‘Be More Japan’ (06.08.19)

With this year’s Rugby World Cup and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics fast approaching I was delighted to be involved in the book launch of DK Eyewitness’ ‘Be More Japan’ this week.

This is a moment in time for Japan as an international tourism destination. Having travelled throughout the country and organised client travel for decades, I am well aware that its fascinatingly eclectic culture, ranging from J-Pop, gaming, manga and animation to sumo, martial arts, Shinto and Kaiseki-ryori makes it one of Asia’s most iconic destinations.

It was a pleasure, as moderator, to direct operations from the Stanfords Travel Bookshop in its new location in Covent Garden and in Bristol. These venues are especially close to my heart, as in the early 1980s Stanford’s was an important reference centre for planning trips, and I have always been proud that one of my first series of travel postcards, in the early 1990s, was the first to ever be exhibited and sold at Stanfords.

The pre-booked audiences were treated to a panel debate and open forum discussion with experts on Japan. Robin Moul, the book’s project editor, explained how they embraced an exciting blend of ancient and modern, while retaining a focus on the mix of everyday eccentricity that is omnipresent in today’s land of the rising sun.

Firmly addressing the islands’ powerful blend of art, culture, history, nature and above all, charm, this beautiful book captures aspects of Japan through five imaginative chapter titles: ‘Innovative’, ‘Creative’, ‘Entertaining’, ‘Edible’ and ‘Healthy’.

‘Be More Japan’ effortlessly doubles as both a reference and guidebook, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone interested in, or planning to travel to, Japan.

Further insights into the country were given by Nathan Shearer and Steph Holt, from Nikka Whisky, who described the unique and hugely successful Japanese whisky industry and two fellow travel industry friends of mine from Inside Japan, Alastair Donnelly (Co-Founder) and Matt Spiller (Agent Sales manager).

The extraordinary thing about travelling in Japan today is that there is still a feeling of ‘early days’. Strangely for such a well-developed country, it has been hugely under-visited over the decades – but this is changing fast. I recommend planning a trip before visitor numbers explode, as there has been a 4.6% rise in just one year, with international tourism spending up 8.3% to US$22 billion. Early predictions that visitor numbers would reach twenty million a year by 2020 were proved wrong: that number was achieved five years earlier in 2015.

My only caveat is that unless you are visiting to witness the sport, I would advise against travelling during the Rugby World Cup or Olympics – when prices are tripled, and availability is quartered.