Detailed Travel Guides Launched Along with the New Bullet Train in Japan

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While celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Shinkansen (Bullet Train) on October 1, the Japan National Tourism Organization has confirmed that the extension of the Hokuriku Shinkansen service will open on March 14, 2015. The Japan National Tourism Organization has launched a new region-focused destination websites of Hokuriku, which widely reflects collections of Japanese arts and crafts and regional flavors that are unique to Japanese culinary culture.

This extended Shinkansen line runs through the toughest routes across the Japan Alps, which preserved the region’s culture and local craftsmanship less changed for many years, and made Hokuriku a gem of Japanese traditional beauty. In order to meet the demands for tourism information of the area where the train operates, JNTO has launched a Hokuriku specialized website in the JNTO’s North America website along with an introductory page. This website shows tourism attractions, historic landmarks, and local culinary and cultural experience in the detailed map for international travelers. Hokuriku has been receiving an increasing number of foreign travelers who look to beauty of Japanese art and traditional crafts, as the number of international visitors to Japan marked the record high in the first half of 2014, and JNTO is hoping this website to be a momentum of international tourism in Hokuriku.

Although Hokuriku has been known and visited by US travelers, there was no region oriented information for Hokuriku, once the new Bullet Train starts connecting Tokyo and Hokuriku within 2.5 hours, a rapid growth of tourist traffic expected in the region, and JNTO has decided to put together comprehensive guide. The website showcases sample itineraries to Hokuriku, covering cultural interest such as crafts, sake and food, all of which are what Hokuriku has been influencing the traditional Japanese culture as the key elements. Supplementary websites are also linked from this website for details of specific landmarks.

JNTO is also expecting more frequent traffic to many other attractions: Specifically, the gateway to some hidden ski mountains of Myoko is one of the Bullet Train stops, with a spectacular Zen-like wooden dome in the station. Echigo-Tsumari, one of the hot springs towns in the area, is a playground of contemporary artists from the world, who demonstrate unique art installations in the traditional ryokan facilities that welcome artsy travelers looking for timeless Japanese town with the touch of art. The town’s Echigo-Tsumari Art Field hosts international art events and projects as frequent as every year, including a Triennale event that have been pioneering contemporary art scenes in Japan since 2000.

Kanazawa is the largest city in Hokuriku, and has familiar places from postcards and travel books: Kenroku-en Garden is one of Japan’s three best Japanese gardens, with distinctive seasonal beauty year around. Thinly snow-covered cobble stone streets are in the city’s historic Higashi-Chaya District lined with traditional townhouses and tea houses, where visitors almost feel time-travelled back in the feudal era. Kanazawa’s history is filled with arts and crafts thanks to the art-inspired local feudal leader, the Maeda Family. To this day, Kanazawa still maintains the artist spirit and produces contemporary art scenes that inspire Japan’s modern architecture and design.

Many of the region’s products are gaining popularity in the US market, and Hokuriku brewed sake is particularly famous. Recently a sake expert and a sake sommelier have developed a sake specialized tour from the US to Hokuriku, and the trip goes behind the scenes of sake breweries as well as the traditional sake craftsmanship.

With the growth in number of US visitors to Japan in the first half of 2014, the JNTO maintains the momentum for tourism promotion in the US market with less known regional attractions and cultural experiences that will become much more accessible from major cities like Tokyo and Osaka with the new extension of Hokuriku Shinkansen.

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Nori Akashi