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UnionPay: Introducing the Appeal of Japan’s Hospitality Culture, Responsible for a Surge in Visitors; Foreign Visitors to Japan Surpass 10 Million People

February 17, 2014 Destination North Asia No Comments Email Email

UnionPay cards have handled over 15 billion yen worth of transactions for tourists visiting Japan as of September of 2013.

To commemorate this, UnionPay is running a “UnionPay Accommodation Campaign,” ( in which users can receive the benefit of 1000 yen discounts by paying accommodation charges (of 10,000 yen or more) with a UnionPay card at any of UnionPay International’s 100 partner hotels nationwide.

Kumamoto Prefecture (Kumamoto Castle) (Photo: Business Wire)

It has been 10 years since the launch of the “Visit Japan Campaign,” promoting increased visitation to the country, and the number of foreign visitors to Japan has exceeded the target of 10 million people in 2013. We would like to introduce you to some of the tourism spots experiencing a greater number of visitors every year, where you can enjoy natural settings brimming with Japanese appeal.

Ohanami Information

Introducing Ohanami information for the Kyushu region (Ohanami: cherry blossom viewing), where cherry trees bloom early due to the warmer climate. The cherry blossoms are forecast to be in full bloom in Fukuoka prefecture this year at the end of March. Savor viewing these cherry blossoms this season just when the weather begins to warm, as the blossoms are calmly bathed in beautiful warm sunlight, or majestically lit up in the evenings.

In the next newsletter will be reports on Ohanami information focused on the Kanto and Tohoku regions.

  • Fukuoka Prefecture (Maizuru Park)

In this famous cherry blossom area in Fukuoka city roughly 1000 trees display blossoms in full bloom. This area is famed for its setting, which interweaves moats and castles with cherry blossoms. Here, you will find blooms of Weeping cherry trees and Satozakura trees amongst the more prominent Yoshino cherry trees.

In one corner of the Fukuoka Castle site is an exhibition hall for the “Kourokan” ruins, which was an ancient reception hall. Red and white plum trees and tree and herbaceous peonies have been planted in the park; the lotuses are also quite impressive. A viewing platform has been installed in the castle tower, making this a tourism spot from where one can view all the way to Fukuoka Tower and Fukuoka Dome.

Location: Fukuoka, Chou-ku, Fukuoka Castle grounds

  • Kumamoto Prefecture (Kumamoto Castle)

Kumamoto Castle is one of three castles built by Kato Kiyomasa. This castle mixes the gallant appearance of signature curved stone walls, known as musha-gaeshi, a vividly contrasting black and white castle tower, and long ramparts with the remarkable grace of 800 cherry trees. Located in central Kumamoto, nighttime park openings are coordinated to coincide with the start of cherry blossom season. The nighttime combination of the illuminated castle and cherry blossoms is not to be missed.

Location: Kumamoto, Chou-ku

Japan is surrounded by remote outlying islands!

Japan is also comprised of over 6,800 outlying islands of every size. Last year the eruption of a submarine volcano resulted in a much talked about new island born in Nishinoshima off the coast of the Ogasawara Islands.

In addition to Japan’s major tourist destination cities, we would also like to acquaint you with Japan’s remote islands, where you can relax in relative warmth and thoroughly enjoy the great outdoors – even in the cold winter.

  • Chichijima Island (Ogasawara Islands)

Chichijima is the largest of the Ogasawara Islands, which is located about 1,000 km south of Tokyo. Being in a subtropical region, a variety of flora and fauna unique to the island can be seen here year-round in its warm climate. Although it is a long journey of 25.5 hours by ship from Takeshiba pier in Tokyo, this tourist spot has been garnering popularity domestically as well since being registered as a World Heritage Site in 2011.

Take joy in marine leisure activities, such as dolphin watching, whale watching, fishing, and scuba diving. You can also see the screw pine, a unique plant that sprouts multiple roots from its trunk which resemble octopus legs. You can stroll to neighboring Hahajima Island from Chichijima Island in about two hours to take in the island’s unique nature.

To learn how to purchase boat tickets to Chichijima Island, please visit:

  • Ishigaki Island

Access to the island was improved with newly constructed New Ishigaki Airport in 2013. With this, the island has been gaining popularity as a travel destination. Although it is some 2,000 km from Tokyo, it has been attracting attention as a popular travel destination due to its proximity to China and Taiwan.

Surrounded by coral, the island enjoys a year-round warm climate, making it an optimal location for marine leisure, such as fishing and scuba diving. The most popular tourist spot on the island is Kabira Bay. Located in the northwest corner of the island, it has been selected as one of Japan’s most scenic 100 views. It boasts some of the world’s clearest waters, which are displayed in a breathtaking gradation from blue to green. It takes roughly 40 minutes to travel here by car from Ishigaki Island’s city center.

It has also drawn attention as the location of an April triathlon with ever increasing participants. There is exceptionally good access to nearby Taketomi Island, Iriomote Island, and Hateruma Island, which can all be reached in less than one hour by boat.

  • Yakushima

Yakushima was named a World Heritage Site in 1993. This island features an acclaimed natural heritage, with Yakushima cedars in addition to Jomon cedars, which are said to be 7200 years old.

There are countless highlights on the island, such as Jomon cedars, the Shirotani-Unsui-kyou Gorge, Miyanouchidake mountain, the Hananoego marshland, Ooko falls, and Senpiro falls.

Shirotani-Unsui-kyou Gorge has been called the “Forest of Princess Mononoke.” Anime creator Miyazaki Hayao has also visited the area several times. Don’t miss this ravine with its many waterfalls that is so mysterious that it was used to conjure images for the forests in the famous anime “Princess Mononoke.” Miyanouchidake Mountain (1935 m) is the highest peak in Kyushu and a legendary mountain which has been chosen as one of Japan’s most famous 100 mountains. There are numerous mountain climbers in Yakushima amongst the Jomon cedars.

Recommended Hot Springs

Japan has been called the best country for hot springs, with numerous hot springs scattered nationwide. We would like to introduce you to some of the most popular hot spring destinations. Even though cold season continues until March, give or take, why not give yourself a break from the cold during your visit and warm up by soaking in a natural hot spring?

  • Hakone Hot Springs

Popular as a therapeutic bath for ages, these hot springs have a history stretching back over 800 years. According to Japanese folklore, the wet nurse of well-known Sakata no Kintoki (also known as Kintaro, or Golden Boy) discovered these hot springs. Legend has it that the waters healed Kintoki’s eye, and to this day it is still said that these waters have healing effects on eyes.

  • Yufuin Hot Springs

Spread across the foot of Yufu Mountain in Oita prefecture, this popular hot spring area is said to boast the second-most volume of natural hot water nationwide. The scenery of the area wrapped in fog from autumn to winter is fantastic. This travel destination is particularly popular with women, due to its interspersed art museums and restaurants, as well as the ability to enjoy nature in all four seasons here.

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