Senthil, Shuba and I just got back from Tokyo, after spending a few days meeting Japanese government officials and airport representatives. We were checking out the scene there to assess the prospect of AirAsia X flying to Japan in the near future. Love to hear your views on Japan as a destination.
The last time I visited Japan was six years ago. There’s definitely a feeling of more openness towards foreign visitors. The Japanese government is now aggressively trying to catch up with other Asian countries to grow their tourism sector, and they’ve come up with their Yokoso Japan! (Welcome to Japan) campaign to attract tourists. They have a long way to go to catch up with advanced tourist Markets such as Australia, Thailand, Malaysia and even neighbours Korea.
One thing that struck me about this trip was the mis-perception that Japan (and Tokyo specifically) is a very expensive destination. I found plenty of options for hotel rooms, ground transportation and food choices at prices below Hong Kong and Sydney. There are also a lot of guidebooks and maps in English that made using the bus and subway system easy to use for us gai-jins.
Japan has a lot of unique selling points: Tokyo is clearly the fashion capital of Asia – shopping in Ginza is overwhelming. Electronic gadget lovers will find Akihabara a paradise. The electronic stores there make Low Yatt look like a tiny corner stall! And this is home to anime – from Pokemon to Dragon Ballz to Haruhi Suzumiya! There’s also Tokyo Disneyland and the ancient Shogun palaces and castles that will send you back in time to the Tokugawa era (like Hiro from Heroes!).
My clear favourite: this tiny little restaurant in Tsukiji, the main fish market in Tokyo where tons of tuna and other seafood are trucked in the wee hours of the morning and auctioned off to the top restaurants in the city. The sashimi was simply phenomenal!
Let’s hope that the Japanese airports respond positively to our proposal. Its time to liberate travel to Japan from the tyranny of high fares from the legacy airlines!