Japan offers the kind of diversity that few other countries can match. North to south the archipelago covers over 3,000 kilometers, spanning both glaciers and rainforests. On a given weekend, people in the north might go skiing, while people in the south might spend that very same time surfing in warm sunshine.
That diversity makes event-planning a fascinating adventure. With regard to almost every requirement, from scale, to food, to scenery, Japan has the variety and flexibility to deliver what you want—and to take you by surprise.
Many visitors to Japan arrive in Tokyo, the capital. It's one of the largest cities in the world, but you could also think of it as a collection of dozens of smaller cities, or even villages, each with its own character.
You can visit Toyosu Market, newly crowned as the largest fish market in the world. Take a tour to see how it works, or have a go at making sushi. It'll be the freshest fish you'll ever eat! Asakusa, meanwhile, is an older district. It's home to Senso-ji, a Buddhist temple and one of the most visited religious sites on the planet. This is the perfect place to experience traditional culture. You can try on samurai armor, or paint your own daruma—a roly-poly doll that symbolizes perseverance and good luck.
Just a glance at Tokyo's skyline tells you that the economy is, simply put, massive. Thirty-eight of the Fortune 500 companies are headquartered here. That’s more than twice as many as you’ll find in Paris (17), New York (18) or London (18). Japan is also home to about 6,000 companies with capitalization of least 1 billion yen (approx. 9 million USD).
Many of the industries supporting this economy—including automobiles, home appliances, IT, communications, apparel, distribution and craft manufacturing—have used their Japanese DNA to produce truly global brands. This internationalization works both ways; Japan brings in top talent from across the globe, representing an astonishing breadth and depth of knowledge. A visit to a Japanese business in your industry can thus be a fascinating part of an incentive travel plan.
One company to engage with Japan in this way was Tungaloy, an international metal parts manufacturer. They sent the employees of their India branch to Panasonic's Living Showroom, to see how their parts were used within finished products. The tour group visited the Tungaloy plant in Iwaki, Fukushima, before heading west to the Japanese Alps via the snow-lined Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route. The eight-day program, arranged by Kulin Kumar Holidays, won the "Best Creative Planning Prize" at the 2018 JAPAN Best Incentive Travel Awards.
Japan works at the cutting-edge of technology, but takes care of traditional crafts, too. When it comes to industries and locations with a long history, Kyoto is a great place to start. Japan's former capital has an astonishing 17 World Heritage sites. Groups can try Japanese crafts like ceramics and textiles.
To visit Kyoto and beyond, you'll need to use Japan's storied transport network, which showcases just how reliable Japan is. Trains, buses and airplanes leave when they're supposed to, and arrive when they're supposed to, allowing for detailed, stress-free schedule planning.
The well-trodden "Golden Route" covers Tokyo to Kyoto, but why stop there? Dependable travel makes it easier to visit secluded corners of the country. When you're in a big city it's hard to tell, but over two-thirds of Japan's land mass is forested. Yanbaru Nature School, in Okinawa, offers canoeing and trekking experiences through the trees, one great way to focus on team building.
Appreciation for nature is central to Japanese culture, and there's no better way to tap into that than by taking a soak in a hot spring bath. These onsen can be found everywhere from snowy mountains to sandy beaches. Venues like Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma Prefecture offer a truly authentic experience for your team, including Japanese clothing and food.
The key word when it comes to incentive travel in Japan is "confidence." That one word covers an understanding that your travel will go like clockwork. It includes the reassuring feeling you get from using one of the most reliable infrastructures in the world. And it encompasses the diligence that people in Japan bring to every event they organize.