Japan Travel News - 2016


August 2015 saw UK visitor numbers to Japan jump 30% compared to the previous year, and with Tokyo now 50% cheaper for UK travellers than in 2013 according to a Long-Haul report from the Post Office Japan’s tourism boom is set to continue.

Japan in 2016 will be building up to the 2020 Olympics and 2019 Rugby World Cup with luxury hotel openings, new air routes into Japan and the Hokkaido shinkansen launching in spring, making the country easier to navigate for foreign tourists than ever before.

Hotels Opening in Japan in late 2015 & 2016

- Japan’s first glamping hotel, Hoshinoya Fuji, from Hoshino Resorts will open on 30 October 2015
- Oakwood Premier Tokyo serviced apartments to open in January 2016
- Kafuu Resort Fuchaku will open in Okinawa in spring 2016
- Aman will open Amanemu, the brands first luxury hot spring resort in spring 2016
- Uza Terrace Beach Club Villas will open on 18 March 2016 in Yomitan Village in Okinawa (no English website yet)
- Four Seasons to open in Kyoto, their second property in Japan
- Fujita Kankou to open two Hotel Gracery properties in Naha, Okinawa on 7 April 2016, as well as in Kyoto in autumn 2016
- Hotel Sunroute Osaka Namba – opening April 2016 (website not yet available in English)
- Tokyo Disney Celebration Hotel to open in June 2016
- Sheraton Okinawa Sun Marina Resort will open in June 2016 (renovation of existing Sun Marina Hotel) in Onna Village, Okinawa.
- The Prince Gallery TOKYO KIOICHO will open in Tokyo in summer 2016
- Hoshino Resorts is to open the capital’s first luxury ryokan, Hoshinoya Tokyo, in July 2016 
- Magachabaru will open in Nakijin Village in Okinawa on 31 July 2016 (no English website yet)
- Shiba Park Hotel 151 will open in summer 2016 (website yet to be launched)
- Spring Airlines will launch 20 new "SpringSunny" hotels in various cities across Japan, beginning with Nagoya in the first half of 2016
- 'Aya Niseko' - a ski-in, ski-out condominium hotel will open in Niseko, Hokkaido in December 2016

Transport Developments

- New bullet train link to Hokkaido from March 2016
The much anticipated Hokkaido shinkansen will launch on 26 March 2016, linking Tokyo with Hakodate on the northern island in just 4 hours 10 minutes. Current journey time for this route is around 5 hours 50 minutes, including changes. So currently, most visitors to Hokkaido fly to the island. The new, direct service will help foreign tourists explore the top island’s natural charms and sight-seeing spots on a budget, as the JR Rail Pass will be accepted on the new route.

- New Finnair route to Fukuoka from May 2016
As of 7 May 2016, Finnair will launch its new route to Fukuoka, situated on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, linking various European cities to the island via its Helsinki-based hub. With KLM suspending their Fukuoka route as of 5 January 2016, Finnair will be the only airline offering direct flights from Europe to Kyushu. 

- AirAsia to operate in Japan from spring 2016
In 2016, AirAsia will return to Japan to operate from Chubu Centrair Airport, 35km south of Nagoya - Japan’s fourth most populated city. The low-cost air carrier is expected to offer flights to Fukuoka, Sapporo/New Chitose and Seoul, with more destinations to follow as they expand. AirAsia will be the first low cost carrier to locate its hub at Chubu airport, situated between Tokyo and the Kansai region home to Kyoto and Osaka. Official routes will be confirmed in November 2015, with ticket sales to follow shortly after.

Major Events in 2016

Art Triennials

Aichi Prefecture will hold its third triennial between summer and autumn 2016. The first in 2010 promoted the theme “Arts & Cities” whilst the 2013 event focused on the Great East Japan Earthquake. The theme for 2016 will be “Homo Faber: A Rainbow Caravan”. The director for 2016’s event suggests “Aichi Triennial has many characteristics that distinguish it from its domestic and overseas art festivals — it is a celebration in and of the urban space; it is spatially unbounded, actively permitting content to spill out of museums and into local streets and neighbourhoods.”

Saitama Prefecture, situated to the west of Tokyo, will hold its first triennial in 2016. The event will be based on the theme of “Envisioning the Future!” Artists at the forefront of their fields in Japan and abroad will visit and take residency in Saitama City, developing a variety of art projects throughout the city while interacting with residents. Check out their website here.

Setouchi Triennial will run for its third year, with 108 non-consecutive days of art across 12 islands dotted around the Seto Inland Sea, which separates Japan’s main islands of Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku. The event will run between March and April, then again in July, August, September and October. One of the islands, Naoshima, already famed for its appeal to contemporary art fans, will display the highest densities of artwork among the islands. The 2016 event will seek to promote each region’s specialty dishes, as well as focusing on internationalisation. Find out more about the event here.   
Shiba zakura
Mountain Day – A New National Holiday
A new national holiday ‘Mountain Day’ will be added to the Japanese calendar beginning in August 2016 - to encourage citizens and visitors to Japan to celebrate all things mountain related! 72% of Japan’s landmass is mountainous, and the country is becoming increasingly popular for international snowsport fans and hikers keen to take on Japan’s mountain trails.

The new holiday, which will fall on 11th August, coincides with the busiest weekend for climbing Mount Fuji. This hike takes around 12 hours depending on pace, with most hikers climbing through the night to appreciate the sunrise from the top of the mountain early the next morning. From 2018, however, the World Heritage Site is likely to see an implemented restriction on the number of hikers in order to better protect the mountain from wear and tear. With more domestic travellers set to head to Mt Fuji to celebrate Mountain Day in the intended fashion during the peak hiking period, the time is nigh to conquer Fuji before restrictions are set in place. 

What else is happening in Japan in 2016?

- New Godzilla Movie
The first Japanese-made Godzilla movie in over 10 years, Shin Gojira, will open at cinemas in Japan in March 2016. Worldwide release dates will follow. Godzilla fans can stay at the Godzilla-themed Hotel Gracery Shinjuku that opened in Tokyo in 2015. Find out more about the movie here: www.imdb.com/news/ni58090451.

- Record-Breaking Roller Coaster to Open

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, the theme park plans to open its newest attraction: a roller coaster called The Flying Dinosaur, which promises to have the world’s longest track and the deepest drop ever for a flying coaster!

Scheduled to be open in spring 2016, The Flying Dinosaur will take riders around 360-degree spins and 124-foot (37.8-metre) drops over the entire 3,688-foot (1,124-metre) course, making it the longest flying-coaster course in the world.

- Olympic emblem to be selected in spring 2016

The Tokyo 2020 Emblem Selection Committee has launched a design competition for the 2020 Olympic emblems, open to any residents of Japan over the age of 18. Entries will be submitted between 24 November and 7 December online, and the selection committee will then announce the winning design in spring 2016. The winner will receive an official invitation to attend the opening of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The emblems should incorporate one or more of the following concepts in the design: “The power of sport”, “Typifying Tokyo and/or Japan”, “World peace”, “Exerting the utmost efforts and striving to achieve personal best,”, “Inclusivity”, “Innovation and Futuristic” and “Regeneration". Find out more here.

- Blockbuster Animated Film Set in Japan

In summer 2016, Universal Pictures will release Kubo and the Two Strings, a 3D stop-motion/animation blend from Laika pictures. It will star Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes and Art Parkinson from Game of Thrones. Set in ancient Japan, the film follows the story of a young boy named Kubo. Living with his mother, an ancient spirit from the past re-ignites an age-old vendetta with his family that leads to an adventure involving mythical Japanese gods and monsters. In order to overcome the ancient spirit, Kubo most locate an ancient suit of samurai armour worn by his legendary late father. The movie calls on Japanese folktales and mythology.

- Snoopy Museum

A pop-up Snoopy Museum, Café and Shop will open in Tokyo’s Roppongi district from March 2016 until September 2018. www.snoopymuseum.tokyo.

- Tsukiji fish market relocating to new premises

On 7 November 2016 Tsukiji fish market will relocate from its current long-running location near Tsukiji station to a sparkling new headquarters in Toyosu. The move will be made in preparation of development plans for the 2020 Olympic Games, which will be held in Tokyo. The new building will be a complete redesign of the current traditional feel of the market, but the transition across the city will take place quickly, with only a few days' closure in between the move to allow the 61 residents to pack up their wares.