tokyo from April 16-19. We are delighted to be taking the leaders of our industry to Japan at such an important time for the country.” Other selected highlights from the report show: - Outbound travel and tourism has followed a similar path to that of domestic tourism, as Japanese travelers quickly regained confidence and recovery was more rapid than under any of the original scenarios. For 2011 as a whole, departures were 2 percent higher than in 2010 – to just under 17 million from 16.6 million in 2010 – with growth evident from as early as July. This means that outbound travel has not only recovered back to previous levels, in terms of trips, but has also fully recovered losses from the period during and immediately after the disaster. However, outbound travel expenditure was still more than 8 percent down on 2010’s level after the first ten months of the year. - Oxford Economics, WTTC’s research partner, suggests the strengthening of the yen may also have added as much as 4 percent growth to departures over baseline forecasts. But the increase in outbound departures averaged roughly 7 percent in the last six months of 2011, suggesting that other factors are also having a significant impact. - JTB Foundation is currently forecasting a 4 percent increase in Japanese outbound travel, with a continuation of the trend to more short-haul and less long-haul travel. - For 2011 as a whole, inbound arrivals were 28 percent down on 2010’s level – to 6.2 million from 8.6 million in 2010 – with January 2012 showing only a 4 percent down on the same month of the previous year. By contrast, visitor exports were an estimated 28 percent below 2010’s level through the first ten months of 2011. - Business travelers have been quickest to respond to the reality that Japan remains a safe and attractive destination, with inbound arrivals approaching 2010 levels during the second half 2011. But leisure traveler volumes were still significantly lower than a year earlier in October, the latest month for which a breakdown of arrivals data is available. - South Korea – Japan’s leading market source – was down 32 percent over the year, with just under 1.7 million visitors as against more than 2.4 million in 2010. Arrivals from number two market, China, slipped by 26 percent, although the last couple of months saw strong double-digit growth, thanks in large part to a major year-end promotional drive and an easing of visa requirements for Chinese. - The Japan National Tourism Organization is aiming to top 2010’s record 18.6 million arrivals count in 2012. Source: wttc.org, eTurbo News (Mar 07, 2012)
As featured in Outdoor Japan Traveler, Sarah Outen has resumed her around-the-world adventure after two weeks of delays due to bad weather conditions in Japan, departing from Choshi, Japan. As she resumes her around-the-world adventure, she also makes a record breaking attempt to become the first woman to cross the North Pacific solo. See the original press release below for more details about Sarah, the row and her London2London: Via the World expedition. British adventurer sets off on record-breaking solo row across the North Pacific Ocean (May 14, 2012) Young British adventurer, Sarah Outen (26) headed off on her record-breaking solo row across the North Pacific Ocean, from Choshi in Japan to Vancouver in Canada. And in doing so, is set to become the first woman to ever row across the North Pacific Ocean. This is an epic 4,500 nautical mile journey across the world’s largest ocean and will mean between 150 and 200 days alone out at sea. Only two men have previously rowed solo across this northern route from Japan to North America. This North Pacific row is part of Sarah’s wider, two and half year expedition, “London2London: Via the World” that will see her cycle, row and kayak a continuous loop of the planet – that’s over 20,000 miles. She is sharing her stories along the way through her website and social media to hopefully inspire young people to follow their dreams and believe that anything is possible. She is also hoping to raise £100,000 for her four chosen charities – CoppaFeel!, The Jubilee Sailing Trust, MNDA and WaterAid. Sarah, who has a fear of deep water, says of the row: “The North Pacific will be the most gruelling part of my whole London2London expedition. Physically and mentally, I expect to be exhausted most of the time – the distance, the solitude, the weather conditions and my complete isolation will make it hugely challenging. In spite of the challenges and dangers ahead, I still can’t wait to get out there.” She adds: “I am an ocean girl at heart and love being so close to the water and living to the rhythms of the wild. The energy out there is magic and the dynamics so exciting. I am hoping for some special wildlife moments and hopefully not too many storms. But I am especially looking forward to the sunsets and the stars.” Sarah will be rowing completely on her own and will be 100% self-sufficient, taking all her food with her on her 7metre customised rowing boat, Gulliver. Also on board will be a desalination machine, with which she can convert seawater into drinking water. She will have a full suite of communications equipment on board, which will allow her to do interviews, blog and tweet while out on the ocean. She will also have an iPod for music, a Kindle for books and will be tracked live using GPS technology. Everything will be charged using the on-board solar panels. Ocean dangers While out on the North Pacific Ocean, Sarah will be faced with a whole host of dangers every day, from exhaustion, dehydration, hypo- and hyperthermia to collisions with other ships, capsizing and drowning. Sarah explains: “Out on the ocean the biggest danger is from shipping – my boat is so tiny that it is difficult for larger vessels to see me. Landing on the west coast of Canada will also be a huge challenge and probably the most dangerous part of the whole journey. At least if I roll at sea there is little chance of me crashing into anything. But perhaps the greatest challenge comes from being solo out there as I have to be everything to myself and manage every situation as best I can. Sleep deprivation and rough weather can make that incredibly tough.” This is, however, not Sarah’s first ocean row as in 2009 she became the first woman and youngest person ever to row solo across the Indian Ocean from Australia to Mauritius. London2London: Via the World – the story so far World-renowned explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes says of Sarah and her London2London expedition: “Sarah will face dangers on a daily basis, which only the hardiest could tolerate. But I’m sure she will succeed and confirm that she is an adventurer and expeditioner second to none.” On 1st April, 2011, Sarah set off on her London2London expedition from London’s Tower Bridge and in her kayak, Nelson travelled down the Thames and across the English Channel to France. She then jumped on her bicycle, Hercules, and cycled over 10,000 miles through France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, China and then back into Russia’s wild Far East. Sarah then used Nelson and Hercules to paddle and cycle her way over 1,000 miles to Japan via the remote island of Sakhalin. She has spent the winter in Japan and has now set off on her record-breaking North Pacific Ocean row, after which she will again take up Hercules’ saddle and cycle 3,000 miles from Vancouver to Nova Scotia, through the harsh North American winter. The final major leg will involve Sarah rowing home to the UK across nearly 3,000 nautical miles of the North Atlantic Ocean. Nobody has ever rowed this combination of the North Pacific and North Atlantic oceans in a single journey, solo or otherwise. Dame Ellen MacArthur says of Sarah and her expedition: “When I first met her, I knew that Sarah was a very special person with fire in her belly. I wish her good luck for London2London: Via the World, I think it’s a fantastic project particularly working with young people to inspire them and to teach them all about her journeys. For details on how to donate to Sarah’s chosen charities, simply go to the Charities section of Sarah’s website: http://www.sarahouten.com/charity/ London2London: Via the World in numbers: · 2 solo ocean rows, 7,500 nautical miles · 3 continents, 14 countries by bike · 300 nautical miles by kayak · 6 – 8,000 calories a day · 850 days away · Up to 11 months at sea alone · A few world records · One little tent · 40 punctures so far · 2 new wheels, 10 new tyres and 10 new tubes so far · 2 pairs of shoes to date · Longest cycle in one go so far: 166 miles through the night on Sakhalin · Longest kayak in one go so far: 38 nautical miles in 12 hours between Sakhalin and Japan · Worst roads: Kazakhstan and Russia · Best wildlife spot: brown bear on the beach in Russia · A few bouts of food poisoning · 3 marriage proposals · Thousands of children inspired
AOKI Releases Business Suits for Bicycle Commuters Copyright AOKI Inc. AOKI Inc., a major Japanese men's apparel company, announced on February 4, 2012, the release of the "LES MUES Bike Line" of business suits for bicycle commuters. Bicycle commuting has become very trendy as a means of mobility in times of emergency, such as after the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, as well as part of health- and environmental-consciousness efforts. However, many people have problems cycling while wearing general business suits. The company therefore developed a new type of business suit designed specially for the needs of the commuter cyclist. The suits feature stretchy materials for mobility, and water resistant and stain repellent finishing, and are machine washable. In addition, zippers for some of the pockets help prevent the contents from spilling out. Cyclists can therefore ride safely by tying up the jacket hem with snaps, while the suit includes reflective tape under the collar riding in darkness. The pants also have patches to strengthen areas subjected to frequent rubbing, such as the inner thigh and hip. However, despite these modifications, these suits look almost the same as regular business suits.
Shin-Etsu Trail Club Wins Eco-Tourism Grand Prize Copyright Non-profit organization Shin-Etsu Trail Club Japanese non-profit organization (NPO) the Shin-Etsu Trail Club (Iiyama city, Nagano Prefecture) was selected from 63 applicants for the grand prize of the 7th Ecotourism Awards announced by Japan's Ministry of the Environment (MOE) on December 20, 2011. The Ecotourism Awards recognize and publicize ecotourism efforts by businesses, organizations, and municipalities in Japan. Powered by a hardworking volunteer staff, the Shin-Etsu Trail Club manages and maintains the 80-kilometer Shin-etsu trail, which runs along the border between Nagano Prefecture and Niigata Prefecture. Three years after the trail's opening, various trail-based activities are still expanding in the area. The group's broad-reaching and proactive efforts to revitalize local communities by establishing a maintenance system based on collaboration with neighboring organizations and by using the trail as infrastructure for conserving and utilizing local resources were rated very highly.