WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TOURIST DESTINATION IN JAPAN?
Online Survey (February 26, 2004)
Many Japanese who travel for pleasure within Japan say that
the purpose of their trips is to enjoy good food, to go somewhere where they can
eat delicious dishes. This preoccupation with and curiosity about food was apparent
from the results of an e-mail survey recently conducted by Trends in Japan, in
which respondents revealed their preferred destinations and offered some recommendations
for foreigners visiting Japan. They even lifted the lid on some of the lesser-known
gems that Japan has to offer tourists.
|Tourists take a commemorative photo in Otaru, Hokkaido. (Jiji)
Gourmet Food a Magnet for Tourists
The number of foreign tourists visiting Japan has increased more than fivefold
over the past 30 years, reaching over five million today. Many foreign visitors
travel to the ancient and modern capitals, Kyoto and Tokyo, but very few explore
other regions, such as Tohoku, Chugoku, or Shikoku. Yet regions that attract few
foreign visitors also offer fascinating sightseeing opportunities and a standard
of hospitality that has to be experienced to be appreciated.
The recent survey targeted 800 Japanese aged in their teens or older across the
country. When asked to state their purpose and motives for travel in Japan, the
most frequent response, cited by 626 of the 800 survey participants, was "to
relax and recharge my batteries." In second place (595 responses) was "to
bathe in hot springs," followed by "to eat gourmet food" (526 responses).
"To view natural scenery" was in fourth place with 460 responses, and
"to experience the freedom of independent travel" ranked fifth with
Respondents were also asked to indicate the prefectures and cities that they had
visited. Kyoto led with 651 responses, followed by Tokyo (640), Osaka (581), Hokkaido
(497), and Nara (482). Most of the regions with lower scores were concentrated
in the northern Kanto and Tohoku regions.
|An old hot-spring inn (PANA)
Another question asked respondents to indicate preferred destinations
according to whom they were traveling with. Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea proved
popular not just with young people but across a range of age groups. Even among
those in their fifties or older, many respondents indicated that they would like
to visit these theme parks with their families, parents, or spouses.
When asked to choose destinations for particular times of year, many older respondents
indicated a preference for the refreshingly cool climes of Hokkaido or Nagano
during the summer. In contrast, younger people expressed a preference for seaside
recreation in Okinawa in the summer and saw Hokkaido as a place to experience
powder snow in the winter. Younger people tended to view activities as a focus
for both summer and winter travel. The number of participants who cited sport
as their reason for travel was twice as high among those in their teens and twenties
compared with other age groups.
Respondents were asked to select destinations according to the purpose of travel.
In all age groups, the overwhelming majority of respondents indicated places that
they would visit to enjoy particular dishes. For example, one person wanted to
tour Shikoku to eat Sanuki udon (wheat-flour noodles)
in the region's many simple and unpretentious noodle restaurants. Another wanted
to savor fresh seafood in Hakodate, Hokkaido. One respondent wanted to enjoy the
crab cuisine of the Hokuriku region with his family.
One result of the Japanese public's fascination with food has been the establishment
of "food theme parks" focusing on various types of food and the marketing
of tours that have food as their primary focus. All these culinary-themed leisure
options have become very popular.
Provincial Cities Also Catering to Foreign Visitors
Participants in the survey were asked to recommend destinations that would promote
understanding of Japan among foreign visitors. The most common response was Kyoto,
followed by Mt. Fuji. The reason cited for the choice of Mt. Fuji was that it
symbolizes Japan and is extremely beautiful. Those in their fifties or older also
cited destinations with many beautiful scenes, such as Kurobe Dam or Sounkyo,
while those in their teens and twenties opted for locations providing opportunities
for contact with contemporary culture, such as Kyoto Studio Park or the Tezuka
Osamu Manga Museum.
|Tokyo DisneySea (Jiji)
When asked to indicate locations where there were many foreign visitors, or where
foreign visitors appeared to be enjoying themselves, the most frequent responses
by far were Kyoto and Tokyo. Many respondents indicated that foreign visitors
were common throughout Kyoto. In relation to Tokyo, however, they tended to list
specific locations, such as Tokyo Disneyland, Akihabara, Tokyo Tower, and Roppongi.
Other destinations cited as popular among foreigners included Hokkaido, because
of its snow, and Hiroshima, as the first city in the world to suffer a nuclear
attack. Respondents also indicated that they had seen many foreign tourists at
regional events, such as the Sapporo Snow Festival and the Aomori Nebuta Festival.
Most of these places were also cited as destinations that Japanese would recommend
to foreign visitors.
Participants were asked to indicate locations that were seen as catering to foreign
visitors, such as through the availability of information or guide services in
foreign languages. Many cited major tourist destinations, such as Kyoto in general,
Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, temples in Nara, Tokyo Tower, and Tokyo Disneyland.
A significant number also indicated that provincial cities catered well to foreign
visitors. The cities mentioned included Fukuoka, where a full range of foreign
language resources, including guides and brochures, are available in the station,
and which is also popular with Japanese as a friendly and welcoming city, and
Sendai and Matsushima, where brochures are provided not only in English but also
in other foreign languages. The city of Otaru in Hokkaido was mentioned not only
for its popularity as a tourist destination with attractions that include a canal
and glass products, but also for the availability of tourist resources in Russian,
reflecting the city's links with Russia. Also cited was Himeji in Hyogo Prefecture,
where respondents reported seeing large numbers of volunteer interpreter-guides
with name tags.
At the end of the survey, participants were asked to cite their own "secret"
favorite destinations that they would recommend to foreign tourists. The following
are a few examples of their widely varying responses.
Seafood festivals, Hokkaido: In September crab
and saury festivals are held at Nemuro, Hokkaido. The saury festival is especially
interesting because visitors can grill saury over charcoal and eat as much as
they want. The saury in Nemuro are plump and extremely delicious.
Kakunodate, Akita Prefecture: Known as the "little
Kyoto of Mutsu (the area's ancient geographical name)", this town offers beautiful
rustic scenes. It was the location for The Twilight Samurai,
a Japanese movie that has been nominated for the Academy Award for best foreign
The Sankeien Garden, Yokohama: This is a beautiful
Japanese-style garden close to Tokyo. This little-known treasure is never crowded,
and a visit that also includes dinner in Yokohama's Chinatown is especially enjoyable.
Konpira Shrine, Kagawa Prefecture: Visitors must
climb many steps to reach the shrine, but those reaching the top can enjoy a panoramic
view of Kagawa and a real sense of satisfaction. Palanquins are available for
those who find the steps too challenging.
Akafuku Honten, Mie Prefecture: This is a shop
that sells rice cakes. The popular Tsuitachi mochi
(rice cakes) are sold only on the first day of each month, and some people wait
in line all night to buy them. This would be a great way for foreign visitors
to experience Japan's food culture.
Related Web Sites
Regions and Cities
Mt. Fuji in Japan Atlas
Tateyama Mountains and Kurobe Gorge in Japan Atlas
Kyoto Studio Park (Japanese only)
Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan Atlas
Nebuta Festival in Japan Atlas
Universal Studios Japan
Kakunodate Samurai Residences in Japan Atlas
Sankeien Garden (Japanese only)
Akafuku Honten (Japanese only)
Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.
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