Tourism board goes all out for summer
The Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) has launched a campaign to win over tourists who, in the wake of the March 11 disasters, are in two minds about whether to visit the Land of the Rising Sun.
The organisation has compiled a list of 10 good reasons why this year is the best time to visit Japan, emphasising that most of the country has felt no impact from the earthquake and tsunami that caused such damage in coastal regions of the far northeast.
'Tokyo is back to normal with trains once again running like clockwork, water safe to drink, and the beer and yoghurt shortages are now over,' it says.
Authorities in Japan and abroad say it is safe to travel to virtually all of the country. That has not been enough to convince all travellers to stick to their plans, however, with the number of visitors dropping steeply in the past few months. From Britain alone, tourist numbers have declined by 50 per cent.
Yet, the JNTO says now is the best time to travel to Tokyo and beyond. 'Japan is a fantastic destination for a truly memorable holiday and many of the people in the country rely on tourism for their livelihoods,' a spokesman says. Compiling its top 10 list, the JNTO says the best reason to make Japan your destination this summer is the great deals available on hotels. Many have slashed their rates - with Hyatt Hotels offering 50 per cent off every second night.
Another reason to visit is to volunteer in the areas hardest hit by the natural disasters, with InsideJapan Tours operating a four-day 'Volunteer for Japan' package for non-Japanese speakers to help in the clean-up operations.
A third reason to visit is the imminent opening of beer gardens in Kyoto, where drinkers can down ice cold brews in the company of geisha girls. Japan is also home to some of the world's most stunning natural beauty. Specialist firms are offering hiking holidays that combine some of the nation's best sights, such as walking the volcanoes of Kyushu.
Bullet trains are a perennial favourite with visitors and this year has marked the opening of the final section of high-speed track linking Kagoshima, in the very far south of the archipelago, with Aomori, on the tip of the main island of Honshu.
Several airlines now fly directly into Tokyo's Haneda Airport, a more convenient distance from central Tokyo, while Japan's beaches are often one of its most overlooked assets.
Okinawa Prefecture alone has 160 islands, a subtropical climate, coral reefs, emerald seas and sunny skies.
Other beaches, such as those on the Izu peninsula, are a mere 90-minute train journey from Tokyo.
Eighth on the JNTO's list are the 'relaxed locals', followed by the numerous festivals that can be found throughout the summer. From outdoor music festivals through age-old traditional processions and fireworks displays, there is something to meet everyone's interests.
The final reason may be a little more strenuous, but climbing the iconic Mount Fuji will be a memory to savour for the rest of one's life.
10 reasons to visit Japan
Great deals from hotels
Volunteer for Japan package
Geisha beer gardens in Kyoto
Tour by bullet train
Beaches of Okinawa and Izu
Easygoing and friendly locals
Festivals: from music to spiritual
To climb Mount Fuji