• To highlight some of the main market segments that support Japans tourism industry in terms of travel flows, transportation and its resources
• Analyze some of the key features that currently support or contradict Japan as a suitable destination for hosting events
• Find regions suitable for specific events, in terms of cultural festivals or sporting events
In Japan thrives an immense economic, social and cultural diversity; its sublime physical features represent a strong contrast between its modern and traditional society. Elements such as Mount Fuji, geishas and Japans technological rise, are some of the key features that are symbolic to Japans unique tourism industry. Asia and the pacific welcomed 279 million international tourist arrivals in 2015, 15 million more when compared to 2014, representing a 6% growth in total (UNWTO, 2016a). The outbreak of the second Sino-Japanese War created many negative images of Japan and had a major impact on the tourism industry, but with Tokyo preparing to host the Olympic Games in 2020 its opportunities to expand through the tourism sector will hopefully encourage more tourist arrivals to Japan.
Japan’s significance to contributing to the Asian-Pacific region plays an important role in supporting the economic growth of its tourism receipts, earning US$ 418 billion in international tourism receipts, an increase of 4% in real terms (UNWTOb, 2016). Japans travel market is mainly dominated by leisure travel, from domestic tourists in particular, to destinations of significant importance, representing religious or cultural importance to the Japanese people. Tourists are also provided with a variety of highly developed cities that have exceeded their boundaries in terms of the technological advancements made available to them. Mobilities have transformed the tourism sector; through mediums such as social media and the internet, people and organisations are able to stay better connected on a global scale (Urry, 1990). Transport remains one of the strongest factors influencing travel, Japan’s travel network is renowned for safely and efficiency, supporting both tourists and local residents travel quickly between multiple destinations.
The emergence of Japan as a tourism destination could arguably be an impact from the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 which helped bring the post-war period of austerity to an end, by promoting Japan as a unique, cultural city with a booming economy. The 1964 Olympics increased the number of foreign visitor arrivals from 352,832 to 609,000 in 1969, an annual increase of 11.7% (Go, F and Jenkins, C, 1997). Figure 1 shows oversea visitors to Japan largely originating from other parts of Asia, with China, Korea and Taiwan being the main generating regions; tourist arrivals from areas of North America and Europe appear to have remained stagnant with travel limited for business tourism (JNTO, 1994).
Japan has played a leading role in stimulating tourism growth in the Asia Pacific region, reporting a 47% increase in arrivals by receiving nearly 4 million more when compared with 2014, shown in Figure 2 (UNWTOb, 2016). In contrast, during the last 20 years Japan’s development as a tourist receiving country has not progressed nearly as much compared to its outbound travel.
In 1995, approximately 20% of visitor arrivals to the Asia Pacific destinations originated from Japan (PATA, 1992). For most destinations in this region, the Japanese travel market is a major source of visitors and tourism revenue. The Japanese outbound travel market is predominantly made up of short-haul travel, to destinations of other parts of Eastern Asia.
Domestic tourism is more significant in volume and spend than international tourism for the Japanese travel market. Many domestic travel flows in Japan involve residents traveling for cultural and ethical reasons, which may be specifically during the time of an event or celebration. Holidays account for most trips taken, with business and VFR accounting for the remainder. The Japanese have a long tradition with domestic travel, dating back to centuries previous involving pilgrimages and visits to temples and hot springs (Tokuhisa, 1980). Pilgrimages continue to be popular with family groups and older demographic age groups, who travel to Buddhist shrines while trips to onsen (hot spring resorts) appeal to a more executive audience (Boniface et al, 2012). Although, western influence seems to be having an impact on the type of tourism that is becoming increasingly popular with Japanese tourists, for example the growth in skiing, golf, baseball holidays and theme park visits: including the opening of Tokyo Disneyland which attracts up to 16 million visitors a year (Boniface et al 2012, 437).
Public transport in Japan has been characterized many times with arriving on time and providing safe travel for its passengers. The Shinkansen (Bullet Train) is perhaps one of Japan’s most famous methods of transport, reaching speeds up to 320km/ph (ACP Rail, 2016) and improving punctuality of rail even more with the average daily delay per train being under one minute (Public Relations Office, 2014a).
With some 90 airports serving both domestic and flights from overseas, Japan is highly convenient to be reached by aircraft (JNTO, 2016a). Narita Airport is the main airport used for domestic and international travel, located 60 km east of central Tokyo. Japan Airlines (JAL) is one of the two main airline companies operating in Japan, the other being the low cost carrier AirAsia.
Since April 2004, Japan Airlines has introduced a faster and more efficient way to travel around Asia for both oversea and domestic travelers. Technological developments have also enabled the company to create reservation applications for smart phones (JAL, 2016). The website has a section specifically aimed at inbound travelers offering Japanese residents holiday experiences, the opportunity to check current flight times as well as book or browse multiple flights.
Standing over 3776 meters tall is Mount Fuji, Japans highest and most recognizable mountain (JNTO, 2016b). Mount Fuji is a distinctly Japanese symbol representing significant importance and is the 17th UNESCO World Heritage Site in Japan (Public Relations Office, 2013b). With most Japanese wanting to experience Mt. Fuji at least once in a lifetime it is hardly surprising that Fuji is visited by some 300,000 climbers every year (JNTO, 2016b).
The Joudodaira District represents a variety of landscapes, from its mountainous regions ranging at 1600km tall, to its fields of alpine flowers (MOE, 2016a). The parks convenient access of only being located an hour away from Fukushima City makes this one of the central attractions to the area.
Hakone National Park combines hot springs and historic sites of interest in a variety of settings and is one of the most popular destinations among Japanese and international tourists looking for a break from Tokyo; located only a 90-minute train ride away from Central Tokyo (MOE, 2016b).
Washoku is one of the most identifiable features of Japan, it’s a social practice based around a set of skills, knowledge relating to food; incorporating healthy ingredients such as rice, fish and vegetables (UNESCO, 2016).
Founded in 628 AD, Senso-ji Temple is the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo (Meere et al, 2001). Welcoming nearly 30 million visitors each year, the temple is one of the most visited temples in Tokyo (GO TOKYO, 2016a) and is the epicenter of one of Tokyo’s most popular festivals- the Sanja Festival (Lonely Planet, 2016a).
There are roughly 1000 geisha (or geiko) in Japan, many of whom live in Kyoto (Lonely Planet, 2016b). Geisha entertainment is one of the most elegant evenings for adults in Japan. For tourists wanting to experience an evening of geisha entertainment, it can often be costly, amounting to roughly $700 to $1000 (Lonely Planet, 2016b).
Festivals and Events
Sanja Festival is one of Tokyo's biggest festivals, receiving 2 million visitors who gather around Senso-ji Temple to watch the festivities; including annual music performances and watching locals carry 100 shrines through the city (Meere et al., 2001, 302).
Every year thousands of people gather in Ueno Park in Tokyo to see over 1000 beautiful cherry blossoms trees come to bloom (GO TOKYOb, 2016). The Ueno Sakura celebrates the arrival of spring, 1000 lanterns are illuminated in the park and several hundred thousand tourists are expected to visit daily (GO TOKYOb, 2016).
Yagama Lantern Festival is held at the Omiya-Shrine, Kumamoto, during the evenings of the 15th and 16th of August (JNTO, 2016c); it is one of the three greatest fire festivals of summer in Kumamto, contributing towards preserving local Japanese culture and tradition for nearly 2000 years (Kumamoto Nagomi Tourism Site, 2016).
Japan’s culture and traditions are only some of the factors that contribute to it being so successful as a tourism destination. The diversity of landscapes throughout the regions enables Japan to offer a variety of venues to host events and festivals, which prove to be popular with both outbound and inbound tourists (Yokoso, 2007).
Also known as a “technology powerhouse”, Japan is famous for its revolutionary technological advancements. The reputation of their transport network provides good links in and around cities, making domestic or inbound travel easily accessible.
There are many opportunities for the country to promote itself through hosting events such as the Tokyo Olympics 2020 which would create numerous benefits for the tourism sector. Hosting the Olympics can generate further non-sports related tourism and can be used to create a positive image of the country. The 2020 Games will enable Japan to communicate some of its unique aspects to a global audience and promote future changes throughout the country and leave a positive legacy for future generations.
Japan’s performance through tourism arrivals stood at over 8 million visits in 2010 (Boniface et al., 2001), these relatively low volumes are due to the country’s distance from the traditional generating markets of the USA and Western Europe, as well as the country’s reputation for being expensive. Although, Japan still gets a large number of international tourists from other countries in Asia as well as receiving high numbers of business tourists. Another challenge that threatens Japans tourism industry is how prone it is to natural disasters; including the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011 which had a substantial impact on the number of tourist arrivals.