L Rest – Japan’s Travel Agencies Offer Long Summer Vacations

Japan’s campaign to save energy is finally letting overworked salarymen and women to take advantage of summer in a way that has long eluded them: a long vacation. Spurred by the atypical vacation schedule prompted by the rearranged work hours this summer, major travel agencies in Japan are offering a burst of long vacation packages.

Mainstream travel agency JTB group is offering a series of domestic and international long-term travel packages that are between 14 and 30 days long. But their campaign was inspired by an 11-year-old survey report by the Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare on what people say they do when they get time off.

Based on this survey, the ministry proposes a two-week “L Rest,” that’s ‘L’ as in long enough to allow people to think about their life—another ‘L’—away from work.

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Travel Japan: Boeing Dreamliner lands in Japan for tests

Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner flew into Tokyo from Seattle Sunday for test flights as All Nippon Airways prepares to become the world’s first airline to deploy the new fuel-efficient long-haul jet.

The wide-bodied twin-engine plane touched down at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport at 6:20 am on a maiden flight to Asia as its arrival was broadcast live online and crowds of aircraft enthusiasts gathered in and around the seaside airport.

Painted in the ANA colours of white and blue, the 787 taxied to a hangar through an arch of water sprayed from two airport fire trucks.

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London to Tokyo in 2 hours: hypersonic plane unveiled

It will take only two hours to fly from London to Tokyo, be virtually pollution free, and promises to be no louder than today’s modern planes.

There’s only one catch for prospective commuters – it will be another 40 years before commercial flights take place.

Plans were yesterday unveiled for the first hypersonic passenger jet, which would use three sets of engines to reach 3,125mph, more than four times the speed of sound, known as Mach 4.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2005513/London-Tokyo-2-hours-Blueprints-3-000mph-hypersonic-plane-unveiled.html#ixzz1Q4rdb2ca

Hailed as the heir to Concorde, the aircraft would be propelled by a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen, meaning its only emissions would be water.

The project, developed by Airbus’s parent company EADS, was unveiled before the official opening of the Paris Air Show today.

Carrying up to 100 passengers, a set of conventional jet engines would help launch the aircraft from a normal airport runway, meaning the aircraft would not produce the noisy ‘sonic boom’ that Concorde did.

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Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital

Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital, is a laid-back counterpart to Tokyo that was first established more than a thousand years ago. Far to the west, it is a good place to forget the current capital’s woes.

Kyoto’s wide avenues follow a grid pattern that invites easy walking, one of the best ways to explore. Strolls reveal a modern city, but one where traditional touches — a tiny shrine, upswept temple roofs — are never far away.

Read the rest of the story: Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital – Yahoo! News.

Japan Air Sees ‘Very Long’ Wait for U.S. Sales Rebound

Japan Airlines Co., the nation’s biggest international carrier, said ticket sales in Europe and the U.S. were lagging behind forecasts and would take a “very long” time to recover from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.“The recovery of demand from Europe and North America has not met our expectations,” President Masaru Onishi said in an interview in Singapore yesterday, ahead of the International Air Transport Association annual general meeting. “We feel it’s going to be a very long, drawn out and slow recovery.”JAL and overseas carriers including United Continental Holdings Inc. and AMR Corp.’s American Airlines cut Japan flights after the March 11 earthquake as concerns about radiation leaking from a crippled nuclear plant north of Tokyo deterred visitors.

Read the rest of the story: Japan Air Sees ‘Very Long’ Wait for U.S. Sales Rebound on Quake.

Taking tea the traditional Japanese way

The faint sound of a wooden door sliding open is my signal to proceed. I shuffle into the bright sunshine, my gait restricted by my tightly wrapped kimono, and push open the gate.

Behind lies an enchanted world, utterly different to the teeming streets of Tokyo that are just outside. The plot of land is no bigger than a garden patio but each element – tree, rock, water, moss – has been placed so thoughtfully that the space feels twice the size. I crouch next to the well to wash my hands and mouth, and out of the corner of my eye notice the shokyaku, or the main guest, slip through a tiny square doorway and disappear into the chashitsu, tea room.

The path guides me to that same minute entrance. I squeeze myself into the darkened room, swivel around to place my straw sandals to the side of the entrance and leave the door open for the following guest.

I am in. My eyes adjust to the muted light, and I kneel and bow in turn to the calligraphy on the wall, the Edo-period tea caddy, and the kettle and hearth in an otherwise empty room of tatami straw mats. I finally take my place next to the shokyaku to wait for the two remaining guests to appear.

During the Edo period (1603-1868), the tea ceremony provided respite for the samurai warrior. It was the only space they entered unarmed. Laying their katana swords at the gate, through the tea ceremony ritual they allayed worries of impending war and death.

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Yakushiji’s World Heritage Pagoda open for first time in 1,300 years

The three-layer east pagoda of Yakushiji, a Buddhist temple listed as a World Heritage site in Japan’s ancient capital of Nara, was opened to the public Tuesday for the first time since it was built some 1,300 years ago.

The national treasure pagoda in western Japan, often described as "frozen music" for its rhythmical appearance and beauty, will be open to general visitors through March 21 ahead of its major renovation around this summer.

The East Tower (東塔 Tō-tō?) is the only original 8th-century structure at Yakushi-ji. It is regarded as one of the finest pagodas in Japan, representing Hakuhō to Tenpyō period architecture.

During the renovation, which is expected to take eight years, visitors will not even be able to view the exterior of the tower.

A walkway and lighting was installed inside the first floor of the tower for the public viewing.

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Japan’s Ninja Festival

To arrive in Iga-Ueno on the first Sunday in April is to feel like a stranger in ninjatown. This small city in the mountains, about two hours by train from Osaka, is supposedly the ancestral home of those fearsome feudal super-sneaks and master killers, whose name and reputation have spread across the world through movies, comic books and video games.

Here in Japan, ninjas are now something of a national myth, a slightly cartoonish composite of old folk tales and modern pop culture. This morning in Iga Ueno, however, it would be discourteous to dispute their existence. It’s the opening day of the annual ninja festival, and travel on public transport is free to anyone in costume. Connecting to the local loop line, I step on to a train brightly painted with ninja murals (designed by the famous Japanese manga artist Leiji Matsumoto), and find my carriage filled with muffled, hooded figures, all armed with swords and throwing stars.

Admittedly, their weapons appear to be made of soft foam or folded paper, and their outfits come in a range of colours – not just classic ninja black but purple, red, canary yellow, baby blue and a distinctly unthreatening shade of pink. Also, very few of these mysterious commuters stand much over four feet tall.

Read the rest of the story: Tall tales and tiny assassins at Japan’s ninja festival.

Taking a train to the snows

Tumbling down head over heels near the summit of a 2,000-meter mountain is the most fun I’ve had in ages. On a Monday, the sparsely peopled ski runs at Mitsumata resort in Niigata Prefecture were knee-deep in feather-soft powder snow: perfect conditions for cushioning even the nastiest of falls.

An amazingly cheap weekday JR package deal that included a day-return shinkansen trip from Tokyo Station and a one-day ski pass made this trip painful on neither the pocket nor the posterior.

The only difficult thing about the experience was getting up at 5:15 a.m. in time for the 7:00 a.m. departure to Echigo-Yuzawa. The train, which takes just over 70 minutes, gobbles up track at an incredible rate, making short work of the capital’s urban jumble before speeding northwest across flat plains toward the gray-blue shadow of Niigata’s mountain ranges on the horizon.

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Sapporo Snow Festival – Sapporo, the city that receives more snow than any other metropolis on Earth

Landing on Hokkaido in mid-winter is a highly provisional business. As our plane descends from blue to white above the coldest and emptiest of Japan’s main islands, the pilot says he might yet have to divert as far south as Tokyo. When he somehow finds the runway at New Chitose Airport, it looks and feels like touching down inside a snow cloud.

The same whiteness fills the windows of the train into Sapporo, whose citizens appear to live underground in a complex of heated passageways, malls and subterranean transit systems.

At street level, the foothpaths and roads form a grid of ice embedded in a snowfield, which illustrates the way this city was made to order. Designated a new northern administrative outpost by the restored Meiji Empire in 1868, it had been a settlement of fewer than 10 people only a decade earlier. The city’s population has grown to more than 1.9 million, with thousands of tourists blowing in for the annual Sapporo Snow Festival in February, making a virtue of the fact the city receives more snow than any other metropolis on Earth – more than six metres every year.

During the festival, the Susukino entertainment district becomes an outdoor gallery of ice sculptures. Popular cartoon characters, dinosaurs and mythological creatures line the main thoroughfares, teeth and claws sharpened to glistening points. Odori Park, meanwhile, becomes an avenue of vast architectural models – Korean temples, German cathedrals, detailed large-scale replicas of world-famous monuments – all shaped and carved from solid blocks of snow by soldiers of Japan’s Self-Defence Forces, for whom this event has been a training exercise since the 1950s. Training for what, we wonder, as they touch up the corners with chainsaws, civil engineering in the next Ice Age?

Read the rest of the story: Ice castles and ale.