Isolated and closed to the rest of the world, Japan has fascinated the avid explore for centuries. With the “Meiji Ishin” (Meiji Restoration) of 1868 Japan decided to slowly open its doors to Western innovations as a means of maintaining power in a swiftly changing world.
From 1868 until the end of the World War Two Japan was principally interested in gaining Western technology whilst maintaining cultural isolation. Only after its World War Two defeat was Japan forced to adopt Western societal conventions such as democracy and to develop modern corporate structures.
It reinvented itself into one of the world’s economic super powers, but yet was still shy to fully open its society to Western thinking.
Wave of globalization & aging society
With the overwhelming power of globalization in recent decades only now is Japan deciding to fully embrace Western ideologies and to fully open its doors to the world – in the adage “If you can’t beat them then join them!”.
Japan now faces an aging population and stalled domestic economic growth, and thus once again trying to reinvent itself. For the first time Japan’s government is encouraging foreign investment, free trade agreements as well as inbound tourism as priorities of its economic agenda.
A major player as global tourist destination
With the hosting of international sports events such as Rugby World Cup in 2019 and Tokyo Olympics in 2020, Japan is accelerating its efforts to gain international visitors with its goal of 40 million by 2020 from the current 28 million.
Why is Japan becoming so popular?
Skiing & beyond – Japanese food & culture
In recent years Japan has established itself as a mecca for skiing with its high quality powder snow at ski resorts such as Niseko or Hakuba. It is also now an international food destination, with Tokyo boasting the largest number of Michelin hat restaurants in the world, even more than Paris.
UNESCO recently listed Japanese “Washoku” (Japanese traditional cuisine) amongst the world’s healthiest food, serviced by over a million small but reasonably priced restaurants across Japan, each offering unique and authentic local produce.
Japan’s key attraction for foreign tourists remains its cultural authenticity. For Aussies Japan represents a cultural adventure in both traditional as well as modern aspects of its bustling society.
Major Cities vs. Off-the-Bitten Track
Unique Tokyo destinations include Akihabara for amime, Harajuku for street fashion, Ginza for shopping and the fish market in Tsukiji for Sushi lovers. Venturing further afield choices include staying in Ryokans (tradional Japanese inns) and soaking in natural hot springs at such beautiful countryside locations as Hakone or Ise-shima. Ancient Kyoto and Nara offer temples and shrines steeped in history, whist Sharakawa Go provides traditional private-house stays.
Why are more Aussies travelling to Japan?
Easy access with more flights
Meeting the increasing demand of traffic between Australia and Japan Qantas have added a total 3 additional daily flights out of Australian major cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane for the last few years.
In addition to the new QF flights, Japan’s second largest carrier, All Nippon Airway (NH) has started Tokyo’s Haneda – Sydney daily flights since December 2015. ANA is the second Japanese carrier entering Australia, in addition to Japan Airlines (JL) serving daily Tokyo’s Narita – Sydney flights.
Now that three full service airlines operate to Sydney – the daily Qantas and ANA Tokyo route depart from Tokyo ‘s Haneda instead of Narita airport, offering significant passenger convenience.
Haneda eclipes Narita
Haneda is only 30 minutes south of central Tokyo whilst Narita has a frustrating 90 minute transit time from the CBD. Given its close proximity to downtown Tokyo and its easy domestic connections via its other two terminals, Haneda is attracting an increasing market share of international departures and arrivals.
Choices of accommodation
Japan offers a wide range of accommodation in both Japanese and Western styles, including unconventional forms such as capsule hotels and temple lodging. Rates range from less than 2,000 yen (A$24) per person in a dormitory to over 50,000 yen (A$590) per person in a first class hotel or Japanese style ryokan. Alternatively Airbnb, Trip Adviser and other online suppliers offer private apartment and house rentals on short-term basis in major cities such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. A one bedroom apartment rental in Tokyo is amazingly cheap starting from A$100 per night.