Japan faced significant challenges last year, which had an impact on travel to this enchanting destination. This is unfortunate. I have been to Japan about 6 times and it has much to offer for business meetings, incentive travel and conferences. There were many parts of Japan that were untouched by last year's calamities yet headlines are indicating that:
As a result, Japan is finally affordable. USA Today listed Japan as one of:
Even if you are planning a trip for next year, it is best to book it at today's rates.
One of the most colorful times to take a group to Japan is during a festival. The pageantry of a festival is an opportunity to learn about Japan's rich history and culture. There festivals throughout the year but today I'll highlight just a few winter and spring festivals.
Winter Festivals in Japan
Sapporo is famous for the Japanese beer that bears its name. For the past 63 years, it has also been the location of Japan's most famous Snow Festival (Sapporo Yuki Masturi) which takes place Odori Park for 7 days in in February. It features gigantic snow replicas of famous world landmarks, ice sculpture, parades, and one of the world's few ice bars.
Kamakura Matsuri, Yokote
The 400-year-old Kamakura Matsuri in Yokote is one of Japan's truly mesmerizing festivals. Every year in Doro Koen Park, kamakura are carved out of snow. These snow huts that are similar to igloos. On February 15 – 16, the children of Yokote light candles, sit on cushions in straw mats inside the kamakura. For snacks, they toast mochi (delicious rice cakes) and warm up a sweet beverage made from fermented rice (amazake). I found an really interesting perspective of this celebration written by a young visitor to Japan who joined the Kamakura Matsuri festivities.
Photo Credit: chrissam42
Spring Festivals in Japan
The first time I went to Japan I was lucky enough to catch the start of the cherry blossom festival. In late March and early April is when many parts of Japan are abloom with pink and white cherry blossoms (sakura). Some of the best places to see the cherry blossoms are Maruyama Park and Philosopher's Path in Kyoto, Ueno Park and Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo, and the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura. Dancing, music, street processions, and other celebrations are highlights of this colorful and festive season.
Photo Credit: jpellgen
Hina Matsuri (doll festival) takes place every year on March 3. It's Girl's Day in Japan, when many families put out 5- to 7-tiered displays of dolls in traditional dress. Many of the dolls have been handed down for generations in some families.
Golden Week spans from April 29 - May 5 and includes 4 celebrations:
- Showa Day (Showa no hi) - the birthday of the Emperor Showa who died during the 1980s
- Constitution Day (Kenpo kinenbi)
- Greenery Day (Midori no hi)
- Boy's Festival (Tango no Sekku)
This is one of the best years to return to Japan or to visit for the first time. Japan really needs the tourist revenue and, at a fraction of what a trip to Japan cost a few years ago, corporate event planners can offer unique and vivid experiences.
Photo Credits: Japan Incentive Travel, Photos by Executive Oasis International