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A Personal Insight into Japan with Carine Lafitte

We took some time out to sit down with our Senior Operations Coordinator at Destination Asia Japan, to find out more about the intriguing culture that attracts so many travelers, and possible travel trends to look forward to.

What new travel trends can clients expect to see in Japan once borders are fully open again?

After two years of country lockdown, we have started to see more interest in remote location tourism, and activities linked to nature, tradition, and sustainability. Not yet a trend, but this is becoming a new opportunity to discover Japan from a different perspective. Until recently only second or third timers were asking to go to non-renowned places as there is this image of inaccessibility due to fewer commutes and no English signages or assistance. Many remote regions have now made efforts to change that image and make themselves more accessible to anyone. Even for locations with no English guides, the tourism offices worked to translate pamphlets on their region, so you can experience rural Japan and forget about the language barrier, helping travelers enjoy the hospitality of their hosts who open their houses and heart to you.

Japan has an almost mystical allure about it. What is it that makes Japan so unique and appealing?

Japan is a country with many faces, while seamlessly blending tradition and modernity like no other. It’s a place you can see girls wearing Yukata/Kimono but still accessorizing it with a fashionable handbag or shoes and using selfie sticks to take photos. Or maybe you’ll see a Sumo wrestler riding his bike home or taking a train to his training house located between futuristic-looking offices. I personally enjoy walking through places like Shinjuku and Shibuya, or around Tokyo station with its skyscrapers, down a backstreet to find a little traditional temple hidden there. This is what makes the country so unique and every visit is a new surprise.

What activities would you suggest trying during a visit to Japan that you couldn’t do anywhere else?

I would suggest national park tours. Japan has many national parks and unlike elsewhere, these accessible parks contain towns with people living in harmony with nature. For example, you can watch and learn about black bears in Karuizawa. It is a truly unique experience! In Hokkaido, you can learn about the Ainu people, and indigenes from the island, and embark on a hike to discover the many wonders of the vast but still very wild island. There are many more amazing places to visit in Japan though. In Aomori prefecture you can find the UNESCO World Heritage, Shirakami-Sanchi; a forest with wild monkeys, lakes and a beautiful pond called Ao-ike due to its amazing blue color at any time of the year. Also close to Tokyo there are plenty of natural landscapes to immerse in: you can climb Mount Fuji of course, but if you are more of a beginner hiker like me, I would say that Mount Takao hike is better as it’s an easier climb and offers exceptional views of Mount Fuji on clear days.

How is Destination Asia Japan changing business practices to be more responsible?

Destination Asia Japan achieved Travelife Partner in 2020, with all staff in reservations and client relations subsequently passing Travelife Basics training. This helped the teams to better understand their impact (direct and indirect) on the environment. We now partake in voluntary work and assist in community initiatives, donating our personal time. As Japan has a policy for garbage sorting, our staff are also making efforts to reduce their personal refuse (and single-use plastics), not only at work but in their everyday life. Our guides have also undertaken the Travelife training and we are extremely pleased to see the interest shown, with many mentioning how it was a great opportunity to improve their work and ensure clients are given the best experience possible. We now have over one hundred guides Travelife trained!

Where is your favorite place to visit in Japan and why?

I don’t want it to sound cliched, but I don’t have one favorite place to visit. I have lived in Japan for more than 10 years now, including Hirosaki, Northern Japan, and now Tokyo. What I love is to discover new places and landscapes, so when I have a long weekend or vacation time, I try to find a place I haven’t been to yet. My next trip will be to Okinawa as this area of Japan boasts a very different culture due to the influence of Taiwan and China. But before that trip, I will enjoy the flowering Sakura in Tokyo and maybe head to Hirosaki which is one of the most prolific Sakura festivals in Japan where visitors can enjoy a park with no less than 2,600 Sakura trees of various species in full bloom.

For more information on our range of exceptional experiences available in Japan, explore our new brand new Japan ebook.

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