Christina Newberry is an award-winning travel and lifestyle writer based in Vancouver.
Early Tuesday morning local time, an earthquake struck off the coast of Fukushima in the northeast of Japan. The 7.4 magnitude earthquake also shook buildings in Tokyo, where PAX is on location for the Visit Japan Project 2016, but there was no danger in Japan’s capital.
Following that unexpected wake-up call, we explored the Asakusa area, the location of the Senso-ji Temple and Nakamise shopping street, and enjoyed a multi-course Japanese set lunch at the Asakusa View Hotel, so named because of its impressive outlook over Tokyo and the Tokyo Skytree. After an afternoon strolling through the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, we headed to the Visit Japan Project networking reception at Akasaka Palace, marking the first time the State Guest House has been opened for a public event.
“This site until now was used only to welcome state guests,” said Akihiko Tamura, commissioner of the Japan Tourism Agency, noting that the agency plans to increase the use of Japan’s historic buildings to “create renewed interest in Japan’s cultural sites.”
Akihiko Tamura, commissioner of the Japan Tourism Agency
That opening up of “unique venues” for tourism is among the efforts to “transform Japan into a tourism-oriented country,” said Ryoichi Matsuyama, president of the Japan National Tourism Organization. It’s one of the “strong government initiatives to make full use of local tourism resources to enhance the competitiveness of Japanese tourism.”
“As we look toward the future, we will generate innovation at all levels of the travel and tourism industry,” Matsuyama said.
That will involve “more cooperation between regions, industries, and the public and private sectors to expand tourism even further,” said Norio Yamaguchi, chairman of the Japan Travel and Tourism Association.
Japan welcomed 19.74 million tourists in 2015, said Keiichi Ishii, Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. As of October, the number of visitors for 2016 had reached 20.11 million, marking the first time more than 20 million visitors have come to the country in one year and an increase of 23.3 per cent over last year. With those increasing numbers, Japan is targeting 40 million visitors annually by 2020, Ishii said.
More than 80 international travel agents are in Japan as part of the Visit Japan Project. Stay tuned this week for more updates from Japan as PAX explores Karuizawa and Ise-Shima, both sites of G7 meetings in 2016.