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Online Survey (April 15, 2004)

Trends in Japan recently conducted a survey in which participants were asked to recommend places in Japan to foreign tourists. The survey follows an earlier one in which respondents were asked about their favorite tourist destinations in Japan. The new survey covered a total of 300 Japanese aged in their teens or older. They were made up of 50 people from each of six areas that scored well in the previous survey as places that respondents had enjoyed visiting. The areas were Hokkaido, Kyoto, Tokyo, Nagasaki, and Hiroshima, together with Aomori/Akita, two prefectures at the far north of Honshu that currently attract few foreign visitors. Respondents were asked to recommend local tourist attractions, events, cuisine, and souvenirs and to comment on levels of hospitality for foreign visitors.

(Top) "Genghis Khan" barbecue; (above) Ika-somen (Hokkaido Tourist Association, Tokyo Office)

Hokkaido: Natural Vistas and Gourmet Foods
Common responses to a question about which aspects of Hokkaido local residents viewed with pride included "natural beauty" and "the warmth of the people." "The excellence of the food," which is always an important consideration for tourists, was also seen as a key attraction.

The tourist spots that attracted the largest numbers of recommendations were Sapporo's Odori Park, which is the venue for the Snow Festival, and Furano, where visitors can experience the full splendor of a Hokkaido summer, when the lavender is in full bloom. Recommendations for Hokkaido delicacies were equally divided between specialty ramen (noodle soup) and "Genghis Khan" (a barbecue featuring mutton and vegetables). Other recommended culinary experiences included kaiten-zushi (conveyor-belt sushi) restaurants in various parts of the island, hokki-don (surf clams on rice) in Tomakomai, butadon (pork on rice) at Obihiro, and ika-somen (squid noodles) in Hakodate. The most common type of souvenir recommended was confectionery, of which Hokkaido offers many types. Standard gifts from Hokkaido include local seafood, such as salmon, kegani crabs, and scallops, folk woodcarvings produced by the indigenous Ainu people of Hokkaido, and marimo (spherical algae) from Lake Akan.

kiritanpo and inaniwa-udon
(Left) Kiritanpo; (right) Inaniwa-udon (Akita Prefecture)

Aomori and Akita: Plenty of Untapped Potential
By far the most common attraction cited by respondents for Aomori and Akita was the excellence of local cuisine. Local people also take pride in the region's rich natural heritage, which can be enjoyed in all four seasons. Places recommended particularly for the beauty of their natural scenery included Oirase Mountain Stream, Hirosaki Park, and Lake Towada. A lesser-known attraction that has become more popular recently is the town of Kakunodate with its samurai residences. Among the events recommended were festivals typical of the Tohoku region, including Aomori Prefecture's Nebuta Festival and Namahage (a traditional event held on New Year's Eve) and the Kanto Festival in Akita. Regional delicacies include Aomori Prefecture's jappajiru (codfish soup) and inaniwa-udon wheat-flour noodles and kiritanpo (roasted rice on sticks) in Akita Prefecture. The most common types of souvenirs recommended were apples, for which Aomori Prefecture is especially noted, and wooden items made from Aomori hiba (cypress).

sushi and chanko
(Top) Sushi (JNTO); (above) Chanko-nabe

Tokyo: Capital of Culture
The most common response when respondents were asked to state which aspects of Tokyo they viewed with pride was that Tokyo had a surprisingly rich natural environment, including parks and tree-lined avenues. Another frequent response was that visitors could experience the history and atmosphere of Edo (pre-modern Tokyo).

An overwhelming majority of respondents thought that spring was the best season to visit Tokyo. Many of the recommended tourist spots were places noted for their cherry blossoms, such as the Sumida River, Tama River, and Meguro River. Many of the popular events cited had seasonal rather than local associations, such as summer fireworks displays in various parts of the city, the old-line annual baseball match between Waseda and Keio Universities, and New Year visits to Meiji Shrine. There was considerable variation in the Tokyo delicacies recommended, which included Edomae-zushi, chanko-nabe (a meat, seafood, and vegetable stew served to sumo wrestlers), monja-yaki (fish, vegetables, and soup cooked on a hot plate), dojo-nabe (loach stew), and fukagawa-don (short-necked clams on rice). Most respondents recommended souvenirs other than food items. Among the items suggested were goods based on the Sazae-san cartoon series about a typical Tokyo family, and wind-chimes and washcloths from Asakusa.

Yatsuhashi (Shogoin Yatsuhashi)

Kyoto: A Place to Experience Ancient Japan
As might be expected from Kyoto respondents, the overwhelming majority cited historic buildings, such as temples and shrines, and traditional street scenes as the most important elements of a visit to Kyoto. The character of Kyoto was also reflected in responses noting that the city is famous for tea and has delicious water.

Tourist attractions that are rich with local atmosphere gained large numbers of votes. These included Arashiyama and Kiyomizu-dera (Buddhist temple), which are famous for their autumnal colors, and Daigo-ji (Buddhist temple), which blooms with beautiful cherry blossoms in the spring. Japanese tradition featured strongly in the recommended events and experiences, which included rides on the Hozu River in yakatabune (small pleasure boats), rickshaw rides, and sake tasting. The most highly recommended local delicacies were yudofu (boiled tofu) and Japanese confectionery. The souvenirs recommended were mainly Japanese-style products and ranged from such food items as Kyoto pickles and yatsuhashi (cinnamon-seasoned cracknel) to aburatorigami (traditional facial tissues) and yuzen dyeing.

Genbaku Dome, momiji-maju and okonomiyaki
(Left) Genbaku Dome; (top) Momiji-manju; (above) Okonomiyaki (Hiroshima Prefecture)

Hiroshima: A City with a Strong Commitment to Peace
Most Hiroshima respondents stated that they were proud of the city's commitment to peace. Some were also proud that Hiroshima was the location of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) and Itsukushima Shrine.

One tourist attraction recommended by an overwhelming majority of respondents was Miyajima, which is noted for its beautiful autumnal colors. The majority view with regard to events in Hiroshima was that visitors should participate in the Peace Memorial Ceremony, which commemorates the dropping of the atomic bomb on August 6, and visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum to learn about the horrors of atomic warfare. On the question of recommended local delicacies, some respondents thought the best dishes were Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake packed with a variety of fillings) and oyster dishes. By far the most common souvenir recommendation was momiji-manju (maple-leaf steamed buns with a bean-jam filling).

Nagasaki chanpon (Nagasaki Product Promotion Association)

Nagasaki: A Cosmopolitan Mix of Cultures
The question about which aspects of the Nagasaki region were viewed with pride brought a mixture of responses, with some citing Nagasaki's emphasis on peace and others its cosmopolitan atmosphere. Many also emphasized Nagasaki's role as the only city open to foreign trade during Japan's isolation in the Edo Period.

The two most popular tourist attractions cited were Huis Ten Bosch (a theme park modeled on a Dutch village) and Glover Garden, which offers panoramic views of Nagasaki's renowned night skyline. Another recommended attraction was Mt. Unzen, which is famous for its hot springs. The most recommended event was the traditional Nagasaki Kunchi Festival. Not surprisingly, respondents cited the famous chanpon (Chinese-style hotchpotch wheat-flour noodles) as a recommended local delicacy. A less-known delicacy cited by many respondents was Toruko rice, a mixture of fried rice and spaghetti topped with a pork cutlet that originated in Nagasaki. Typical souvenirs include glassware and sponge cake.

Glover Garden
A nightview of Glover Garden (Nagasaki Prefecture, Tokyo Office)

Nagasaki Rated Best for Foreign Visitors
Respondents were also asked about local efforts to meet the needs of foreign visitors, including the provision of information and brochures in foreign languages, the availability of tourist guides with foreign-language skills, the existence of tourist information centers catering to foreign visitors, the availability of courses in hospitality for foreign tourists, and the arrangement of tours for foreign visitors. The locality receiving the highest number of positive responses on all of these questions was Nagasaki, followed by Hokkaido and Kyoto. Next came Hiroshima and Aomori/Akita. Surprisingly, Tokyo received the lowest rating on these questions, and the most common response was that no particular efforts were made to cater for foreign visitors.

Respondents were asked to express their own wishes regarding foreign visitors. The most common response was that they should attempt to learn at least a little Japanese. Some respondents also said that foreign visitors should feel free to seek assistance when they encounter problems. The most common response to a question concerning ways to increase the number of foreign tourists called for the use of Internet websites to promote destinations. Other ideas that attracted significant support included learning foreign languages, improving and expanding events, and improving access.

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Related Web Sites
Regions and Cities
Tokyo Past and Present
Snow Festival in Japan Atlas
Kaitenzushi in Nipponia
Kakunodate in Japan Atlas
Nebuta Festival in Japan Atlas
Namahage in Kids Web Japan
Meiji Shrine
Kiyomizu-dera (Japanese only)
Itsukushima Shrine in Japan Atlas
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Huis Ten Bosch
Mt. Unzen (Japanese only)
Nagasaki Kunchi Festival (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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