Japan A destination guide

About Japan:

A vast archipelago of 7000 islands and a major market in world tourism, attracting 16,847,465 international visitors in 2015 (UNWTO, 2016), Japan offers many destinations providing a unique cultural experience (EXO, 2016). The islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku make up 97% of the country’s land area (EXO, 2016). Honshu is pivotal to Japan’s key destinations, whilst the other three islands offer a unique spin for tourists (EXO, 2016); if it is a special experience you seek, venture to the Hokkaido mountain ranges for world class skiing areas (EXO, 2016), or relax on one of many beaches in Okinawa (EXO, 2016). For a unique experience, visit one of Japan’s many festivals, such as Sapporo’s snow festival (JNTO, 2016). This website serves as an introduction to the tourism industry in Japan, its role in the economy, and the many experiences offered by this fascinating country.

Our aims:

  • This website serves as a reference of Japanese tourism and events, detailing experiences on offer, (Lonely Planet, 2016; JNTO, 2016), as well as various visitor attractions (Irish, 2009; Thomas, 2015).
  • We cover the growth of recent Japanese travel flow (UNWTO, 2016), and the significance of Japan’s transport infrastructure (Cole, 1996).
  • Key recommendations will be cited encouraging the development of Japanese cultural and heritage tourism.
Introducing the concepts of mobility and the experience economy
  • Japan’s transport infrastructure is pivotal to commuting, and supply-side contributions in tourism and events (Cole, 1996).
  • Mobility includes Japan’s international and domestic travel flow in terms of: movements made, distance covered, reasons of travel and durations of journeys undertaken during transit (Urry, 2014).
  • It also identifies political, economic and social conditions influencing tourism flows (Urry, 2007).
  • It comprises of six “laws” (Hall et al. 2006, cited in Burns et al., 2008), including:
  1. Euclidean distance: Physical distance between locations;
  2. Time distance;
  3. Economic distance: Journeys in terms of monetary value;
  4. Gravity distance: In time and economic factors;
  5. Network distances in transit;
  6. Cognitive distance: Consumer judgement of spatial separation.
  • The experience economy involves marketing of tourist products and services towards Japan’s economy (Rydzik, 2016). As example is the supply and demand between businesses and consumers in planning and undertaking to cultural festivals (Lonely Planet, 2016; JNTO, 2016). Intangible experiences are also tailored to suit the needs of the individual (Pine and Gilmore, 1999, 2011).

Current travel data and statistics

  • The demand for tourism in Japan has risen substantially in recent years, and is now a major tourism recipient (The World Bank, 2016).

Figure 1: Japan's International Tourism Receipts (2004-2014) (The World Bank, 2016).

  • Figure one and figure two demonstrate the importance of Japan in tourism and events (JNTO, 2016; The World Bank, 2016). Figure two highlights Japanese regional tourism flows from the East Asian and Pacific region: 2014-2015 evidenced a significant increase from this market, a fact further supported by figure three (UNWTO, 2016), where visitor flow increased from 10,973,827 visitors in 2014 to 16,847,465 in 2015 (UNWTO, 2016), with China, Hong Kong and South Korea providing the highest market share, 85.36 as of 2015 (UNWTO, 2016).

Figure 2: Japan's International Tourism Receipts by Region (1990-2014) (JNTO, 2016).

  • During 2012 and 2013, Chinese inbound tourism dipped from 1,425,100 to 1,314,437, a 28% reduction (UNWTO, 2016), due to territorial tensions tensions between China and Japan (Kim et al., 2016).
  • Figure one (The World Bank, 2016) also highlights fluctuations in international tourism flow, and how this becomes affected by political, economic, environmental and social conditions (Kim et. al., 2016). The March 2011 earthquake in Fukushima (BBC, 2011) triggered a significant decline in international tourism flow, from 15.356 million visitors in 2010, to 12.533 million in 2011 (The World Bank, 2011).

Figure 3: Arrivals of non-resident visitors by country (UNWTO, 2016).

  • Despite this, Japan’s outbound tourism is still strong as of October 2016, with 227,149 visits made to Korea (UNWTO, 2016), 167,336 recorded in Taiwan (UNWTO, 2016), 99,456 in Thailand (UNWTO, 2016), 86,409 to Hong Kong (UNWTO, 2016), and 22,215 to Macau (UNWTO, 2016).
  • Europe is emerging as a popular market for Japanese tourism (Boniface and Cooper, 2009), with 120,998 visits to Germany (UNWTO, 2016), 94,036 to Spain (UNWTO, 2016) and 42,773 to Austria (UNWTO, 2016).

Key features of Japanese domestic tourism

Domestic tourism is vital to Japan. To stimulate the growth of tourist resorts, the 1988 General Recreation Area Establishment Law (Knight, 1996) encouraged the development of rural areas providing golf-courses and ski resorts in the Honshu and Hokkaido Mountain ranges (Knight, 1996). This has created a new “westernised” tourism market (Boniface and Cooper, 2009), with 15 million Japanese winter skiers in Northern Honshu.

Hongu Cho is a popular destination for tourists from the Kansai area (Knight, 1996). A key reason for this lies in the onsen ryoko (hot-spring holiday), a major source of domestic tourism (Knight, 1996). 105,523 visitors were recorded in 1966 (Knight, 1996), a figure that rose to 469,385 by 1993 (Knight, 1996).

Hongu is a pilgrimage centre (Knight, 1996). Many pilgrims journey here from Kyoto to visit its Shrine (Eherentraut, 1993).

Domestic travel accounts for 91.8% of tourism activity (WTTC, 2015), undertaken mainly by road and rail, as well as business conferences (Boniface and Cooper, 2009).

Transport Infrastructure
  • Japan’s transport infrastructure connects internationally (Lonely Planet, 2016). Tokyo Narita handles the majority of intercontinental connectivity (Lonely Planet, 2016), with 3 million passengers handled in August 2016 (CAPA, 2016), a 3.6% increase over August 2015 (CAPA, 2016). However, some air traffic has been transferred to Tokyo’s second airport, Haneda (Lonely Planet, 2016). Narita remains as Japan’s primary aviation gateway, handling 35.6 million passengers in 2014 (CAPA, 2015). The two main airlines, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways offer an extensive network of domestic and international destinations (Lonely Planet, 2016).
Left: Figure 4: Tokyo Narita annual passenger numbers (2008-2014) (CAPA, 2015). Right: Figure 5: Tokyo Narita International Passenger numbers (2008-2014) (CAPA, 2015).
  • Japan’s rail services are fast, frequent, and comfortable (Lonely Planet, 2016). Japan Railways provides national rail coverage, in addition to local rail services (Lonely Planet, 2016). An example is the world’s longest “Shinkansen” (bullet train), from Tokyo to Morioka at 20,000 kilometres (Boniface and Cooper, 2009).
  • There are many private rail services (Lonely Planet, 2016). Each city has its own private train service, serving it, and nearby cities (Lonely Planet, 2016).
  • Intra-regional travel relies on Japan’s ferry network, linking the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku together (Lonely Planet, 2016). Overnight services offer two classes of travel (Lonely Planet, 2016).
Japan's natural resources

Shikotsu-Toya National Park

  • Shikotsu-Toya National Park, north of Muroran is a popular summer destination (Boniface and Cooper, 2009) featuring a stunning landscape of mountains and lakes (Irish, 2009). It is easily accessible, with flights from Hokkaido airport (Irish, 2009). This magnificent site is characterised by the 6,263-foot Mount. Yotei, Hokkaido’s Mount. Fuji (Irish, 2009).

Lake Toya

  • Lake Toya, southwest of Shikotsu-Toya National Park is a beautiful volcanic caldera lake (Irish, 2009). Tourists are drawn towards the Noboribetsu Hot Springs (Fujio, 1926), set in a narrow valley where visitors also come to view Jigokudani, a Yellowstone-like volcanic landscape (Irish, 2009).

Inland sea

  • The inland sea between western Honshu and Shikoku (Britannica, 2008; JNTO, 2016) has many small islands. A popular getaway for tourists, Awaji island is just one of these, located in southern Hyogo (JNTO, 2016). The island forms part of Seto-naikai National Park (JNTO, 2016). Attractions include Uzushio, an area of outstanding natural beauty, as well as picturesque beaches, including Goshiki-harma Beach (JNTO, 2016), renowned for its colourful pebble shore.
Cultural resources
  • Renowned as the former capital (JNTO, 2016), and a popular cultural centre, Kyoto is ideal for those after an authentic Japanese experience (JNTO, 2016). There are many ‘maiko’, young dancing entertainers in the Gion district (JNTO, 2016). Seeking a taste of art and craft? Visit the Nishijin, and witness traditional ‘Nishijin-ori’ textiles being woven (JNTO, 2016).
Key events
  • Kyoto’s Toh-shiya archery contest encompasses the competitive spirit of Japan (JNTO, 2016). Archers compete against each other in the 120-meter long Sanjusangen-do Temple, the world’s longest wooden structure (JNTO, 2016). As this event marks the first shooting of arrows in the New Year, it is known as ‘New Year archery’, held on the Sunday closest to January 15th (JNTO, 2016).
  • The 2020 summer Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo from 24th July to 9 August (Olympic, 2016), marking the second time that the Japanese capital has hosted this major event (Olympic, 2016), with 207 nations competing (TOCOPG, 2016). Five new sports will be featured for the first time, including baseball, karate, skateboarding, athletic climbing and surfing (Olympic, 2016).
  • Famed as Japan’s largest snow festival, this display of hand-crafted snow statues is displayed throughout three sites in Sapporo each year (JNTO, 2016), attracting two million international and domestic visitors (JNTO, 2016). Odori Park, the primary venue, transforms into a snow museum extending over 1.5 kilometres (JNTO, 2016). The International Square becomes the centre-stage for the International snow contest, with international teams competing every year (JNTO, 2016).
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
  • Japan’s transport infrastructure puts it centre-stage in the hosting of events (Lonely Planet, 2016). The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will catalyse the growth of domestic and international travel (BOJ, 2016).
  • Recently, the numbers of foreign visitors in Japan has increased steadily, due to the easing of visa requirements and a weaker yen (BOJ, 2016). The Government’s target of reaching 20 million foreign visitors by 2020 will likely be exceeded (BOJ, 2016). However, aggressive marketing could raise numbers of international visitors to the Olympic Games (BOJ, 2016).
  • Constructional Investment delivers indirect benefits to consumers, such as new hotels and refurbishment of existing accommodation in the private sector (BOJ, 2016), providing new and improved facilities. Based on data on construction investment made by previous host countries, investment in Tokyo’s Olympics will increase substantially during 2017-2018 (BOJ, 2016).
  • To meet the demand for this investment, supply-side measures should be implemented to help prevent structural labour shortage (BOJ, 2016). This could include increasing labour productivity and further raising labour participation of women (BOJ, 2016).
Evaluating Japanese tourism and events

Japan hosts a wide range of festivals (Rough Guides, 2016). The Yamayaki New Year festival, held on 15th January, marks the beginning of a new year where the slopes of Wakakusa-yama are set alight (Rough Guides, 2016; JNTO, 2016). This serves to promote Japanese culture (Hofstede, 2001).

However, the 1937 Nanjing massacre has destabilised the relationship between China and Japan (He, 2014). Claimed Japanese sovereignty over the Diaoyu and Senkaku islands has discouraged Chinese tourism flow (Cui, 2012). From 2001 to 2009, Japan experienced a substantial decline in its outbound tourism flow, peaking at 16,215,657 visits in 2001, to 15,445,684 visits by 2009 (JTB Tourism Research and Consulting Co., 2016), resulting from economic restructuring, increased working hours, and reduced leisure time (Boniface and Cooper, 2009). However, outbound tourism has since risen, and in 2015, 16,213,763 visits were recorded (JTB Tourism Research and Consulting Co., 2016).

Figure 6: Annual Japanese visits Abroad since 1964 (JTB Tourism Research & Consulting Co., 2016).

Figure 7: Annual Overseas visits to Japan (JTB Tourism Research & Consulting Co., 2016).

Japan faces major shortages in structural labour required for projects associated with the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games (BOJ, 2016). This is due to unprecedented levels of international tourism. (BOJ, 2016). For instance, international visitors to Japan rose from 13,413,467 in 2014 to 19,737,400 in 2015 (JTB Tourism Research & Consulting Co., 2016), and is expected to rise even further in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics (BOJ, 2016). To meet this demand, additional supply-side investments must be made in the areas of accommodation, transport infrastructure and the availability of constructional-related jobs (BOJ, 2016).

There are opportunities for Japan to establish cultural exchange programmes with neighbouring countries, such as China and Korea (Austin and Harris, 2001). This could raise Japan’s inbound visitor flow (Su et al., 2012), and strengthen its global position (Soschiroda, 2005).

Key recommendations
  • To maximise profit, events should be set up in areas already attracting international and domestic visitors. Such an example is Lake Toya (Irish, 2009), an area providing opportunities for rest and relaxation, and is emerging as a popular destination for business conferences (Boniface and Cooper, 2009).
  • The best time of year to establish an event is in July (JTB Tourism Research & Consulting Co., 2016) when domestic and international visitor flow peaks. For example, overseas visitors in July rose from 847,194 in 2012 to 2,296,451 in 2016 (JTB Tourism Research & Consulting Co., 2016).

Figure 8: Monthly Japanese visits Abroad (2012-2016) (JTB Tourism Research & Consulting Co., 2016).

  • Many travellers journey to Japan in search of an authentic experience, so it is wise to design your event around existing cultural events (JNTO, 2016).

Japan is well positioned to offer visitors a truly unique and cultural experience, thanks to its wide array of events and beautiful geography (JNTO, 2016). The opportunities here for business and economic growth are limitless, resulting from Japan’s unrivalled transport infrastructure. No matter what it is you are after, Japan is ready to cater to your every need and will surprise even the most seasoned traveller.


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Created by:

  • Joshua Warren
  • Student Number: 14546356
  • Seminar Tutor: Agnieszka Rydzik
  • Module Title and Code: Space, Mobilities and the Experience Economy (TOU1015M)
  • Word Count: 2,197 words.


Created with images by DeltaWorks - "sunset japan kumamoto" • ai3310X - "In the Cherry Tree" • Yoshikazu TAKADA - "Sakura" • Yoshikazu TAKADA - "Sakura" • reggiepen - "Reaching Out" • DeltaWorks - "aso komezuka sea of clouds" • Bergadder - "mandulavirág almond flowers" • sasint - "beauty asia seductive" • DeltaWorks - "japan aso shrine" • yari3180m - "IMG_0196" • kurotango Clip - "Shonan Sunset" • Greg Palmer - "Shinkansen" • Moyan_Brenn - "Japan" • aotaro - "Under the Cherry Blossoms" • usarjnco - "Budokan Bash: USARJ Band belts out best tunes at JSDF Music Festival" • Guwashi999 - "Tokyo Night" • GabrielaP93 - "186/365 - 4/12/2011" • free-pix-bkk - "bullet train shinkansen railway" • Yoshikazu TAKADA - "Sky, Cloud and Sea" • lkarasawa - "JA737J" • Living In Thailand - "untitled image" • nguyentuanhung - "aircraft airplane narita" • Robert Sanzalone - "2009 Suzuka Balloon Festival" • leonyaakov - "Kyoto, November 2006" • *_* - "3-story pagoda @ Naritasan Shinshoji Temple @ Narita" • sermarr erGuiri - "Toro" • adactio - "Nigiri" • selmerv - "My drink at Ninja Ninja" • lkarasawa - "JA706J" • MIKI Yoshihito. (#mikiyoshihito) - "JAL to Tokyo." • Liline sur Flickr - "CIMG7274" • s.sawada - "untitled image" • Travis Hornung - "IMG_5392" • TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) - "Red Hot Spring / 海地獄(うみぢごく)" • Ruth and Dave - "O-Torii" • kaguran - "japanese nozomi kaguran" • lkarasawa - "JA780A" • lkarasawa - "JA8088" • lkarasawa - "JA802A" • Liline sur Flickr - "CIMG7274" • Zengame - "DSCF0115" • kanegen - "JA8984(Tokyo Haneda International Airport-Tilt Shift)" • transitpeople - "Near Uguisudani station" • muneaki - "Sakurajima Ferry" • peternguyen11 - "plane airplane take-off" • atuweb - "lake lake toya hokkaido" • Μanu - "Lake Toya" • TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) - "Blue Hot Spring / かまど地獄(ぢごく)" • Moyan_Brenn - "Japan" • atomicforcemicroscope - "Fuji-san" • TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) - "Volcanic Cone / 中岳(なかだけ)火口付近(かこうふきん)" • miki mix - "Lake Chuzenji - Nikko National Park" • Pavel ahmed - "Serenity-II" • Yoshikazu TAKADA - "Flamenco Dancer" • Andrea Schaffer - "Yasaka-jinja, Kyoto" • sasint - "beauty asia seductive" • Yoshikazu TAKADA - "Sanja Matsuri" • LittleMouse - "guanyin bodhisattva goddess of mercy buddi" • sasint - "beauty asia seductive" • br1dotcom - "Kimono enchantment" • Zengame - "DSCF1557" • kazuletokyoite - "Yabusame at Kamakura" • robertpaulyoung - "Garden at Sanjusangen-do temple" • mvolkmann - "tradition japan new year" • Masaru Kamikura - "Tokyo Olympic 2020 Emblem with JAL" • sharonang - "snow carving snow art sculpture" • clay.smith11 - "Kyoto73" • t-mizo - "Night View with Tokyo Tower Special Lightup <Invitation for 2020 Olympic Games> (Shibakouen, Tokyo, Japan)" • Associação Japonesa de Santos (AJS) - "Demonstração de Karatê - Santos Matsuri 2014" • Cesar I. Martins - "... o festival fica naquele sentido..." • futureatlas.com - "The flag of Japan" • t-mizo - "Tokyo Tower Special Lightup <Invitation for 2020 Olympic Games> (Shibakouen, Tokyo, Japan)" • *_* - "Mascot of Tokyo Olympic Games 2020 @ Odaiba" • Foxcroft Academy - "4G7A6688" • t-mizo - "Night View with Tokyo Tower Special Lightup <Invitation for 2020 Olympic Games> (Shibakouen, Tokyo, Japan)" • prind1m - "Tokyo, Japan" • spinster cardigan - "summer's end" • boomer-44 - "Muñoz" • futureatlas.com - "East Asian flags" • 246-You - "Happy new year!" • Unsplash - "building torii traditional" • *~Dawn~* - "Serenity in Saratoga" • futureatlas.com - "East Asian flags" • 246-You - "Happy New Year by TX5" • sasint - "beauty asia seductive" • Yoshikazu TAKADA - "Double Cherry Blossoms" • aotaro - "Beautiful morning at Joetsu Kokusai Ski Report" • masayukig - "New year's sunrise" • chiaoyinanita - "firework fireworks lights" • nguyentuanhung - "fireworks hanabi colorful" • cegoh - "japan tokyo smiling" • Yoshikazu TAKADA - "Sanja Matsuri" • Moyan_Brenn - "Japan" • JoshBerglund19 - "Sunset in Kashima" • stux - "maple autumn leaf" • John Rabbit - "富士山 (Mount Fuji) - 03" • tensaibuta - "Sunrise from summit of Mount Fuji" • DeltaWorks - "kumamoto japan aso" • Hans - "cherry blossom japanese cherry smell" • Yoshikazu TAKADA - "Sakura" • Hans - "cherry blossom japanese cherry smell" • Andy Atzert - "Day 223 2014" • TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) - "Japanese style garden / 日本庭園(にほんていえん)" • TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) - "View / 景色(けしき)" • ozma.ht03a - "_IGP0273" • Justin3.14 - "Japanese Maple Leaves" • Unsplash - "bamboo stems spires" • TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) - "View / 景色(けしき)" • kslee - "Lake Toya (Toyako)" • AG2016 - "fukushima mountain iide mountain" • Chill Mimi - "Hot Spring waterfall resized" • けんたま/KENTAMA - "Untitled" • YUKIHIDE - "winter lake japan" • Moyan_Brenn - "Japan" • shell_ghostcage - "spring flowers spring flowers" • ujeans - "plum spring white plum blossoms" • ftanuki - "fireworks summer in japan night" • Globalism Pictures - "Fireworks display detail: 10" • Globalism Pictures - "Fireworks display detail: 2" • DeltaWorks - "japan aso cloud" • DeltaWorks - "japan aso kumamoto" • sayama - "japan hotels in tokyo plant" • Chill Mimi - "180" • Chi King - "Asahigawa Wildlife (HOKKAIDO/JAPAN)" • lirumlar - "IMG_0182" • sasint - "beauty asia seductive" • sasint - "asia seductive background" • sharonang - "evening sunset building" • Ari Helminen - "Fushimiinari shrine 伏見稲荷大社" • Pavel ahmed - "Evening delight- Tokyo,Daiba" • Nelo Hotsuma - "Ocean Expo Park Summer Festival" • Masaharu Fujikawa (藤川正治) - "Shiretoko National Park (知床国立公園)" • miki mix - "Lake Chuzenji - Nikko National Park" • ajari - "Meiji Memorial Forest Takao Quasi-National Park_20" • SteFou! - "Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park" • MiguelVieira - "Sunset from Mount Kumotori summit" • Boccaccio1 - "Snow melt lake in Daisetsuzan" • strikeael - "Pretty beautiful as the sun goes down." • やまもも工房 - "原宿スーパーよさこい2002" • nguyentuanhung - "red colorful flower" • sharonang - "snow carving snow art sculpture" • PublicDomainPictures - "train japan station" • lkarasawa - "JA8919" • beve4 - "IMG_1722.jpg" • aotaro - "Under the morning light" • Pavel ahmed - "Good Morning Japan" • OiMax - "in the evening twilight"

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