"There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit." - President Ronald Reagan.

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Profits Soar For Japanese Air Carriers

Above, an All Nippon Airways jet at Narita International Airport. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The tourism boom and cheaper oil prices (well, until now since oil and gas prices have climbed) have made Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways very happy companies.

According to the Wall Street Journal:
TOKYO—Japan’s two biggest airlines Thursday reported higher profits for the just-ended fiscal year thanks to a recent tourism boom and cheaper oil prices. 
ANA Holdings Inc., the parent of All Nippon Airways Co., said its operating profit increased 39% to ¥91.5 billion ($768.8 million) on revenue of ¥1.713 trillion last fiscal year. Meanwhile, Japan Airlines Co. said its profit rose 8% to ¥179.7 billion on revenue of ¥1.345 trillion.
To read more, go here

ANA's New Economy Class Seats For Domestic Flights

Above, trying out ANA's Economy Class seats for international flights.

All Nippon Airways (ANA) is introducing new seats for economy class passengers.

Back in 2013, I tried out ANA's Premium Economy seats at their display at the Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show in Long Beach. I found the seats comfortable (but I liked their Business Class seats much more).

Now, it has been reported at News On Japan that ANA is introducing new economy seats beginning in June.

They wrote:
TOKYO —All Nippon Airways Co (ANA) and Toyota Boshoku Corp have teamed up to develop new economy class seats. The seats will appear on ANA’s domestic service beginning June. 
The collaboration marks the first time for Toyota Boshoku to be involved in the development and manufacturing of aircraft seats.
I noticed a lot of critical comments concerning ANA's seats. Several people posted that the seats cannot be reclined back and that the bottom section of the seats slide out. For an 11-hour flight to Japan from Los Angeles, these seats would be uncomfortable. Thankfully, these new seats will only be used on domestic flights.

To red more, go here

"The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" Ebook Now At Number 65

The Amazon Kindle ebook edition of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan has climbed up to number 65 for Best Sellers in Japanese Travel.

The ebook is in Kindle format and is available for $4.99. A link to the ebook is at top of this blog. Before ordering, make sure your browser, software, app or programs are compatible with the Kindle format.

Above, Miki Hayashi with the print edition of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Also, copies of the print edition are still available, but supplies are running out! To order, go here.

Japan Foreign Tourist Spending Up 64.4% In January-March

Above, Nakamise Street in Asakusa, Tokyo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

2015 is looking to become another banner year for Japan tourist spending, according to a report from Kyodo News.

They reported:
Spending by foreign travelers in Japan in the January-March period hit a record 706.6 billion yen ($5.95 billion), up 64.4 percent from a year earlier, the government said Thursday. 
The Japan Tourism Agency attributed the rise in spending on shopping, hotels, food and drink and transportation among other items mainly to strong consumption by tourists from China during the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays in February. A weaker yen also made Japanese products cheaper in local currency terms.
To read more, go here.

Time Out Tokyo: 88 Things To Do In Tokyo

Above, Tokyo's Skytree is listed as the city's most in-demand attraction. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

If you are planning to visit Tokyo anytime soon, Time Out Tokyo has posted their list of "88 Things To Do In Tokyo."

They begin it with:
Hop aboard a swimming bus… and 87 other great things to do in Tokyo. Whether you're watching bikini-clad women battle it out with robots or seeing the sights from the sky, there's always something going on in the neon city. Time Out Tokyo has your ultimate guide.
To see the 88 things to do in Tokyo, go here

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Japan's Retailers and Hotels Wooing Repeat Visitors

Above, Ginza's Mitsukoshi department store. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Japan's retailers and hotels are competing for repeat customers who are also foreign visitors.

According to Nikkei Asian Review:
TOKYO -- Japanese department stores and high-end hotels are competing for the loyalty of wealthy foreign travelers who make repeat trips to the country.  
Takashimaya, an Osaka-based department store operator, is set to issue "VIP membership" cards at the end of May. Foreign customers who come in regularly or spend a lot will be granted the status. Perks will include updates on new products via email and other means, as well as in-store interpretation and special concierge services. 
Currently, sales to foreign visitors account for 6% of Takashimaya's total. At some locations, however, the ratio approaches 20%. The company sees the membership program as a way to make the most of this customer base. 
In a survey by the Japan Tourism Agency, 11% of the foreign tourists who came to Japan last year for sightseeing and leisure said they had visited the country more than 10 times. The ratio was up about 3 percentage points from 2012. Put another way, repeat visitors are helping to fuel the overall increase in tourism.
 To read more, go here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Market Street Area of Union Square District of San Francisco

Above, a view of Market Street looking towards Powell Street Station. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It had been seven years since I last stepped foot in San Francisco, and the last time was generally just in the Japan Town area of the city. I was in San Francisco to take part in the "In The Footsteps of Godzilla" program at the Roxie Theater by the Japan Society of Northern California.

This time, I was in the area of 5th and Market Street which is home to the Powell Street cable car station. Before being picked up by the airport shuttle, I took a stroll around the area.

Above, an eastward view of Market Street. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Speaking of the cable cars, I saw none in operation. Apparently, they were undergoing repair at the time (see below). However, the electric-powered streetcar system was fully in operation.

Above, a sign of cable car safety tips at Powell Station. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Japan Society of Northern California booked me at the Pickwick Hotel, which is across the street from the old (and now closed) San Francisco Mint and caddy-corner from the offices of the San Francisco Chronicle. The Pickwick is a nice hotel and some rooms are currently being renovated.

The old Mint Building is in the process of being renovated, although I saw no evidence of this. Homeless people sleep on the building's east steps and the "delightful" odor of urine is very much evident around the building.

Above, an electric streetcar on Market Street. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, Powell Street looking north. Note the cable car tracks. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Within a block of the Pickwick Hotel is the Westfield San Francisco Centre with a number of upper-scale stores including Neiman-Marcus, Bloomingdales and Nordstrom.

Above, the Pickwick Hotel. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The section of Market Street is tree-lined and has it has a nice atmosphere to it. In looking at the Bay City Guide, this section of San Francisco is the Union Square District.

Above, the offices of the San Francisco Chronicle. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the old San Francisco Mint. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

During my stroll on Powell Street, I saw signs indicating that the cable cars begin their daily runs at 6:30 AM (they end at midnight). Unfortunately, according to a couple of clerks at a nearby Walgreen's, the Powell Street cable car line was undergoing repairs or maintenance at the time.

Above, another northern view of Powell Street. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, a streetcar with the Westfield San Francisco Centre in the background. Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Lastly, after my arrival in the Bay Area, while being driven to my hotel, we passed the former stadium home of the San Francisco Giants, Candlestick Park. It is currently being demolished and I saw that some portions of the stadium already had been torn down. A lot of baseball history took place in that stadium.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Back From San Francisco

Above, during my presentation. Photo courtesy of the Japan Society of Northern California.

The trip to San Francisco where I gave a presentation on monster movie locations and special effects went very well.

Above, the Roxie Theater sign. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The event, "In The Footsteps of Godzilla," was well attended. The screening of Godzilla (1954) had about 150 attendees at the Roxie Theater in the Mission District of San Franciso. The theater holds about 200.

Above, from left, Eileen Tanaka, Armand and Susan Watanabe.

Following the screening and my presentation, we headed to the Izakaya Roku Japanese restaurant for the V.I.P. dinner.

Above, Briana Burrows and Armand.

Many thanks to Briana Burrows, Susan Watanabe, Eileen Tanaka and many others of the Japan Society of Northern California for making the event an enjoyable one!

And, last but not least, a special thanks to Tom Logan for initiating the event.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Japan Overtakes Korea In Foreign Tourists For Five Straight Months

Above, new arrivals at Narita International Airport. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The foreign tourism numbers for Japan are taking some interesting turns of late. Japan has surpassed South Korea in the numbers of foreign tourists, according to the Korea IT Times.

They reported:
3.20 million versus 4.13 million. That's the numbers of tourists visiting Korea and Japan, respectively, for three months between January and March this year. 
For five consecutive months since November last year, Japan is overtaking Korea in terms of inbound tourist numbers by an increasingly large margin. As recently as October last year, the number of foreign visitors to Korea was 3.6 percent higher than that for Japan. But it has since reversed and Japan now boasts more than a 20-percent margin over Korea.
To read more, go here

"In The Footsteps of Godzilla" Complimentary Tickets

Above, Godzilla at the National Diet Building. Toho Photo.

The Japan Society of Northern California's "In The Footsteps of Godzilla" program will be held tomorrow at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco. 

According to Tickettailor.com, complimentary tickets to the screening of Godzilla (1954) may be available. The movie screening begins at 3:30.

To access their site, go here.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Fly U.S. To Tokyo For Under $700 This Fall

Above, the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Condé Nast Traveler has posted a brief article on flying to Tokyo for less than $700 this fall.

They wrote:
With a little planning ahead, travelers can save nearly 50 percent off the regular airfare to Tokyo from cities like New York, Houston, and Cleveland for flights this autumn and winter. Tokyo doesn't get cheaper than this, but you'll have to be quick.
To read more, go here.

Hope For Geezers In Japan: Airline Pilot Age Raised To 67

Above, an All Nippon Airways jet at Narita International Airport. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

For those seniors who enjoy their work as commercial airline pilots and would like to continue flying past age 65, there's good news for them.

Japan Today reported:
TOKYO —Japan has raised the age limit for piloting a commercial plane to 67, the latest effort in Asia to get to grips with a drastic pilot shortage. 
The move looks set to make pilots working for Japanese airlines among the oldest in the world. 
Until now, pilots had to retire their wings at 65. Under Japan’s new rules, pilots can carry on flying until their 68th birthday. 
“We are aiming to ease a shortage while still ensuring safety,” a transport ministry official told AFP. 
Japan has 5,900 airline pilots, including 500 aged 60 or over, according to the ministry.
To read more, go here

Thursday, April 23, 2015

"In The Footsteps of Godzilla" In SFGate

The SFGate.com website of the San Francisco Chronicle has posted a blurb on the "In The Footsteps of Godzilla" program of Sunday, April 26. The event is sponsored by the Japan Society of Northern California.

They begin it with:
Footsteps of “Godzilla”: The Roxie has come up with a great way to see the 1954 original — a screening of the 60th anniversary restoration, followed by a chat with Japanese monster expert Armand Vaquer (author of “The Monster Movie Fan’s Guide to Japan”) and even a Japanese dinner at Izakaya Roku about four blocks from the theater. 
To read more, go here

"In The Footsteps of Godzilla" Is Just Three Days Away!

Above, Godzilla about to demolish the Wako Dept. Store. Toho Co., Ltd. photo.

The Japan Society of Northern California's upcoming program, "In The Footsteps of Godzilla" is just three days away.

Tickets to the event are still available, but they're going fast!

The event includes a screening of Godzilla (1954) at the Roxie Theater, a presentation by yours truly along with a question & answer session and a V.I.P. dinner at the Izakaya Roku.

For tickets, go here.

"In The Footsteps of Godzilla" In SciFi Japan

SciFi Japan has posted an excellent write-up notice on the upcoming "In The Footsteps of Godzilla" program that will be taking place Sunday, April 26 in San Francisco.

The event is sponsored by the Japan Society of Northern California.

To check it out, go here.

April 22 Blog Post Pick-ups

The fine folks at The Japan Daily picked up three of yesterday's blog posts for sharing with their readers.

They are:

To read The Japan Daily, go here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Number of Foreign Visitors In Japan Tops 1.5 Million For First Time In March

Above, a view of offshore islands from Fukuoka Tower. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The number of foreign visitors to Japan jumped 43.3% in March from a year earlier, according to an article in Todayonline.com.

They wrote:
TOKYO — The estimated number of foreign passenger arrivals in Japan topped 1.5 million for the first time ever on a monthly basis in March, amid a surge in Chinese who came to view cherry blossoms, the government said today (April 22).
To read more, go here

Rocket News 24: "8 Places To Visit To Really Understand Japan"

Above, night in Nagasaki. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Rocket News 24 posted their "Japan Bucket List II: 8 Places To Visit To Really Understand Japan." 

Of the eight places they recommend, I've been to six of them. I agree with their picks.

They begin their article with:
We at RocketNews24 believe that to truly understand a country’s people you need to know something about their history and where they came from. So following last week’s popular Japan Bucket List: Things you need to do to really understand Japan, this week we offer you eight places that contributed greatly to the development of Japan, its culture, and people. 
Get ready to take your understanding of the Japanese people a step further with eight historical places that have helped shaped them into the people they are today. Let’s go!
To read more, go here

News From JAPANiCAN.com

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The cherry blossoms may have passed, but other brilliant fields of flowers are just blooming, especially from the end of April and into May, so check out our top picks below! Note that these tours are so popular that we have added extra seats for many tour dates, but availability is very limited, so book as soon as possible!

★Fuji Shibazakura (Daytrip from Tokyo)

The undisputed king of our flower field tours and for good reason; this flower park in the foothills of Mt. Fuji positively bursts with color as the "shibazakura" (also known as "moss pink" in English) coat the landscape in vibrant pink. Throw in the included strawberry picking (and eating, of course) and a visit to a fascinating ever-frozen ice cave, and this tour makes an excellent springtime excursion from Tokyo.

Book the Fuji Shibazakura Tour!

★Double Flower Park Tour (Daytrip from Tokyo)

What's better than one flower park? For starters, how about TWO flower parks?! This daytrip tour from Tokyo visits two major flower parks that are famous for their striking botanical beauty among the locals, but are still largely unknown to the majority of our visitors from overseas. From fields of baby blue nemophila blossoms to a canopy of delicate wisteria vines and more, prepare to be enchanted!

Book the Double Flower Park Tour!

★Huis Ten Bosch Flower Kingdom (Daytrip from Fukuoka)

Visit Nagasaki's famous Huis Ten Bosch theme park for the park's Flower Kingdom 2015 event that spans several months and features an array of beautiful seasonal flowers and flower art! This handy package includes round-trip bus from Fukuoka, park admission, and a pass for the park bus.

Book the Huis Ten Bosch Flower Kingdom Tour!

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