Japan Eleanor Lambert 13480656

Introduction to Japan

Japan is an archipelago of over 6,500 islands in North East Asia with a population of over 126 million. Japan is renowned for having four distinctive seasons which provides attractions and destinations for tourists all year round. Japan’s iconic cherry blossoms come into bloom at Spring whilst the snow in Winter results in a surge of tourists (JNTO, 2016a). Japan’s social and cultural diversity has intrigued tourists whilst remaining a country that respects its traditions and heritage such as geishas whilst also adopting new attractions for example anime and technology (Boniface et al., 2016, 542). This distinctive culture which has been described as ‘beautiful, unfathomable and downright odd’ (Lonely Planet, 2016a) is a key factor that explains the impressive growth of 47% of international tourist arrivals between 2014-2015. Due to the ‘shrinking world’ that is a result of globalisation, society is able to travel to destinations further away in shorter times. Mobilities “encompasses both large scale movements of people, objects … across the world as well as local processes of daily transportation, movement through public space and travel of material things within everyday space” (Hannam, Sheller & Urry, 2006:1). It has a huge effect on the industry as it essentially allows it to function and provide accessibility to the country and its events. The experience economy is integral in this industry because if it can connect the experience to the destination in a ‘personal, memorable way’ (Pine & Gilmore, 1993: 3) it can encourage return trips.

Aim of the Website

This website into Japan and its resources aims to do these three things

• Explore the feasibility of hosting a cultural event in Japan

• Analyse the opportunities that Japan has as a tourist and event destination whilst taking into consideration the strengths and weaknesses

• Investigate Japan’s international and domestic travel flows and how this can influence the possibility of hosting a large event

Travel Flows

Japan has seen a huge increase of 47% resulting in 20 million international arrivals from 2014- 2015, generating $25 million worth of international tourism receipts (UNWTO, 2016). The majority of Japan’s international visitors are from Asian countries such as Korea, China and Taiwan as they make up over 80% of tourists, however countries such as U.K, U.S.A and Australia are also generating tourists to Japan (JNTO, 2014).

Japan is a popular destination for the cultural traveller, it boasts 20 UNESCO sites (UNESCO, 2016) with these being popular destinations for international tourists but also the modernity of the large cities also proves to be a popular attraction.

Japan is one of the principal industrial nation within Asia as a result of globalisation and the country’s technological advances; it has a GDP only second to U.S.A (Boniface et al., 2016, 542). Therefore, Japan is a popular and important destination for the business travellers, generating 1.5 million business arrivals with the majority of them travelling from Korea, China and U.S.A (JNTO, 2014). This presence of business travellers in Japan is integral for its’ Travel and Tourism industry as 32.1% (8.3 billion JPY) of visitor spending is done by business spending. However as shown by Figure 1, leisure spending makes up 67.9% (17.5 billion JPY) of the industry’s contribution to GDP (World Travel and Tourism Council, 2015). Chinese visitors make up 40.8% of this visitor spending which highlights the importance of Chinese visitors to the industry and Japan’s economy (Otake, 2016). The travel and tourism industry is essential to Japan’s GDP as it contributed 39.4 billion Japanese Yen (7.9%).

Figure 2. Japan Travel and Tourism's Contribution to GDP Business vs. Leisure (World Travel and Tourism Council, 2015)

Domestic Travel Trends

Nelson Graburn argues that the ‘travel within the country is deeply rooted in Japanese culture’, as a result many domestic tourists travel to religious sites e.g. temples and shrines (Graburn, 1983, 2). This is exemplified by the fact that Japanese tourism and expenditure figures are predominantly made up of domestic tourism as opposed to international (Boniface et al., 2016, 544). Japan is a work-oriented society and therefore there is a lack of annual holidays which explains why domestic holidays out rank international trips.

Japan’s fascination with Western culture is apparent due to the increase in visits at themes parks such as Tokyo Disneyland and Universal studio that showcase this culture. Tokyo Disneyland had over 30 million visitors in 2015 with 95% of these visitors being from Japan (OLC,2015). Ski resorts are popular destinations for weekend trips, particularly resorts in Sapporo and Nagano as over 15 million Japanese practice skiing (Boniface et al.,2016,544).

Domestic tourism is essential to the travel and tourism industry as domestic travel expenditures make up the majority of visitor spending with 87.9% (World Travel and Tourism Council, 2015). Figure 2 shows the differences in spending between foreign visitors and domestic travellers.

Figure 2. Japan Travel and Tourism's Contribution to GDP Domestic vs. Foreign (World Travel and Tourism Council, 2015).


Infrastructure has been developed within Japan to meet the demands of an influx of tourists and as a result the 33.4 miles long Seikan underwater Tunnel has been constructed to connect the islands of Hokkaido and Honshu. This tunnel is the longest in the world and is famed for carrying the iconic Shinkansen ‘bullet train’. The Shinkansen high speed train is part of Japan’s programme to build a national network of high speed railways that make Japan more accessible not only for foreign visitors but to provide more opportunities for Japanese citizens. Figures show that the bullet train is extremely popular as yearly passenger ridership is 155 million (Central Japan Railway Company, 2014).

Haneda Airport was ranked as 5th global busiest airport with 75 million passengers (Airport Council International, 2015). Japan is an isolated country as the nation is surrounded by sea on all sides however this seems to have not affected flight figures. Peach and Jetstar are the country’s national Low Cost Carriers with extensive flight routes however travelling domestically is still relatively expensive. It has been predicted that the ‘number of international passengers will increase significantly by 60-80% from 2012-2022’ (Inoue et al., 2015).

Figure 3. Shinkansen Train Routes

Resources, Attractions & Events

Cultural Traditions :

Japan is a prime destination for the cultural traveller as the country loves to showcase its’ heritage and traditions. Within Japan, there are many hotels and locations that will perform the traditional tea ceremonies that are iconic within this culture. The tea ceremony or ‘Sado’ is a method to train your concentration and to learn customary manners (JNTO, 2016d). Kyoto is the place to experience a Geisha dance; they are held in April every year. Geishas are highly skilled entertainers that have been trained from a young age in Japanese arts and traditions (Lonely Planet, 2010). Sumo wrestling is an ancient Japanese sport and is a true cultural experience. Every year the Sumo Basho competition is held 6 times during the year in different locations (JNTO,2016d).

Traditional Japanese Ceremony


Japan has 20 UNESCO World Heritage sites and only Italy, that has 51, has more sites (UNESCO, 2016). Hiroshima is home to 2 UNESCO sites: Hiroshima Peace Memorial and the Itsukushima Shrine. During World War II, the city was destroyed by an atomic bond and the A-Bomb Dome of the memorial is a symbol of peace. The memorial lies near to the hypocentre of the bomb and aims to abolish nuclear weapons by reminding visitors of the damage it caused (Hiroshima Prefectural Government, 2016). The Itsukushima Shrine was built on the coast of Miyajima and is a popular destination due to its scenery that represents human and natural beauty.

Itsukushima Shrine

Japanese Alps and Mount Fuji:

As a result of geographical instability, Japan is home to scenic mountainous landscapes such as the iconic Mount Fuji. It is a popular destination for pilgrimage trips as it is considered to be the 'centre of ancient worship'. The foot of the mountain is home to Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha Shrine which is considered to be the headquarters to over 1,300 Sengen shrines (JNTO,2016b). The Northern Japanese Alps is extremely popular for winter sports and is home to Hakuba Happoone Ski resort that hosted the 1998 Winter Olympic Games.

Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha Shrine

Ogasawara Islands:

The Ogasawara Islands are home to 140 varieties of plants and animals and all of the native animals are protected species (JNTO, 2016c). The islands offer plenty of magnificent beaches and is perfect for active tourists who want to explore the diving sites, go forest hiking and view stunning viewpoints. The only method of transport to the islands are a 2 ½ hour ferry ride from Tokyo and they only run several times during the week (Lonely Planet, 2016b).

Setsubun (Bean Throwing Festival) –

The event is celebrated at the beginning of Spring. Customs on this festival involve the throwing of roasted soybeans whilst chanting rhymes to prevent ‘demons’ from entering houses. The sushi rolls that are traditionally eaten on this day have resulted in the event becoming commercialised and brought a lot of business to stores that sell the rolls (Business,2016).

Tokyo 2020 Olympics –

This upcoming mega event will bring additional tourism to Japan and whilst they stay, they will have the opportunity to explore the rest of the country’s assets. Officials have already recognised the effect this mega event could have on future tourism and therefore investments have been to improve touristic resources. For example, investments are being made into the building and refurbishments of facilities and also improving routes to regional areas so tourists can explore these destinations as well as Tokyo city (Bank of Japan, 2016).

Shogatsu (New Year’s Day) –

One of the biggest events in the Japanese calendar and an opportunity for Japan to showcase its heritage as many traditions are carried out during the day. The event take place between January 1st-3rd and it is customary for families to visit temples and shrines together. It is a very family oriented celebration and therefore there is an increase in transport industries as individuals travel home to their families (Stripes Japan, 2014).

Case Study - Foreign themes in Japanese Domestic Tourism

This case study looks at the attraction of Western technology and culture for the Japanese. Japan has many attractions built that provide the Japanese with the opportunity to experience this Western lifestyle and give a ‘genuine American experience’ (Boniface et al., 2012, 444) e.g. Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios.

They are significant to Japan’s tourism industry as these attractions play a huge part in domestic tourism allowing residents to live this Western experience without the challenges and expense of international travel. This is represented by Tokyo Disneyland’s public relations’ spoke person Toshiharu Akiba stating ‘We wanted Japanese visitors to feel they were on a foreign holiday’ (Brannen, M., 1992). These Western attractions are particularly popular among students who now have the opportunity to experience the culture that they have seen in the media.

Evaluation of Japan's Tourism and Events

Japan has abundant natural resources that remain untouched by mankind which provide beautiful scenery for tourists to admire but also locations for a variety of activities such as winter sports, golf and hiking. The selling point of Japan is its diverse culture that is unlike any other. Japan has managed to become a technological hub for the globe whilst still maintain its heritage by showcasing traditions such as geishas and sumo wrestlers. These resources play a crucial part in the tourism industry as they have the ability to attract tourists from afar and allow them to have a ‘taste’ of Japan. The development of infrastructure within Japan has increased connections and improved accessibility for both visitors and citizens of Japan.

Japan remains a homogenous country as ethnic minorities make up only 1.5% of the population (Boniface et al., 2016, 543). Therefore, touristic resources such as a lack of signing in mixed languages, particularly within transport, can result in confusion and inaccessibility for tourists.

Japan has been a victim of several natural disasters due to its geographical instability, most notably the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami which had short term economic and travel impacts such as international arrivals fell by 62% in 2011 (World Travel and Tourism Council, 2012).

Japan has several upcoming mega-events such as 2019 Rugby World Cup and Tokyo 2020 Olympics which have the potential to redefine Japan as a tourism destination from the development in infrastructure and touristic resources. This has been exemplified in the past with the 1964 Tokyo Olympics which saw Japan redefine transport with the construction of the bullet train and also their country’s image (Martin, 2013).

Key Recommendations

A successful event within Japan will have to have strong undertones of tradition and heritage which will result in attendees truly experiencing and understanding Japan’s culture. The country has an impressive rail network between large regions and therefore it would be recommended that the event’s venue is somewhere in close proximity to a destination on the network’s route. This will result in increased accessibility for both visitors and citizens and hopefully maximise attendee numbers.


To conclude, Japan has huge potential to be a popular tourist destination, the country is already on its way which is shown from the huge increase in arrival figures. Its cultural diversity is a key driver in attracting tourists to a culture that is unlike no other. Japan’s preparation for the upcoming mega events will resolve the majority of issues regarding tourists and the growth in international tourism will only exceed what it has already achieved.

Harvard Reference List

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Created By
Eleanor Lambert


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