Tokyo Kōenji Awa-Odori is a traditional mid-summer seasonal event tied to over 400 years of history. The main festival began in 1957 through a cultural exchange with Tokushima Prefecture, where the festival originated. In recent years, it has become a mainstay of Tokyo’s summer, featuring 10,000 dancers and a million cheering onlookers. The 2023 festival, the 64th holding of the event, will be the first festival in four years due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Supporters and staff have collaborated to accelerate preparations amidst an air of anxious excitement. Teams called “Ren” perform various dances to atmospheric Japanese music that combines handbells, hand drums, taiko drums, flutes, and shamisen, making for an incredible scene.
You can now view this traditional Japanese performance in a laid-back atmosphere from a special, premium space that includes food and drink. You will also receive a bottle of a unique, original beer from the craft brewery “& BEER,” originating from Kōenji Temple.
“artKYOTO 2023,” an art fair taking place in the World Heritage Site Nijo-jo Castle, will be held on October 6 (Fri), 8 (Sun), and 9 (Mon/holiday). The fair will take place at the kitchen and purification hall of Ninomaru-goten Palace, the grand beams of whch connect earthen floors with wooden floors, and the Southeast Watchtower, a nationally designated Important Cultural Property. The event will feature over 20 stands by galleries/art dealers, displaying and selling meticulously selected works of art. The harmony between the art and the historical structures of Nijo-jo Castle will create a very special environment indeed.
Living with Shimanto River, the “Last Clear Stream”: Exploring the Symbiotic Relationship between People and Rivers through Dragonflies and River Fishing
'- Special Content (1): World’s first nature reserve for dragonflies
Until recently, it had been believed that leaving extraordinary natural environments alone was enough to keep them in good condition. Efforts at Dragonfly Nature Park, however, have evidenced for the first time in Japan the legitimacy of human intervention when it comes to maintaining a diverse ecosystem in the satoyama (woodlands/mountains near populated areas). The park conducts ecological maintenance work systematically throughout the year such as managing the water level and vegetation at the Dragonfly Pond. The park is also constantly conducting ecological surveys both inside and outside of the protected area. In this particular tour, participants will have the special opportunity to accompany Mitsutoshi Sugimura, executive director of Shimanto Dragonfly Park and Shimanto River Gakuyuu Hall Akitsuio and an expert that has been involved in dragonfly conservation for many years, on an ecological survey. Over the course of the tour, participants will learn about changes in the environment, as well as information about and the background behind the nature of Shimanto City and its conservation efforts.
Visits by Crown Prince Akishino: The nature reserve has twice received visits from Crown Prince Akishino due to Sugimura’s capacity as president and honorary president of World Wildlife Fund Japan (WWF-J). His communications with the Imperial Household are ongoing, with books written by him being delivered to the household through the WWF at the time of publication.
'- Special Content (2): Experience traditional river fishing as passed down through generations at Shimanto River
The Shimanto River is divided into separate fishing grounds held by individual fishermen, with the general public not permitted to fish in these grounds. The river is also home to many traditional fishing methods passed down through the generations that require traps to be changed depending on the season. Fishing is also closed during certain periods for conservation purposes, with fishing only permitted during the open season.
Available during the Aomori Nebuta Festival
Participants will be able to go beyond just watching the Aomori Nebuta Festival. They will change into the costumes worn by the haneto (Nebuta Festival dancers) and participate in the festivities themselves. They will first learn about the history and background of the Aomori Nebuta Festival and undergo a viewing of the structure of the nebuta floats at the Nebuta Museum Wa Rasse. They will then head to the Nebuta Hut, which houses the 23 large-scale nebuta floats that will be a part of the procession that year. Along the way, they will stop by the Aomori Prefecture Tourist Center (ASPAM), taking a break in the 3D Theater and Observation Deck. After visiting the Nebuta Hut, participants will be taken to a designated space where they will change into the haneto costumes and learn the dance of the festival. Once the Nebuta Festival begins, they will participate as haneto dancers, experiencing the Aomori Nebuta Festival right alongside the locals.
Events outside the period of the Aomori Nebuta Festival
Outside the period of the annual Aomori Nebuta Festival, participants will be able to take part in private musical accompaniment and haneto workshops at Nebuta Museum Wa Rasse, attend a talk show by a nebuta master (with complimentary local Japanese sake and fresh ingredients from Aomori Prefecture), and take part in a workshop led by a nebuta master to create a miniature nebuta float.
The main part of this tour is comprised of a one-of-a-kind bird-watching experience in one of the world’s largest migratory bird wintering areas. The tour features bird-watching guidance by a professional birding guide/photographer, as well as hidden photo spots for taking photos that will look great on social media. The guide will also give you advice on how to discover your own favorite bird, from swans and geese to even the more rare species. The birdsong and flapping of the wild birds in Izunuma—listed in the “100 Soundscapes of Japan that Should Be Preserved”—is an experience that should not be missed. The chorus of birdsong is so loud that it's difficult to even have a conversation with the person right next to you! A truly inspiring experience brought about by the power of nature. This extraordinary bird-watching experience is available only at Izunuma, the second site in Japan to be registered in the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation of wetlands.
The tour is designed to allow participants to experience the various charms of the region. The activities, all of which involve interaction with locals, include participation in Izunuma conservation efforts, hands-on fishing/farming experiences, and a hands-on cooking experience making local cuisine from seafood and vegetables caught and harvested by the participants.
Multi-Day Tour by Helicopter for Wealthy Foreign Tourists, Featuring Michelin-Starred Restaurants and Luxury Traditional Japanese Inns/Hotels
The idea behind the tour is that the novelty and special nature of the event will attract this target demographic. TripAdvisor, the leading OTA overseas, offers a variety of tours, but no tours that utilize helicopters to take participants around accommodations and restaurants. Using a helicopter gives this tour a sense of novelty. The tour can also be marketed as a special experience, as it can be tailored to meet the specific preferences and needs of wealthy foreign tourists. For instance, some tourists tend to favor ostentatious, extravagant experiences, the interior of the helicopter could be decorated with gold balloons for such a tour group.
Additionally, ARILA Inc. conducts over 300 helicopter tours a year and would be able to form partnerships with many airports and helicopter operators. This collaboration between ARILA Inc. and Gurunavi—a company with strong ties to the restaurant industry—also allows us to offer dinners for these wealthy foreign tourists at restaurants where they would normally be unable to get a reservation. This event will also appeal to foreign tourists through the inherent attractiveness of the various sightseeing destinations in Kyoto and Kumamoto Prefectures.
Three Great Festivals of Japan: Kanda Festival Mikoshi Carrying/Tsuke Festival Tugging Experience and Authentic Japanese Culture Experience
The Kanda Festival, which dates back to the Edo Period, is considered one of Japan’s Three Great Festivals. During the Edo Period, it was referred to as the Tenka Festival, and, as the only festival that allowed parades through the castle grounds, served as a lively form of entertainment for the common people.
Previously, the program only allowed for the typical observing of the festival. However, special consideration by the various parties involved has allowed it to be upgraded to an experiential tour—one that will allow participants to experience the passion and spirit of the festival for themselves. The program also allows participants to don traditional Japanese dress and take part in traditional cultural activities, such as tea ceremony, traditional dance, enjoying Japanese cuisine, and worship services, making it a special and inspiring experience that would not have been possible in previous years.
Experience life as a castle lord in Odawara, the largest castle town in the Kanto region: A healing gastronomic journey
(1) Castle Lord Plan
A castle lord experience utilizing Odawara Castle and Odawara Castle Park. Samurai retainers will welcome guests as the lords of the castle. There are also plans to offer a ninja experience or ninja demonstration show themed on the Fuma ninja clan associated with Odawara. In addition, for the first time ever, guests will be able to actually stay overnight at Odawara Castle. Guest can either take a leisurely tour of Odawara Castle or enjoy panoramic views of Odawara City from the castle tower. Immerse yourself in the charms of Odawara Castle as its feudal lord.
(2) Retreat Plan
Enoura Observatory has been planned, prepared, and executed over the course of many years by contemporary artist Hiroshi Sugimoto, who conceived the idea of a museum that doubles as an observatory amid the tangerine fields of Enoura. Guests are invited to experience Zen meditation and enjoy a performance of ancient Japanese court music in this breathtaking venue, spending some time in this truly special space to relax and inwardly reflect. Naturally, guests can also enjoy Sugimoto's own works and art collection in this privately rented space. Accommodations are also available at the Enoura Rimon Retreat, a retreat resort nestled high in a citrus grove, and the Hilton Odawara Resort & Spa.
(3) Gastronomic Plan
An abundance of fresh fish is caught each season in the fishing grounds of Sagami Bay. Experience morning fishing in Sagami Bay and enjoy Japanese cuisine prepared with ingredients caught in the bay. The restaurant is located in the Former Residence of Gokichi Matsumoto, built about 100 years ago and designated as a historical landmark by Odawara City. Enjoy the gastronomic delights of Odawara in a space steeped in the history of Japan. Overnight accommodation will be provided at Hilton Odawara Resort & Spa.
Both of these have their roots in China, but toward the end of the Edo period, these cultures fused together to become leading forms of traditional culture in Japan. For the first time in Japan, the Japanese cultural experience of "Japanese Bonsai and Sencha Tea Experience: Pastime of the Literati" has been realized as a tourism revival program with novel high-value-added content. The cultural figures (bunjin) of the late Edo period lived in style, enjoying poetry, literature, calligraphy, painting, and bonsai.
On the first day, at Jogenji Temple of the Soto sect of Buddhism, the temple gate of which was constructed in 1777, participants can become bunjin themselves and drink sencha tea prepared by the successor of the Baisaryu Sencha tea school. In the afternoon, they will attend a lecture on the appeal of bonsai and ways to enjoy the hobby from a bonsai master with extensive experience, and try their hand at caring for bonsai themselves. Participants will experience the chic, elegant world of the literati of the time, while deepening their understanding of Japanese culture. On the second day, participants will visit one of Japan's leading bonsai gardens in Nagoya City to see the best of Japanese bonsai, including introductions and explanations of famous bonsai trees and high-end bonsai pots. This will be followed by a garden visit to chat with a private bonsai enthusiast. Finally, participants will visit a progressive bonsai garden to further appreciate bonsai and try their hand planting in bonsai pots. On the third day, visitors will depart for various destinations. (Optional) Visit a workshop making Tokoname-ware ceramics, one of the Six Ancient Kilns of Japan. Meet the potters and shop for high-end bonsai pots.
Special tour of the repair of National Treasure Buddhist statues, and explanatory session on protection of cultural properties
Shin-Yakushi-ji Temple, founded 1,300 years ago, is one of the leading temples of Nara. It holds three national treasures in its collection and has close ties to Todai-ji Temple, famous for its Great Buddha of Nara.
Making the most of the opportunity of the two-year restoration of the Seated Wooden Statue of Yakushi Nyorai at Shin-Yakushi-ji Temple, a special visit will be made available to observe the restoration of this statue and other Buddha statues, which are Important Cultural Properties usually not open to the public. A lecture will be given on the protection and restoration of cultural properties, in which participants will learn the significance of passing down cultural properties in Japan to future generations as well as current efforts to do so.