Over the last few decades, the international travel market has grown tremendously. According to the World Tourism Organization, number of international travelers reached a record of 842 million in 2006 and 898 million in 2007. The growth rate in 2007 reached 6%, which is 1.5% higher than the value of 2006. The strongest growth occurred in Africa; however, Asia Pacific region also had a great increase number of international travelers. In 2007 alone, 185 million people visited Asia. (Choi, Lee 1)
International travel has become very accessible to many people because of technical advancement in transportation. For instance, it only takes about thirteen hours to get from JFK Airport in New York, United States to Narita Airport in Tokyo, Japan. Japan Airline provides travel back and forth ticket at a price of $964.33. (www.jal.com) Before the advancement in technology, any international trip took longer time and was more expensive. However, the technical development in transportation system is effectively triggering and stimulating more people to travel internationally.
Large numbers of people are now interested in Asia. (Choi, Lee 1) The number of international travelers is increasing every year. What are some convincible factors that trigger people to come to Asia?
Because of its diverse cultural activities, Japan is one factor that influences people to travel to Asia. Japan is an island located in the East Asia, surrounded by North Korea and South Korea. It is a small island but has potential to captivate tourist from all over the world.
Before moving ahead, it is important to define terms that will be continuously discussed in this paper. What is the definition of travel? Merriam Webster Online Dictionary defines travel as "To move or undergo transmission one place to another." (www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/travel) This indicates that travel is a people's movement between relatively distant geographical location for any purpose and any duration, with or without any means of transportation. Travel also covers all the activities performed during a movement. It is a broader concept of trip. Travel can be local, regional, domestic or international. Then, who is considered a tourist? In the United States, the National Tourism Resources Review Commission (1973) defined tourist as "one who travels away from home for a distance of at least 50 miles (one way) for business, pleasure, personal affairs, or any other purpose except to commute to work, whether he or she stays overnight or returns the same day." (Masberg, 67)
Then why are international tourists interested in traveling to Japan? What is unique about Japan? First, knowing concise background of Japan would help to find the answers to these questions.
Brief Description of Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia, located in the Pacific Ocean. It is surrounded by the east of the Sea of Japan (also called East Sea), People of Republic of China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south. Japan is composed of over 3,000 islands, making it an archipelago. The four largest islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku. These four main islands together accounts for 97% of Japan's land area. It has sufficient rainfall for agriculture on the main islands, with no dry season. Hokkaido and northern Honshu have cold winters with good ski resorts but limited agriculture. In contrast, the two thirds of southern Honshu and the Shikoku Island and Kyushu have humid subtropical climates. Most of the islands are mountainous, many volcanic; for example, Japan's highest peak, Mount Fuji, is a volcano. Japan has the world's tenth largest population, with about 128 million people.
The capital of Japan is Tokyo, located in Honshu. The government is a Parliamentary democracy. The size of Japan is about 145,856 square miles (slightly smaller than California) and Japan is homogeneous (0.6% Korean) with one language. Buddhism and Shinto are the major religions and only about 0.8% of the population is Christian. The currency of Japan is the Yen. Entering Japan is relatively easy because it is part of the visa waiver program, which means that a visa is not required for visits less than 90 days. Shopping is a main attraction in Japan; common items include Japanese handicrafts and art objects, jewelry, silks, furs, and pottery pieces.
Japan has not historically looked to tourism as a major foreign income earner as it had such a huge trade surplus in the 1980s. However, from the 1990s, the government started to take an active role in promoting inbound tourism. The government is both involved in domestic and international tourism. It promotes and provides information about tourism in Japan and establishes a number of programs and offices to develop a broad variety of tourism attractions in Japan while maintaining quality of its natural environment setting. Japan also established a government organization, JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organization). JNYO is a non-profit organization established by a government, and it provides free multilingual information on travel in Japan.
The most visited places by visitors are the following: Sapporo, Tohoku, Tokyo and its surrounding area, Chubu, Kansai, Chugoku, Island of Kyushu, and Okinawa Island. Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, hosted the 1972 winter Olympics, and it annually has a festival called the "Snow Festival." It is a festival where people present gigantic snow images by famous artists. Secondly, Tohoku is located in the northeastern section of the main island of Honshu and is very famous for its hot springs. Tokyo and the surrounding areas are located in Honshu, where visitors can observe the unique blend of the East and West culture. Another most visited location is Chubu, which is the center of the main island, Honshu. The Japanese Alps are located in Chufu, and the Japanese Alps consist of beautiful scenery. Kansai, another metropolitan area in Japan besides Tokyo, also has many important temples (historical attractions) and interesting cultural festivals. Chugoku, the western end of the island of Honshu, is known for its beautiful beaches. Many water activities are played here. The Island of Kyushu has a subtropical climate and operates 6 national parks that attract visitors. Lastly, the Island of Okinawa is a tropical island with the wealth of national beauty, such as the sunny skies and the subtropical plants. As one can see from above, Japan has a variety of attractions. It has been and will be the center of the Asian tourism market.
As the center of the Asian tourism market, Japan has exclusive aspects that other Asian countries do not contain. Japan has preserved those cultural factors well enough to encourage foreigner to learn about it. Different aspects of Japan have made it possible for influencing numerous tourists to travel to Japan. Now, this essay will focus on each aspect that influences foreign tourists to travel to Japan. Those aspects include food/cuisine, Japanese traditional lodging, sports, and business.
Food of Japan
Japanese food is well known to the other parts of the world. Many foreigners are familiar with sushi and ramen, which are the major representation of Japanese food. Nevertheless, there are other types of Japanese cuisine that are still unknown to the foreigners yet can strongly fascinate the foreign travelers to Japan. Japanese cuisine that will be focused on this paper is Sushi, Sukiyaki and Nabemono, Tempura, Tofu and Natto, Menrui, Mochi, Tsukemono, and Ocha.
Japanese cuisine is a piece of an art work. Aesthetic display of the food is considered very crucial while serving the food to the guests. Learning the context of the cuisine is one side factors that tourists can enjoy while eating the food: how the food fits into Japanese life, what its history has contributed, how it is properly chosen and consumed, and others. Japan remains one of the countries where food represents lineage, going back to history. Thus, an understating of Japanese cuisine helps one to understand the Japanese thoughts. (Donald 12)
Sushi, as one of Japan's most representative food, is fairly known to people. Most large cities around the world have sushi shops. Craig Claiborne defines sushi as "an assortment of small morsels of freshest raw fish and seafood presents into cold rice lightly seasoned with vinegar." (Donald, 14) This definition perfectly correct; however, there are more factors to it. Sushi is a "delight to the eye, a revelation to the tongue, and an engrossing culinary happening that those who have partaken will not soon forget." (Donald, 14)
When one walks into a sushi shop in Japan, the master and the waiters loudly shouts "Irasshaimase!" This is a phrase to welcome the guests who enter the restaurant. There is usually a long counter of white cypress. Behind the counter, there are glass-cased, ice cooled array of fish fillets and shellfish, all fresh, sometimes alive. Before the main sushi dish, a waiter serves a cup of hot green tea, a small dish for soy sauce, Oshibori (hand towel), miso soup, and picked gingers to refresh one's mouth between bites.
Most popular sushi menus are maguro (tuna), toro (the marbled underside of the tuna), chu-toro (a half marbled side section of the tuna), uni (sea urchin roe), ebi (shrimp, boiled or alive), tao (sea bream), ika (squid), akagai (aki shell), hamachi (young yellowtail), tako (octopus), ikura (salmon roe), anago (conger eel), awabi (abalone). The master also creates special menus that change as seasonal fish and shellfish changes.
Upon hearing an order, the sushi master starts his performance. He cuts and slices the fish and shellfish delicately. Then, he scoops a double fingerful of rice, and add bits of washabi (horseradish) and quickly forms an oblong ball, firmly capped by the seafood. This is the most popularly known regional type of sushi, Nigiri sushi. Nigiri sushi originated from Edo (Tokyo) in the nineteenth century. Because of the fast speed, it is called the world's first fast food.
Ronald Barthes describes Sukiyaki as "a stew whose every element can be known and recognized, since it is made in front of you, on your table, without interruption while you are eating itâ€¦It is the very essence of the market that comes to you, its freshness, its naturalness, its diversity, and even its classification, which turns the simple substance into the promise of an event." (Ronald 21)
Sukiyaki is classified as a nabemono, which means food is cooked usually at the table in a single pot or pan, and is thought of as being a winter meal. There are few different ways to cook sukiyaki: Kansai (Osaka-Kyoto) area way, Kanto (Tokyo-Yokohama) area way, Nagasaki way, and others. The most well known sukiyaki is from Kansai area. In the Kansai area, a lump of beef suet is melted in the shallow iron pan over medium heat. Then very thin slice of beef are place in the bottom of the pan. After the beef color changed to brown, one put other ingredients such as tofu, mushroom, onion, and konnaku (Japanese style jelly). The liquid is then poured into the pan. The liquid is consists of soy sauce, water, little bit of sugar, and sweet sake. Knowing the right time to pour the liquid is the key to make a delicious sukiyaki. Meanwhile, one should break raw eggs into a bowl, and add little bit of soy sauce. This becomes the sauce for meat and vegetables in the sukiyaki. Meat and vegetables are dipped into this sauce right before eating. Sukiyaki gets delicious as the cooking progresses, because the juice from the beef and vegetables makes the taste fascinating.
In Kanto area, the liquid is poured first, and the meat and vegetables are added to the heated liquid. This way of cooking makes Sukiyaki more like a stew that foreigners are more familiar with. In Nagasaki, the meat is grounded. This slight adjustment of meat distinctively changes the taste of the dish.
Sukiyaki has been eaten since 1860, when the country was open to foreigners and the new Maiji emperor began his reign. Before, eating meat was prohibited in Japan, because the Japanese believed in Buddhism. However, Emperor Maiji changed the law and made beef and other meat available for Japanese citizens. Gradually, Japanese citizens enjoyed eating meat, and sukiyaki is one Japanese style cuisine that developed from this era. As people enjoyed eating meat, there was a famous aphorism, which said "A man who does not eat beef is an uncivilized man." (Donald 25)
Tempura is "delicately deep-fried seafood and vegetables, served hot and crisp, lacy golden on the outside, juicy and succulent on the inside." (Donald 26) Tempura is not a traditional Japanese food. It was introduced by Portuguese when missionaries and merchants from Portugal actively visited Japan around sixteenth century.
Common types of tempura that one can get in Japan are Kuruma ebi (prawn), shiba ebi (shrimp), ika (squid), kaibashira (scallop), anago (conger eel), kisu (a small fish known as sillago), haze (goby), ginpo (gunnel), megochi (flathead).
Tempura should be made just before eating it. Besides being strict about the freshness of what goes inside of tempura (such as shrimp, and squid), the Japanese are picky about the batter, also known as koromo in Japanese. Koromo literary means clothes in Japanese. It should be lumpy and be filled with air bubbles so that the texture of tempura becomes lighter. Also, the coating should be thin rather than thick. Besides the crunchiness, Japanese wants to enjoy the natural taste of the material that is inside of the batter. Therefore, the batter should be practically see-through.
Tofu and Natto
Tofu is also well known to international community. It came from China very long time ago and became another food that represents Japanese cuisine. Tofu is one of the most protean foods. It can be boiled, broiled, baked, fried, steamed, marinated, dried, frozen, and eaten fresh. Interesting thing is that each method changes the taste of tofu completely. Baked tofu and boiled tofu tastes extremely differently. Kyoto is best known for a good tofu. Recently, there are restaurants opening up that only serve tofu. It is one food that is loved by vegetarian travelers to Japan.
Natto might be unfamiliar to international travelers. It is made out of soybean, just like tofu. Natto is fermented soybeans which is rotten stinking slimly soybeans. It is somewhat similar to a ripe cheese. Natto is served in a small lump and should first be stirred with chopsticks to make it stickier. Then, raw eggs, sliced and chopped onions, soy sauce is mixed together with natto. This mixture is then eaten with hot rice. Even if the smell of natto is strong, it is still a typical breakfast menu in Japan. It is very healthy and diet helping cuisine.
Menrui in Japanese means noodle types. This indicates that menrui includes all the types of noodle cuisine that is available in Japan. There are a great variety of shapes and sizes of noodle. The two most popular types of noodles are the wheat-based noodles which are associated with Osaka and the south of Japan, and buckwheat-based noodles associated with Tokyo and the north of Japan. (Donald 54)
Wheat-based noodles come in a variety of shapes, but the best know type is called udon. Udon is somewhat flat and wide. Somen is another type of what-based noodle that is more slender and a bit of vegetarian oil is used in the preparation. Buckwheat-based is called soba, and it comes with a single variety: long, thin, brown in color. There are some variations of soba. People used green tea to make soba. Therefore, the color of the noodle becomes green, instead of brown.
Soba and Udon can be served both hot and cold. For a hot noodle dish, a noodle is first boiled in water, then scooped out and place in a bowl. After that, toppings and other ingredients are added. Finally, broth is poured. There are great varieties for soup and toppings. For a cold dish, boiled noodle is rinsed with hold water, and served on draining screened plate that is made out of bamboo. The noodles are decorated with little bit of dried laver, and dipped into soy sauce then quickly removed from the sauce.
Another major menrui is ramen. This is also originated from China; however, Japanese changed the food into its own style and taste. Now, each region of Japan developed their own style of ramen, and there are tours within Japan to go around each region and taste the different ramen. Many distinctive local version of ramen were established as the shops in each region concentrated on the varieties of soup seasonings and toppings appreciated by local people. (Naomichi, 252) Among the best known is Sapporo ramen, from Hokkaido, which features heavy noodles, a rich thick broth seasoned with miso instead of the more common soy sauce, and locally produced toppings of butter and maize.
Mochi is made out of a one type of rice, mocha-gome, and it is regarded as a unique and special food. Freshly pounded mochi is very soft and easy to eat, but it quickly gets hard and must be grilled or reheated to become edible. It is eaten during the most important ritual ceremony, the New Year. On a New Year's Day, a plain white mochi is toasted and served with soy sauce. A white mochi can also be put either in a soup or as is or is eaten along with the other ingredients of this festive soup. This soup is called ozoni.
Mochi can be served as a dessert as well. Mochi stuffed with sweet red bean paste is called daifuku. This can be seen as the traditional Japanese dessert that was eaten with green tea.
Tsukemono means preserved food in Japanese. Preserved food is an important part of most dietary tradition in Japan. It is pickled food, which means that the food is stored away with a quantity of salt and transformed into sour salty products that will keep for a long time. There are several type of method to pickle vegetables and fish. Kyoto is famous for its variety of traditional tsukemono.
After the meal is done, the national beverage, ocha is served. Although green tea is usually associated with Japan, there are many types of teas available in Japan. Houjicha and genmaicha are two common teas that the tastes are slightly bitter. The color of those tea is rather brown than green, and it is the most affordable tea that is available in Japan. Sencha is one rank upper than houjicha and genmaicha. The leaves used in Sencha have been picked with greater care and there are no stems. The finest tea is called gyokuro. The oldest and finest bushes of leaves were used to make this tea.
As one can see, Japan has a very diverse food culture. Sushi and Japanese noodles are well known cuisine that portrays the food culture of Japan. However, there is more variety of Japanese food that delivers the thoughts of Japanese. As foreign tourists find more about those cuisines, the number of tourists will continuously increase.
Lodging of Japan
Japan has the privilege of possessing two types of lodging: Japanese inns and western hotels. Japanese inn is called ryokan (ryo-journey, kan-mansion) in Japanese. Ryokan's historical origins are strongly rooted in Japanese society, and ryokan resisted the introduction of Western forms of lodging. (Anguis, Moon 76) One can find enormous amount of information about these two types of lodging in Japan by just searching on the internet. Generally speaking, hotels show less variety, with only few categories such as resorts hotel, de luxe hotels, and so on. On the other hand, any travel magazine published for Japanese travel shows an amazing number of extremely specialized categories of ryokan, such as spa ryokan, ryokan associated with Japanese famous writers, secret ryokan, very famous ryokan, wooden built ryokan, ryokan visited by Japanese emperor, ryokan for Japanese cuisine associated with the seasons, etc. (Anguis 76) Japanese categorized ryokan into a very specific sector, so that people can easily find ryokan that they are looking for.
Compare to the Western hotel room size, the size of ryokan's room is relatively small. Moreover, the western hotel's construction and management is sustained by huge capital investments, whereas ryokan does not have large capital to fund their operation. How can ryokan still compete with the western hotels in Japan?
Instead of being the part of shelter along the road, ryokan has become the purpose of the travel itself. (Anguis 77) Staying in a ryokan usually follows the same pattern. Guests usually check in between three and four o'clock in the afternoon. Shoes are deposited in the entrance, and picked up when guests are leaving the ryokan. Upon the arrival at ryokan, guests are greeted by a kimonoclad maid and she leads to their rooms, where she serves tea and sweets, while explaining the schedule of their stays. Visitors are encouraged to change their everyday clothes and dress on the cotton kimono, yukata. They can have an early bath time in either inside or outside baths. While the guests are away, the room is prepared for dinner. After the dinner, second bath might be encouraged while cleaning after dinner and futon spread on the tatami. (Cogswell 40)
Each room is covered with tatami, straw mats. The main room has a little shrine, similar to an altar that is raised slightly from the floor at the one side of the room. Doors in ryokan are usually slide doors. Doors are made out of paper and framed in woodwork, and they are used to break up the space. Japanese architecture and design are clean and simple. Japanese buildings tend to harmoniously blend with the natural environment.
Ryokan originated during Nara period (710-784). For much of the 20th century, it was just any Japanese inn that people had stayed. People somewhat had negative ideas about it since there were no privacy. For instance, the bath was communal. During steamy summers, everyone slept with their doors and windows wide open to the breeze. From the competition with the Western style hotel, the number of ryokan declined from 80 thousand in 1988 to fewer than 60 thousand in 2005. (Brown, 128)
Recently however, the ryokan is trying to change the perception of people towards ryokan. For instance a group of thirty ryokan have formed "The ryokan Collection" to market themselves as boutique inns, with designer flourishes, architectural details and cultural authenticity. (Brown, 129)
The ryokan of Kyoto, a former imperial city and a popular tourist destination, are among the first to have instituted modernizing touches-and with much flair and frills. English-speaking staff and Western-style breakfasts are now available even at the city's legendary Hiiragiya and Tawaraya ryokan-both centuries old and famed for their refined aesthetics, attention to detail, and guest lists that have included royalty and Hollywood stars.
Sports in Japan (Sports Tourism)
Baseball in Japan
Baseball was first introduced by Horace Wilson, who was an American expatriate educator, in 1872. Since then, baseball has grown as the major sports played by Japanese. Baseball is called "Yakyuï¼ˆé‡Žçƒï¼‰" in Japanese. It combines Chinese character for field (é‡Ž ya)and ball(çƒ kyu). The major event that attracted the foreigner to focus one's attention on Japanese baseball was World Baseball Classic. Japan won the championship in both 2006 and 2009. This attracted people's attention towards Japanese style baseball. Now, tourists are willing to tour the Japanese professional baseball league and baseball arena for the professional baseball teams became the major attraction destination.
Japanese professional baseball has two leagues, just like professional baseball in United States. One is called Central League, and other one is called Pacific League. Each league has six teams. The professional baseball season is eight months long and it begins on April, and a Championship is held on October. Teams play 144 games in total.
Teams that are included in Central leagues are: Yomiuri Giants (Tokyo), Tokyo Yakult Swallows (Tokyo), Yokohama BayStars (Yokohama), Chunichi Dragons (Nagoya), Hanshin Tigers (Osaka), Hiroshima Toyo Carp (Hiroshima). Teams that are included in Pacific leagues are Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (Sapporo), Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (Sendai), Saitama Seibu Lions (Saitama), Chiba Lotte Marines (Chiba), Orix Buffaloes (Osaka), Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks (Fukuoka).
The professional baseball teams representing major cities of Japan. For instance, Yomiuri Giant is a professional team that is located in Tokyo. It has a dorm called Tokyo Dome, which has 45,000 seats. The average viewers of each game are 40,755. Foreign tourists are now visiting these domes of professional baseball teams, and experiencing the Japanese baseball game.
Sumo in Japan
Sumo wrestling is a competitive contact sport where a wrestler, also known as a rikishi, attempts to force another wrestler out of a circular ring or dohyo. The sumo wrestler also attempts to force the other to touch the ground with another body part other than the soles of the feet. Originating in Japan, it is the only country where this sport is practiced professionally.
The tradition of Sumo is very antiquated. It still includes many ritual events, such as the use of salt to purify the dohyo, from the Shinto Religion. Rikishi follows the rule laid down by the Sumo Association, and professional sumo players are directed to live in sumo training stables, known as heya in Japanese.
There are six Grand Sumo tournaments, also called honbasho, each year. Three of the tournaments take place at Tokyo in January, May, and September. The place where those three tournaments are held is called the Sumo Hall, Ryogoku Kokugikan in Japanese, and this place has become one of the major attraction places for people to visit in Tokyo. Another tournament is held at Osaka in March. Fifth one is held at Nagoya in July, and the last one takes place at Fukuoka in November. Each tournament begins on a Sunday and lasts for fifteen days. There are two teams in a professional sumo tournament. Each top wrestler, also referred as yokozuna, in the two divisions has one match per day, and other lower leveled wrestlers have one game every two days. The schedule is constructed in a way that the highest ranked wrestlers compete at the very end of the day. The top wrestlers match usually begins at six o'clock in the evening. At the end of the fifteenth day, the wrestler who wins the most matches wins the tournament championship. If there are ties in the score, those two wrestlers compete with each other and the winner of that game takes the championship.
Since sumo is only professionally played in Japan, foreign travelers are eager to watch the game while they are visiting Japan.
Festivals are called matsuri in Japan. A most eloquent form of worship, Japanese festivals are intimate, joyous encounters with the divine. (Vilhar, Anderson, 5) The image of modern Japan tends to minimize the significance of these ancient religious practices. Yet, matsuri has have been continuously provided people with a strong spiritual identity as Japanese. Although Japanese no longer perceive matsuri as a ritual ceremony, it still lays heavy emphasis on the Shinto religion originated from Japan. The act of worship culminated in the celebration of matsuri. Derived from the verb matsuru (to worship), matsuri serves as a means for the people to offer divine world their prayers, gifts, and joy. Matsuri is time for communication with their gods and ancestral spirits. Many of the matsuri is related to rice growing, the very foundation of Japanese culture. There are no certain set dates for matsuri. Dates vary from area to area. Almost every town has at least one matsuri in late summer or early autumn, usually related to the rice harvest season.
During a matsuri, people go out in the streets for a memorable time. Almost every town in Japan prepares its own matsuri; however, the size of the festival varies from one town to another. Each year, approximately 100,000 people gather to attend some of the major matsuris. Major matsuris take place in large cities, such as Tokyo and Kyoto. Some people living in suburban or rural areas travel by airplane to go to the matsuris because they want to enjoy the once a year event. In contrast, some matsuris are really small, generally attracting only the local people. Indifferent of the size of the festival, one can learn about the culture and tradition of Japan through matsuri's.
First of all, most of the people coming to a matsuri wear Japanese traditional clothes, called "Yukata." The word originates from 'Yukatabire,' which means clothes that one wears after taking a shower. Therefore, they are made out of thin cotton. Since Japan gets very hot in the summer, people tend to were Yukata rather than other clothes. The color of the Yukata is another interesting factor that reflects Japanese culture. Women tend to wear bright colors, such as yellow, pink, and bright blue. Men tend to wear cool colors, such as grey and dark blue. These colors represent nature. Bright colors such as red and pink illustrate the flowers, and earthtone colors such as grey and dark blue represent the sky or earth. The Yukatas' colors help create the very exciting and fascinating atmosphere of the Matsuri. It seems as if colorful lights are illuminating the dark summer streets of Japan.
Food also makes the matsuri very interesting. All kinds of food can be found at the matsuri. There is Japanese style barbeque, ice cream, candy, Japanese style pizza, and numerous other dishes. One of the major matsuri foods is called yakisoba. The word literally means "burned" noodle. It is called "burned" since the noodle is placed on a hot steel plate, instead of being boiled with water. Cabbage, carrots, meat and special sauces are also put on the plate and mixed with noodles.
Moreover, there is a lot of entertainment waiting at a matsuri. First of all, there is a game called "catching the goldfish." A player is given a thin paper that has a plastic handle, which he/she uses to scoop goldfish from a small pool until the paper tears apart. This game is very difficult. However, catching the fish is no longer a goal of this game as people start playing. People cheer for the players as they watch, which provides a bonding experience with my friends and family.
Japanese traditional music is played in Matsuri, and is another big part of matsuri's entertainment. The special host plays Wadaiko, Japanese traditional drum, as the main instrument in the matsuri since it is the oldest instrument in Japan. Moreover, it is believed that the sound of drum motivates people. While the drums are played, many people sing the song that goes with the beat. Also, there is a dance that goes with the music. People enjoy the dance and claim to release their everyday stress through the dance.
Last but not least, the fireworks are the highlight of the matsuri. In Japan, one counts the number of shots to describe the size of the fireworks. The number of the shots depends on the towns. Each shot had certain meanings. For example, there was one fireworks display that had the image of red leaves in fall. There is an urban legend. It is believed that a couple that sees the first firework in the matsuri will be able to stay together forever. However, it is important that they hold hands when they watch the fireworks. This mystical, yet adorable legend makes people want to participate even more in the matsuri.
The matsuri is not just a fun event. The dress, food, games, and music of the Matsuri portrays the culture of Japan. The Matsuri has endured a long time and will continue to be celebrated by generations to come. Just by looking at matsuri, one can generate ideas about how Japanese people love their culture. Moreover, it provides a time for bonding. By going to the festival with family and friends, people can connect as a group. The matsuri is an event that makes everyone united and at peace with each other.
Most famous regional matsuris are Aoi Matsuri from Kyoto, Sapporo snow Festival from Sapporo, Lake Towada Snow Festival from Akita, Aomori Nebuta Festival from Aomori, Cherry Blossom Festivals from all over the Japan, and Jidai Festival from Tokyo.
Kyoto is the home to the oldest festival in Japan. Aoi Matsuri dates from the sixth century, when floods compelled the citizens to petition for relief the goddess of water and her son, the god of thunder. From then, people annually celebrated Aoi Matsuri for the past fourteen centuries. Now, Aoi Festival is one of the three major main festivals in Kyoto. Shimogamo Shrine and Kamigamo Shrine are the main Shinto shrine located in Kyoto that hosts this large festival.
Sapporo is known for Snow festival. It is one of the largest festivals of the year for Sapporo. The festival is held in February for one week. This Festival started in 1950 when high school students started to build snow statues in Odor Paek, located in central Sapporo. Now, this festival attracts over two million people around the world every year. Each year, there are about twelve large sculptures with hundred small snow and ice sculptures.
Lake Towada Snow Festival is also held in February. It is held in the town called Yasimiya, which is located on the southern part of Lake Togawa. This festival is open for all day. At five o'clock, one can enjoy activates such as going through a snow maze, experiencing a Japanese igloo, and eat food harvested from Akita prefecture (Yashimiya is located in Akita prefecture). There are also fireworks at night each festival day.
Aomori Nebuta Festival is held around the beginning of Augusts annually. It features colorful lantern floats (called nebuta in Japan) which are pulled through the streets of central Aomori. This event also attracts more than one million visitors each year. During this festival, twenty large nebuta floats parades through the central street of Aomori. These floats are made out of wood and metal frames. Japanese traditional paper, washi, is painted onto those frames. Normally, historical figures from Japan or characters and scenes from kabuki (Japanese traditional play) are painted on the paper. Making these floats take about a year. Dance plays another important part of this festival. There are dancers called haneto, who wear special costume for this dance. People are welcome to purchase their own costume and can join to dance.
Cherry blossom festival is a general terms that is used in every region in Japan. Japan celebrates the entire season of the cherry blossoms. The cherry blossom season starts around March, and ends around beginning of April. All over Japan feasts for cherry blossom because it is noticing the arrival of spring for people.
For instance, Shimane prefecture hosts festival called Matsue Jozan Koen Festival. It is cherry blossom festival that takes place around late March through early April. It is known for its illumination of the cherry blossom trees at night. Okayama prefecture also has a festival related to Cherry blossoms. It is called Tsuyama Kakuzan Koen Cherry blossom festival. Unlike other cherry blossom festivals, it incorporates Japanese tea ceremony and music performance with the festival. The festival is held around early April. Takato Joshi Koen Cherry blossom festival is festival held by Nagano prefectures. It is known for the beautiful pink color of the cherry blossoms. It also begins around early April.
Japanese festivals have always changed with the time. In 1989 Tokyo established an elaborate procession of its own, Jidai Matsuri (Festival of the age), patterning after a great events of the same name in Kyoto. The parade reviews history from the days when the city was called Edo. In this great metropolis, an event of this nature endeavors to engender a greater sense of community. Although not religiously inspired, religion us bit forgotten here. The procession is tied to other events at Sensoji, Tokyo's oldest Buddhist temple, thereby bringing many worshipers among the spectators to temple precincts.
At any festival, place and intermediaries must first undergo ritual purification before the festival. The parading of mikoshi, the elaborated and weighty portable shrine, is frequently the festival highlight.
Matsuri are the happiest and most optimistic of occasion, when personal cares are momentarily forgotten. Festival visitors, including foreigners, are always welcomed. These are not secret rites for believers or initiator only, but celebration for all.
Business in Japan
The leisure traveler to Japan is a huge target market. However, one should also notice the increasing number of business travelers to Japan. Business travelers can be classified under tourists, since the tourist is one who travels away from home for a distance of at least 50 miles (one way) for business, pleasure, personal affairs, or any other purpose except to commute to work, whether he or she stays overnight or returns the same day. (Masberg, 67)
Tokyo, the capital city of the Japan is the city that most of foreign companies are located. Many international corporations have office in Japan as the representative of Asian department. Data from the Ministry of Economy's Survey of Trends in Business Activities of Foreign Affiliates show that "most firms have at least one Japanese research and development (R&D) office, foreign affiliates are more profitable than the average business in Japan, and capital and R&D spending are rising." (Business Activities in Japan 52) This clearly indicates that Japan has established its importance to the world. It is the center of the Business in Asian market now.
Japan has suffered from a severe economic downturn until the beginning of 21st century. Nevertheless, "Japan's Japan's unemployment rate is falling as wages rise, and the Japanese are spending more on foreign brands. The yen is climbing-a sign that Japan, the world's second-largest economy, is undergoing an economic expansion that could be the biggest since America's during World War II." (Penttila 30) With this recovery of the economy, Japan is now aiming to become the world's largest economy of the world. This will definitely increase the number of foreign business travelers to Japan.
With these five unique factors, Japan has attracted numerous foreign visitors from all over the world. Of course, these four factors are not the only reason for people to travel to Japan. However, these aspects of Japanese culture strongly stimulated the foreigners to learn more about Japan by actually travelling to Japan.
Japan has long been a tantalizing jumble of tradition and innovation. Sumo and baseball, ryokan, and food/cuisine of Japan clearly illustrate this point. (Brown 134) No country seems more adept at absorbing multicultural influences while holding to its identity than Japan. To continuously fascinate the foreign tourists, Japan should accordingly blend the culture of their own and western cultural aspects.
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