Tourist information you’ll want to know before planning your trip to Japan, and news on handy services for while you’re there.
*The information in this article is current as of November 2017
Looking ahead to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Preparations are now well underway in Japan for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The main stadium for the event, which is set to host a record number of 33 sports and 339 events, sprawls across the boundaries of the Shinjuku and Shibuya wards where the National Stadium in the outer gardens of the Meiji Jingu Gardens is being completely reformed into the New National Stadium. In addition to creating a new stadium with a maximum capacity of 80,000, selection of an official mascot, development of a schedule for the events, preparations for the opening and closing ceremonies and torch relay are all now fully underway, with work moving ahead on each of its venues. A policy to match a “hydrogen town” capable of providing power using hydrogen energy alongside the athletes village has also been drafted. The facilities are to be created in Harumi in Chuo ward, which is close to airports and allows easy access by bus or train. The steady increase in visitors to Japan from abroad in recent years is expected to boom in the coming years ahead of the event, and preparations to address the inbound market are also moving ahead rapidly.
Sales of the Japan Expressway Pass commence
Otober 2017 saw the start of sales of the Japan Expressway Pass, a ticket that allows foreign visitors to Japan to travel on all expressways in Japan for an entire week without limitation. Where some regional expressway companies have produced their own regional passes from time to time up until now, this is the first pass to cover the entire country. Because the expressway network connects every corner of Japan, the pass was created with the objective of bringing tourists to and boosting regional destinations by helping draw
as many tourists from abroad to travel to regions of Japan above and beyond the golden routes. Payment is made via ETC (Electronic Toll Collection), negating the need to stop at toll booths and make payments, allowing even those unfamiliar with the Japanese language
to travel without needing to communicate. The price is 20,000 yen for 7 days, and 34,000 yen for 14 days. As an example, the fare for a standard car to travel between Tokyo and Nagoya would be 7,090 yen, which shows just how lost the cost is for travellers from abroad. Those with a non-Japanese passport or Japanese persons with permanent residency in a country outside Japan can apply. You also need a drivers license that is valid in Japan. Taking the expressways will let you cut down your travel time and also experience the thrill of a drive across the country.
World Heritage Listing of Okinoshima and Related Relics
In July 2017, the Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Relics in the Munakata Region in Fukuoka Prefecture was registered as Japan’s 21st World Heritage Site (17th cultural heritage site). Okinoshima is an island floating out in the waters some 60km northwest of the Munakata Taisha on mainland Kyushu, and is a strategic point in the waterways leading to China and the Korean Peninsula. It was worshipped as a holy site in the 4th to 9th centuries AD, and is the site of approximately 80,000 relics, earning it the nickname of, “the warehouse on the ocean”.
It is a holy site where no women are allowed to set foot even today, and only up to 200 men are permitted to visit once per year during a grand festival. Everyone can, however, visit the Munakata Taisha Nakatsugu, Munakata Taisha Okitsumiya, and Munakata Taisha Hetsumiya shrines, and the Shimbaru Nuyama Mounded Tombs that form part of the listing. Munakata Taisha Okitsumiya in particular is a place where you can worship Okinoshima from afar given that it is forbidden to visit the island itself. The listing encompasses historic sites and cultural assets related to the head priests of the Munakata clan and the faith of the Munakata Taisha shrine, which worships the three goddesses of Munakata, and is known as a spot where a faith in and festivals based around worship of nature have been passed on since the 4th century – it is this that earned its listing as a World Heritage Site.
New flights connecting Japan and Australia
September 2017 saw Japan Airlines open two new routes to Japan in response to high demand from Australia’s second largest metropolitan area, Melbourne, and Kona in Hawaii. Both routes are direct flights leaving Narita with one flight in either direction (one round trip) each day. Japan Airlines is said to have created these new routes in addition to its existing Narita-Sydney route to accommodate an anticipated increase in people travelling between Australia and Japan due to the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement that took effect in January 2015. This schedule of flights departing Narita for Melbourne in the morning and for Sydney in the evening broadens the range of choices for all travellers in Japan, Australia, and Oceania as a whole. In July 2017, Qantas Airlines also announced a direct route between Sydney and Osaka. In addition to the existing Qantas Airlines direct route between Sydney and Haneda, Brisbane and Narita, Melbourne and Narita, and the Qantas Group, Jetstar Airways, direct route between Cairns and Osaka, this is the only direct route between Sydney and Osaka. The airline plans to operate three flights a week from 14 December, 2017. 2018 will see the 70th anniversary celebrations of flights between Japan and Australia.
DISCOVER A NEW SIDE OF JAPAN
The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) is an organisation that provides information on the attractions of Japan to those living in Australia and New Zealand. The JNTO homepage contains an exhaustive listing of handy information for those interested in traveling to Japan, from information on Japanese culture, art, food, skiing, shopping, hot springs, and other topics to travel agents and how to get about. The homepage is frequently updated with the latest details, and is worth a look before you plan your adventure.