Japan to get third low-cost airline – Jetstar Japan

Japan Airlines, Qantas and Mitsubishi are to launch a new budget airline in Japan, the companies announced August 16.

The latest in a string of new low-cost carriers which are transforming Japanese and Asian aviation, Jetstar Japan will take off towards the end of 2012, initially focusing on domestic services.

With routes between Tokyo Narita and Osaka Kansai and other potential destinations expected to include Sapporo, Fukuoka, and Okinawa, the airline could present yet another challenge to Japan’s high-speed rail network.

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To Japan or Not? Japan a bargain or risk for travelers?

THE earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan on March 11, and the nuclear crisis that followed, have had an impact on nearly every corner of the economy, perhaps none more directly than the tourist industry. The number of foreign visitors has plunged 50 percent since the triple disasters, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

But four months on, travelers are trickling back. Most are business travelers, adventure seekers and bargain hunters, a type of visitor not often associated with Japan, where a sushi dinner can wipe out a week’s savings.

The view of Japan as a high-priced playground is what kept Erin Conroy and Jenny McMeans, friends from New York City, from visiting. But this spring, they found round-trip tickets to Tokyo on airfarewatchdog.com for just $600, about half what they normally cost, and booked a room in a hostel for 2,600 yen (about $33 at 79 yen to the dollar) a night. Suddenly, Japan was affordable, even with the yen near record highs against the dollar.

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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.

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Traveling Japan: 24-hour Tokyo

From the heated toilet seats to the birdsong piped through the railway stations, Tokyo is a city unlike any other. You’ll find all the pop-culture chaos you associate with the uber-modern Japanese metropolis beside the serene calm of a Buddhist shrine and the broad sweep of a public park.

It means if you find yourself with only limited time in the city, you have to plan it well, but on the upside there are few cities that run as efficiently as Tokyo. Once you’ve decided where to go, you’ll get there quickly.

Tokyo is famous for its gourmet restaurants, but you can also find culinary treasures by being a little brave and wandering down the odd staircase or back street.

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Japan creates 6-month medical visa for foreigners

The Japanese government instituted a new visa Friday to enable foreign visitors to stay in Japan for a maximum of six months to receive health care treatment starting in January.

The medical stay visa is designed as an economic stimulus measure to attract affluent visitors from China and other parts of Asia, following calls for the government to revamp the visa system as countries such as Thailand, Singapore, India and South Korea step up medical tourism.

"Based on Japan’s new growth strategy adopted in June, we will launch a new visa to promote visits to our country by foreign patients," Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara told a news conference.

"We hope the new visa will enable as many people as possible to receive advanced medical services to get healthy or undergo checkups in Japan," the minister said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said in a press conference that barriers must be lowered as Japan could be left behind in high- level medical services.

So far, visitors seeking health care in Japan have acquired visas categorized as those for a short-term stay, special purposes or visiting relatives, which allowed them to stay up to 180 days.

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Global UNESCO Network of Geoparks adds another part of Japan’s coast

The Global UNESCO Network of Geoparks group has newly admitted a part of the Sea of Japan coast stretching from Kyoto to Tottori prefectures into it’s group of Geoparks.

The group backed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, conducted a screen of the area to determine if the coast allowed visitors to see significant landscapes and terrestrial formations. The coastal area is the fourth area of the country to be granted membership. Mount Usu in Hokkaido, the Itoigawa tectonic line in Niigata Prefecture, and the Shimabara Peninsula in Nagasaki Prefecture are all previous entrants to the group of GeoParks.

Hakone: One of the first and greatest tourist spots in Japan

For centuries Hakone served as way station for travelers between the eastern and western parts of the country. It was also the site of a roadblock manned by shogunate troops. They served a dual purpose–keeping firearms out of the capital of Edo and keeping the wives and daughters of feudal lords in. The women were held hostage to guarantee the loyalty of the provincial warlords, a system that remained in place until the Meiji Restoration in the second half of the 19th century.

With its volcanic mountains and many hot springs, Hakone was one of the first tourist spots in the country. It attracted both Japanese and foreigners, with the nobility and the wealthy constructing summer retreats in the area.

Hakone also was the site of Japan’s first Western-style hotel, built mainly for the large foreign community living in relative proximity of Yokohama.

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