When I was invited to join YOKOSO JAPAN's Travel Mart 2007, which would be held in April, I was very excited. However it would be my first trip overseas without my four-year-old son and I didn't know how he would do without me for that long...well, ten days, precisely. On the other hand, the itineraries offered by YOKOSO JAPAN were very attractive, covering places I haven't been. As we have already started working with Japan and have staff speaking Japanese in our office, this invitation was a great opportunity. I've already had completed my online education to be a Japan Specialist twice, was eager to see Japan in depth and join the Travel Mart at the end of the tour to meet the Japanese suppliers. Even though there was little time to get prepared, Ms. Etsuko Kawasaki, the director and Ms. Kazuko Maratea from Japan Travel Specialist Desk of Japan National Tourist Organization of New York and the staff of Travel Mart in Japan made everything easy. Without knowing it, I found myself flying to Japan.
In a couple of days I was calmed down with the good news from my son who was just fine with grandma and dad. I was ready to explore and learn! After a couple of days in Tokyo on my own, I joined the group of tour operators who would take the familiarization trips to different parts of Japan on April 15th. After I found my own group who chose to find more about the Chugoku District, we left for the Haneda Airport. Japan, as you all know, is an archipelago of more than 6000 islands of which most are inhabitable. Most of the population of Japan lives on four main islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. In the south, there are the Okinawan Islands. There are 47 regional divisions in Japan, which are called "prefectures". There are also districts, which would cover a number of prefectures. For example, Tokyo, along with six other prefectures is found in Kanto district.
From Children's Peace Monument, Hiroshima My group's destination, Chugoku, which covers five prefectures, is such a district on Western Honshu. In four days, we would visit the highlights of Chugoku including Hiroshima City and Miyajima. Our group had tour operators from China and Australia. None of us had been to Chugoku District before.
Modern Hiroshima As soon as we arrived at the Yamaguchi-Ube Airport, we were met by our guide and driver and taken to a nearby restaurant for lunch. Kameuraen was a typical Japanese restaurant overlooking a lovely secluded Japanese garden where peace reigned. We sat on the matted floor and ordered from the colorful menu. Soon we found out that one of our colleagues wouldn't eat raw fish. The rest of us, of course, volunteered to help her out to finish her meals throughout the tour!
Restaurant window display At Kameuraen, we also met an enthusiastic young staff member from Yamaguchi prefecture who proved to be a great host. He will be the first of a series of hosts and hostesses from the prefectures we would be visiting. The staff of local government tourist offices treated us as their most welcomed guests; They took us to lunches, dinners and found us wherever we went, trying to help us in any way they could. They brought us brochures, maps and even little souvenirs and in one case delicious confectioneries famous to that prefecture. Ozgun Tasdemir (Japan Travel Specialist) Operations Manager Tourcom Int'l. Inc.