Michelin Releases First Green Guide Japan
With its manga, animated films, video games and sushi, Japan is, after the US, the world’s second largest exporter of cultural goods and is increasingly present in day-to-day life, especially in youth culture. Since the launch in 2003 of the “Visit Japan Campaign,” which set a target of 10 million visitors to the country in 2010, Japan has seen a rise in tourism. In 2008, Japan hosted 8,351,600 visitors.
From this total, 147,600 came from France, the homeland of Michelin and its famous guide. This number represents a seven per cent increase on the previous year, and the tyre major has accommodated this increasing interest in the Asian nation with its Michelin Green guide. The first Michelin Green Guide Japan, produced with the support of the Japan National Tourist Organisation, goes on sale in French bookshops on March 16. For the 1.8 billion of us who prefer to read our Green Guides in English, our wait will be over in September, when a translated version is scheduled for release.
Michelin has maintained a presence in Japan for more than four decades, and to prepare the new guide it deployed an editorial team comprised of 12 French and Japanese experts. Their goal was to prepare a guide that enables travellers to take in all the country’s outstanding attractions. The team members, all Japan experts and travel enthusiasts, travelled up and down the country for several months and visited a large number of sites in order to make their final selection. Among those sites, 17 were awarded the highest honour – three stars – meaning they are “worth the trip”. Some of the sites, like the island of Yakushima and the villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, are also classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
A chapter on “Understanding Japan” provides travellers with keys for more fully appreciating the country and its unique civilisation. The chapter covers a wide range of Japanese cultural features, from ni-oh (the guards posted outside Buddhist temples) to pachinko (a very popular hybrid sort of pinball/slot machine). It also includes an overview of Japanese architecture with descriptive drawings. The Guide even introduces the Japanese themselves through short sketches in which people of all ages and origins, from the high and mighty to the lowest toady, talk about their everyday lives, thereby providing a unique perspective of their culture and lifestyle.
The chapter on “Discovering Japan” presents the country region by region, beginning of course with Tokyo and Kyoto, the two main ports of entry for Western tourists. Suggested itineraries are included for visiting the region. The guide then heads for Chugoku, in southwestern Honshu (the largest island), the islands of Shikoku and Kyushu, and the sunny shores of the Okinawa islands. Next, the visit continues through Chubu (central Honshu) before turning north to Tohoku (northern Honshu) and the island of Hokkaido.
Lastly, the section entitled “Organising Your Trip” contains hints for planning family trips to the country, with a selection of attractions or activities in each region that appeal to children.