A Step Farther

Pacific Delight Tours adds Japan to its line-up

By: Monica Poling

Asia’s many countries, all seemingly made up of ancient temples, modern landscapes, adventure activities and ultra-cheap shopping, may be hard to distinguish for the first-time Asia traveler. Upon closer inspection though, each culture is fascinating and unique.

For visitors seeking a better understanding of the differences between three of northeast Asia’s most popular destinations, Pacific Delight Tours offers an 18-day Japan & China Escapade.

The itinerary starts with three days in southern Japan’s historic Kyoto. And while Japan is well assimilated into American pop culture who doesn’t know Pokemon, Sony or Nokia in person the country is both fresh and enchanting.

Home of the geisha and Japan’s popular sake industry, Kyoto is as elegant as it is exciting. It is a cultural paradise with rows of shopping annexes full of origami, as well as clothing and electronics. A half-day city tour is included, and the remaining free time is barely enough to get to know the city, even with superb transportation.

A short 2½-hour bullet train ride takes visitors to the humming, neon- metropolis of Tokyo. Visitors must map this part of their itinerary carefully, in order to maximize their sightseeing opportunities. Central Tokyo’s most popular attractions, like the Ginza or Shinjuku’s “skyscraper district” or the Tsukiji Fish Market, offer just one perspective of the city.

Time permitting, the city’s outskirts are equally exciting. The Saitama prefecture, for example, once a sleepy community, has rapidly become an emerging name in the world of international sports first as a World Cup host city in 2002 and more recently as the host of the 2006 FIBA World (Basketball) Championship, attracting the likes of Kobe Bryant and Elton Brand. Just one of the many hidden attractions in this area is the two-story John Lennon museum, an unexpected and poignant experience.

After Tokyo, the tour departs for China, where visitors enjoy a fully escorted program, including all of the attractions that make the country a growing player in the international tourism arena. From the Great Wall of China, to the Ming Tombs, to Xian’s famous Terra-Cotta Warriors, visitors get a personalized look into this exotic culture. The country’s landscape is vast and its history spans nearly 5,000 years, but the guides will try to teach travelers all of it before they leave.

The Yangtze River is not included, but tourists will enjoy a lazy day sailing along the Guilin section of the Li River. Not so well known to Americans, Guilin is internationally known for its stunning landscapes, which are the subject of many of China’s popular “misty mountain” watercolor paintings.

Hong Kong, on the other hand, was built by adventurers. From expatriate Chinese seeking a new life to sailors making a port of call, Hong Kong has always called to the fortune-seeker. The tour program includes three nights unescorted travel in Hong Kong, a city that never fails to please.

Here, clients get exactly what they expect luxurious accommodations, a shimmering skyline, cosmopolitan dining and countless shopping and cultural opportunities. It’s a sparkling diamond in Asia’s tourism crown.

Starting at $3,728 per person, guaranteed departures are available monthly through March 2007 from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Honolulu on United or Northwest Airlines.

www.pacificdelight tours.com


In Asia, it is not just the Chinese that are planning to benefit from increased visitor traffic at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The Japanese, too, are paying attention to potential traffic generated by this international event. Recognizing that American travelers to Asia typically visit more than one destination, the Japan National Tourist Organization has started promoting itself as a natural addition to any multiple-destination Olympics itinerary.

The Los Angeles-based offices of JNTO, Hong Kong Tourism Board and China National Tourist Office have joined forces and are working closely with such major wholesalers as Pacific Delight Tours, Pleasant Holidays and Ritz Tours in the creation and promotion of several new three-country tour packages. The packages were promoted in an ad campaign that ran earlier this year in major consumer publications including the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Magazine.

The JNTO first started promoting itself as an add-on to China last year, when they invited several major tour wholesalers specializing in China programs to join a familiarization program in Japan. As a direct result of that fam trip, China Travel Service and Grand American Travel have added Japan programs to their popular China itineraries.

No stranger to the Olympic scene, Nagano served as host of the 1998 winter Olympics and Tokyo welcomed the 1964 Olympics, Japan is earning quite the reputation as a home for international-scale championship sporting events. Championship motorcycle racing also has a home in Japan. Tokyo will serve as the 15th stop in the international MotoGP World Championship this month.

The Tokyo Marathon will transform the city’s landscape in February. This is the first-ever Tokyo Marathon open to non-Japanese runners, and it is expected to draw more than 30,000 participants from around the world. In March 2007, Tokyo joins the ranks of such cities as Calgary, Moscow and Washington, D.C., when it hosts the World Figure Skating Championships. The world’s brightest figure skaters will compete for the title of World Champion in four categories.

As Japan continues to attract world-class events, international five-star hotel chains are also starting to take interest in the country’s increased visitor numbers. In 2005, Japan welcomed three new five-star properties, Conrad Tokyo, Mandarin Oriental Tokyo and Hyatt Regency Kyoto. In 2007, two more five-star brands, Peninsula and Ritz-Carlton, will open properties in Tokyo.