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From its sweeping countryside to its ultra-modern skyscrapers, Japan has something to offer all travelers, whether they’re first-time visitors or seasoned jetsetters.
“Japan offers a seamless blend of modern and traditional culture,” said Kay Allen, senior marketing specialist for Japan National Tourism Organization’s Los Angeles office. “Travelers can experience rich history, ancient landmarks and incredible natural beauty while still getting their fix of world-class shopping and dining. Japan is truly a one-stop shop for incredible experiences.”
And it has never been easier for clients to travel to Japan. Nonstop flights from major U.S. cities continue to grow, such as Japan Airlines’ route from Seattle to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, which will launch March 31.
The country is also incredibly safe; it has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, which makes it an ideal locale for multigenerational families and solo female travelers.
So it’s no surprise that Japan’s tourism industry is set to continue flourishing in the new year. Here are a few noteworthy destinations, hotels and attractions that are sure to impress in 2019.
Leading Destinations: Tokyo, Kyoto and Hokkaido Although many travelers desire to seek out the undiscovered, most visitors continue to flock to the “Golden Route,” which runs from the bustling cities of Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka and Hiroshima to the scenic town of Hakone near Mount Fuji.
Set to open in late 2019, Ace Hotel Kyoto will serve as a cultural hub for clients, as it will be conveniently located near the Museum of Kyoto and Kyoto Art Center. Meanwhile, the Mori Building Digital Art Museum (which opened in summer 2018) is an absolute must-see during a trip to Tokyo. The exhibit blends one piece of artwork with the next, creating a borderless world to connect people through art, culture and togetherness.
Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, is also luring tourists.
“Hokkaido is definitely up-and-coming,” Allen said. “It has so much to offer, from natural beauty, world-class skiing and hot springs to fresh seafood and unique local culture.”
The 100-room Park Hyatt Niseko, Hanazono on Hokkaido will open its doors by year’s end, offering clients priority access to the Hanazono golf course and, of course, ski-in, ski-out access to trails in Mount Annupuri.
www.acehotel.comwww.hyatt.com On the Rise: Western Japan and the Seto Inland SeaAlthough Kyoto and Osaka have long been praised for their traditional gardens and modern entertainment, these two cities make up a sliver of all that western Japan has to offer.
“Cities such as Kobe, Kurashiki and other destinations along the Seto Inland Sea are also drawing visitors interested in contemporary art, exceptional cuisine and unique activities,” Allen said.
Clients in search of a blissful escape can book a stay at the 19-room Guntu Floating Hotel, which drifts along the Seto Inland Sea. Guntu took its maiden voyage in October 2017, and it allows clients to spend a day with local fisherman and partake in local festivals and events while docked.
Additionally, the islands of the Seto Inland Sea will see the return of the Setouchi Triennale this year. Held every three years, the popular art festival hosts art exhibits across 12 islands — all of which are connected by high-speed ferry.
“The Setouchi Triennale and Aichi Triennale are excellent vehicles to get travelers excited about visiting lesser-known destinations that may not have previously been on their radar,” Allen said. “Once there, they can expect to find flavors and sights unique to these destinations. Japan is surprisingly diverse in this regard, and it’s so much fun to see how the food, costumes, music and even language differ from place to place.”
Under the Radar: Okinawa and City OutskirtsThough it’s difficult to keep up with the hotels opening in Japan in the next few years, Allen notes that many demonstrate a trend toward luxurious accommodation options in off-the-beaten-path destinations.
When it opens in July, Okinawa Halekulani — Halekulani’s second property — will allow travelers to explore Okinawa Island through its collection of curated activities. The property will feature restorative and spacious guestrooms, including 27 suites and five villas.
“We are finding that repeat travelers are interested in seeing more of the countryside and experiencing local life in Japan,” Allen said. “There is something incredible to see in all 47 prefectures, and those who don’t want to skip out on the ‘greatest hits’ can still throw in some off-the-beaten-path destinations with ease, thanks to Japan’s exceptional public transit system.”
In 2020, Japan will also welcome The Ritz-Carlton, Nikko to the Tochigi Prefecture, just 90 minutes outside of Tokyo. But the resort’s proximity to Tokyo is not its most compelling feature; The Ritz-Carlton Nikko will be set on the Toshogu Shrine complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is comprised of more than 100 religious buildings atop the slopes of the sacred Nikko Mountains.