• 2018.05.28 | Kagoshima
  • TOKYO, Janpan - Undated file photo shows people cycling on the Shimanami Kaido cycling route in Imabari in Ehime Prefecture, western Japan. (Kyodo)   ==Kyodo  
    2018.05.25 | Ehime
  • KOFU, Japan - Visitors enjoy pink "shibazakura," or moss phlox flowers, in full bloom with Mt. Fuji in the background at the Fuji Motosuko Resort in Fujikawaguchiko, in the central Japan prefecture of Yamanashi, on May 11, 2018. (Kyodo)   ==Kyodo
    2018.05.14 | Yamanashi
  • TOKYO - A normally restricted section of the Imperial Palace grounds in Tokyo opened to the public on Saturday, allowing people to stroll through the blooming cherry blossoms there for the first time since 2016.   About 3,700 people lined up for their chance to walk the 750-meter Inui Street, which runs from the Sakashita gate to the Inui gate. The section is open to visitors through April 1 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.   During the cherry blossom and autumn foliage seasons, public access to the street is normally permitted just twice a year. But it had been closed from spring 2016 to fall 2017 to allow for work to be carried out on the trees.   The palace drew an estimated 500,000 visitors over 10 days during the cherry blossom viewing season in spring 2016.   ==Kyodo
    2018.03.26 | 
  • TOKYO,JAPAN - A Godzilla statue is unveiled at a shopping mall in Tokyo on March 22, 2018. Measuring 3 meters in height, it is the largest Godzilla statue in Japan. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
    2018.03.23 | Tokyo
  • Many foreign tourists to Japan often wonder why public transportation, especially in areas of Tokyo renowned for their nightlife, is so limited after the last trains of the night.   Now local officials are brainstorming for ideas to address this dissatisfaction and others among foreign tourists and boost their spending by encouraging more night outings to shows, restaurants and scenic spots in the country.   Some local municipalities are proposing night markets in parks and DJ events using street vendors.   Toshima Ward centering on Ikebukuro, one of Tokyo's busiest hubs, recently came up with such ideas to enhance the appeal of its nightlife. It even launched a committee last December whose members, including TV personality Tomoe Shinohara, are considering various ideas for nightlife entertainment.   The ward is building an outdoor theater at a park near Ikebukuro Station to attract more visitors with artistic and cultural interests and is hoping to liven up the area so that people spend time and money there after the shows have ended.   "We want to realize the proposals, starting with those deemed most viable," said Toshima Ward mayor Yukio Takano.   According to Japan's Tourism Agency, a record 28.69 million foreigners visited Japan in 2017, with their total spending reaching an all-time high of 4.41 trillion yen ($41.8 billion).   But given a cooling off of Chinese tourists' shopping binges, once dubbed "bakugai" or "explosive shopping," spending per foreign traveler at about 150,000 yen is on the decline.   Tourists, especially from Europe and the United States who emphasize nighttime entertainment when traveling, complain that Japan's nightlife can be dull -- meaning there is a huge potential for promoting more spending by foreign travelers.   To offer more choices in nightlife entertainment, the Osaka prefectural government started providing subsidies to seven projects to enhance nighttime culture in fiscal 2017.   Club Piccadilly, which puts on Friday night shows featuring ninja dancers and performances of Japanese taiko drumming and electric shamisen instruments in Osaka's busy Umeda district, was one of those chosen and proved popular with foreign tourists.   The Tourism Agency plans to support municipal efforts to promote nightlife entertainment across Japan, citing the Nagano Lantern Festival at Zenkoji temple in Nagano Prefecture, central Japan, as a successful example.   The annual festival commemorating the 1998 Nagano Olympics, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors in February, features crafted paper lanterns lining the streets and Zenkoji temple lit up in dazzling lights.   "If we can create opportunities to go out at night not only in big cities but also in places like ski and hot spring resorts, that could boost spending on food, beverages and other things," said an official of the agency.   Although the downtown areas of Shibuya and Ginza are bustling with shops and entertainment, the drawback is that Tokyo train and bus services end relatively early -- usually around midnight or a little later -- when the night is still young.   This leaves foreign revelers with few transportation options, either having to stay out and wait for their first train or pay for an expensive taxi ride back to their hotel.   This is in stark contrast to regional cities, such as Fukuoka, southwestern Japan, where the downtown areas are rather compact with shops and hotels all within walking distances of each other, which makes them even better potential hubs for nightlife activity.   In December, a group of lawmakers of the Liberal Democratic Party proposed carrying out test-run experiments to allow trains and buses to operate past midnight and into the early hours of the morning as a way of enhancing convenience for nightlife enjoyment.   Even so, it would be difficult to operate subways around the clock like those in New York City, the Tokyo metropolitan government-run subway operator suggested.   "It wouldn't be easy because we check train tracks and the overhead wires between the last train and the first train in the morning," said an official of the subway operator.   In Fukuoka, Fukuoka D.C., an association of industry, government and academia, is taking the lead in examining ways to stimulate the nighttime economy, and plans to take steps in earnest to that end from fiscal 2018.   "Our town is compact. Food stalls and hotels are all concentrated in the center of the town and this is our advantage that travelers don't have to worry about transportation after staying out late," said Shuhei Ishimaru, director general of the association.   "We want to create an environment where foreign travelers can enjoy their nightlife for many days without worry," he added.   ==Kyodo
    2018.03.22 | Osaka
  • OSAKA - The refurbished interior of the Tower of the Sun, a major artwork by the late Taro Okamoto, was opened to the public Monday at an Osaka park for the first time since the 1970 Japan World Exposition, of which it became a famous symbol.   The 70-meter white tower with horn-like arms and three faces of the sun was built as part of the expo's theme pavilion in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, but had been kept off limits in principle since the event ended. The prefectural government began refurbishing the tower's interior in 2016.   Long lines of people who made reservations for admission in advance formed in front of the tower's entrance at the Expo '70 Commemorative Park from the morning, forcing organizers to open the doors 10 minutes ahead of time.   The visitors enjoyed projection mapping on the 11-meter-wide tower's fourth sun, located underground, with the sun's round face appearing in different colors during the show. The display had been missing since the end of the expo and was reconstructed.   "I've seen it in photographs but it was very different when I saw it in person. It was great," said Ai Takahira, 40, who came from Kyoto Prefecture to see the interior.   The 41-meter "Tree of Life," another of Okamoto's works inside the tower, depicting the evolution of humans, is now adorned with models of 183 of the 292 creatures found on the original display.   A model of a gorilla has been kept in its original state, with its damaged head revealing the reinforced steel frame inside due to aging.   While escalators were available during the exposition to allow visitors to go up the tower, they have been changed to stairs to enable them to take more time to observe the details of the work, according to the prefecture.   The tower accepts 80 people per 30 minutes and up to 1,120 people in a day. Admission fee for the tower is 700 yen ($6.6) in addition to 250 yen entrance charge for the park for adults and reservations for the next four months have been filled, the park said.   ==Kyodo
    2018.03.20 | Osaka
  • A lake resort area at the foot of Mt. Fuji has recently been bustling with foreign tourists, with the new business of taking pictures wearing rented kimono with Japan's highest peak in the background becoming popular. As millions of Instagramers and other social networking service users post their travel photos on their SNS accounts, people involved in the kimono and tourism industries are aiming to have this business take root. The Fuji Five Lakes are located in Yamanashi Prefecture near the 3,776-meter volcano. "We would like to instill a perception that it is a spot where people can enjoy sightseeing clad in kimono," a kimono rental business official said. In early February, employees of a kimono rental shop were busy dolling Indonesian women up in traditional Japanese clothing behind a souvenir section selling local specialty silk goods at the Oishitsumugi Traditional Crafts Museum in the town of Fujikawaguchiko. Kimono store Konyone based in the prefectural capital of Kofu started the kimono rental business at the crafts museum in January 2017 after store manager Minoru Shimada acquired knowledge of the rental business by making a number of trips to Kyoto and Tokyo's Asakusa district where many kimono rental shops are open. Konyone was wholesaling kimono and other traditional clothing to the museum's souvenir shop, where some 300 units of clothing were sold a month, mostly to foreign visitors. It took about three years in preparation for opening the business in the town, according to Shimada, 61. "If they actually wear (kimono), their experience will turn to better travel memories as we have picturesque scenic beauty here -- Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi," he said. One of Konyone's selling points is dressing customers in authentic kimono, rather than easy-to-wear ones that can be worn over conventional clothing. "We want them to experience real (Japanese) culture," Shimada said, adding customers' reactions to wearing authentic kimono are mostly positive while some admit the feeling of tightness. At the same time, a tourist facility renting out easy-to-wear kimono at reasonable prices has been also crowded with tourist groups from China and Southeast Asia. Over 100 people visit the facility on good days, the facility said. "Since we have good old Japanese scenery with Mt. Fuji and traditional thatched roofs, visitors may naturally feel like taking photos in kimono," an official of the facility said. Jumpei Horiuchi of the Fujikawaguchiko Tourism Federation said there is an increasing demand for participatory tourism from among tourists and the kimono rental service matches their needs. "I think it will help boost the number of repeaters in the Mt. Fuji area," said Horiuchi, 26. ==Kyodo
    2018.03.14 | Yamanashi
  • OSAKA - A train operator in Kyoto on Wednesday unveiled a new train carriage featuring a huge gold oval design on the front.   Eizan Electric Railway Co. showed the train named Hiei to the media two weeks ahead of its launch on March 21 on the Eizan Main line. The train is expected to become a new tourist attraction on the sightseeing route from central Kyoto toward Mt. Hiei and Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake in Shiga Prefecture.   The train will operate every 40 minutes except Tuesdays. Without extra fees, visitors can get on the train equipped with oval-shaped windows and spacious seats.   The interior features a luxurious design with light-emitting diode devices. The operator has included more travel information in foreign languages such as English and Chinese to meet growing demand from foreign tourists visiting Kyoto, Japan's former capital.   "We are seeing an increasing number of tourists at home and abroad using the railway. We want many people to experience the new train car," an Eizan Electric Railway official said.   ==Kyodo
    2018.03.09 | Kyoto
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