Japan is one of the few countries in the world where Irish tourists can still feel as if they are on “a foreign holiday”.
At a time when we are more sophisticated than ever, when even the term “exotic” has become common, a trip to the the Land of the Rising Sun still has the power to impress the people back home.
It’s not the fact that it’s so far away; Irish people routinely travel to Australia, stopping off in Thailand or India. Even Tokyo’s modernity is underlined by a formal, polite culture which appeals to those of us hankering after a more genteel age
With its slogan “Fly into tomorrow”, Japan Airlines has cleverly capitalised on the country’s futuristic image and its geographic position relative to Westerners.
But the traditional aspects of Japan could make an Irish tourist feel at home in the most unexpected way.
The similarities between Japan’s Shinto religion and Ireland’s pagan past are remarkable. “It’s one of the things I noticed when I came to Ireland and learned about the Druids. Both religions are based on nature-worship”, Japan Airlines GSA’s Premair Marketing Sales Representative, Kyoko Delaney, told Travel Extra.
“I have visited Newgrange and it seemed very familiar to me”, she added.
Kyoko, who grew up in the shadow of iconic Mount Fuji, says the 3,776-metre mountain is very tourist-friendly. “You don’t need special equipment to climb it – you can walk up the mountain in your ordinary shoes. But you need a warm jacket because it is sub-zero at the top.”
For the ultimate Japanese hillwalking thrill, Kyoko recommends staying overnight in a hut which is four-fifths of the way to the summit – and getting up at 3 am to finish the trek, so you can be on the summit in time to see dawn break over the clouds. “You are above the clouds, so it will feel like Heaven”, she said.
She recommends buying a Japan Rail Pass before travelling. “There is so much more to see in Japan than the cities”.
Her colleague Jens Bachmann, JAL’s Premair Marketing Sales and Reservations boss in Dublin, was justifiably proud as he hosted a dinner in Dublin’s Matt the Thresher seafood bar this week for representatives of the Irish travel trade, together with Sales and Marketing Manager Eamon Flanagan.
The importance of the small-but-lucrative Irish market was underlined by the presence of Lead Account Executive for sales in the UK and Ireland, Elena Negri, who flew over from London specially to meet the Irish travel agents.
While no plane has a long enough range for fly from Dublin direct to Japan, there is a very convenient link-up with Air France’s schedule via London to Tokyo’s Narita airport. JAL’s reason for promoting the Air France connection is based solely on the seamless transfer slots, Jens explained.
Other options are to transfer at Paris, Frankfurt and Helsinki. They also recommend the new connection via Madrid on Iberia.
While JAL strongly recommends these transfers, the airline is not offering a package; it’s up to the travel agents to join the dots to secure the best deal for their clients.
In keeping with JAL’s emphasis on giving passengers a wonderful experience, JAL has also introduced a range of improvements which will make the knee-defender redundant.
New recliner seats in their Premium Economy class are complemented by a centre divider for added privacy, and the distance between the back of the seat in front and the one behind has been increased by 10 centimetres. The seat-slide has also been increased by 8 cm. “Our seats are also the widest seats of any airline”, Kyoko pointed out. Each passenger also has a 12.1-inch touch-panel monitor, USB porty, video input and AC power outlet.
In the luxury Sky Suite, each seat is in its own private space, with an ottoman-style storage space below the seat, a 23-inch LCD monitor (one of the largest in its class), a liquid-crystal touch-panel controller, rectractable privacy partition and a comfortable bed with airweave mattresses and pillows.
First Class has one of the largest beds on any airline and a fine woodgrain furnished mini-living room.
For the ultimate luxury JAL experience, a team of top-class chefs are on hand to cook up delicacies ranging from Japanese food to the best of European cuisine.
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